Photo © Travel Oregon
It wasn’t Picasso, Rembrandt or Van Gogh that illustrated Oregon’s Painted Hills, it was Mother Nature.
The hills get their name from the striking patterns of red, yellow, gold and black so picturesque they appear to be the work of man. In reality, the stratifications are the result of shifting volcanic islands. The layers of mineral are a physical manifestation of Earth’s climate change over millions of years. In 2014, the Painted Hills were named one of Oregon’s seven wonders, and now there is a completely new way to explore them.
The Painted Hills Scenic Bikeway is the 15th addition to Oregon’s Scenic Bikeways Program, which seeks to regulate and promote the best routes for bikers in the state. The paths stretch more than 160 miles, running through various small towns in the rural areas. The Painted Hills are part of the John Day Fossil Beds, which are home to a high volume of ancient fossils dating back 50 million years.
There is some motor vehicle traffic on the roads, but it’s very limited, preserving the relationship between bikers and nature. The trail is made up of a circle with three spokes, allowing riders to choose the length and difficulty of their route.
There are various bike-friendly places to stay along the bikeway: Wilson Ranches Retreat Bed & Breakfast in Fossil, River Bend Motel in Spray and Twickenham Vacation Rental in Mitchell. For more information on the Painted Hills Scenic Bikeway and Oregon’s other bike trails, visit rideoregonride.com. To learn more about Oregon’s Painted Hills Unit of the John Day Fossil Beds National Monument, go to nps.gov/joda. To plan your trip, visit Eastern Oregon Visitors Association’s website at visiteasternoregon.com.