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Hike the Painted Hills - Leaf Hill Trail

Painted Hills - Leaf Hill

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Distance: 0.4 miles.

Elevation Gain: 125 feet.

The Leaf Hill Trail is located within the Painted Hills Unit of the John Day Fossil Beds National Monument and offers you the chance to view some fossils first hand. The trail circles a small hill made up of thin-layered shale deposits that were formed about 33 million years ago. The hill is littered with the fossilized remains of plants and has been the site for extensive scientific research dating back to the 1920s. The hill is strictly off limits with a fence around its perimeter, but interpretive signs along the way display some of the fossils found within the hill.

The trail begins with a small bridge over a dry wash and then splits into a loop that travels around the hill. Either way works fine and it is only ΒΌ mile of flat walking to circle the hill. If you are up for a little more action, there is a short side trail that heads up a hill to the south of Leaf Hill. This trail whips off a couple switch backs and then becomes pretty faint as it travels straight up the hill. But 500 feet of walking and 100 feet of climbing will grant you a nice overview of Leaf Hill.


To reach the Painted Hills, travel east on Highway 26 from Prineville for 43 miles until you reach the sign for the Painted Hills Unit of the John Day Fossil Beds National Monument, about 4 miles west of Mitchell. Head north on Burnt Ranch Road for 6 miles. Right before the pavement ends, take a left and make your way into the park. Once you cross the bridge over Bridge Creek, you can head to the left if you need to use the bathroom to go straight ahead to view the hills. Drive along the main road up and over the saddle and the trailheads for the Overlook and Carol Rim Trails. Continue down the backside of the hill for 1.7 mile and the Leaf Hill Trailhead will be on your right.

Things to Know

Passes: No passes are required.

Dogs: Allowed and must be on 6' or shorter leash.

Usage: Moderate

Open Season: Open all year. Can get very hot in the summer.

Flowers: Wildflowers will typically bloom in April-May.

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Painted Hills - Leaf Hill Overview Thumbnail
Heading back down towards Leaf Hill from the side trail.
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