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ROAMERICA’s Tips for Visiting the John Day Fossil Beds

What a beautiful spot to explore! Plan to spend at least 3 days traveling around this area. If you can stay here longer, do! We spent 3 days and barely touched the surface of trails.

1. Start with The Thomas Condon Paleontology Center

This will give you all the information, maps and routes you’ll need to make your trip. Kids can pick up a scavenger hunt packet and earn their Junior Rangers Badge.

2. Don’t rely on your phone for navigation or to find camp spots

Cell service is very sparse in the area! The ROAMERICA vans come stocked with maps or pick up a map from the Paleontology Center before you leave. The Rangers are also very helpful so pick their brain on what to hike and where to camp!

3. Pack layers!

This area of Oregon can see rain, snow, hail, sun and wind all in the same day. It sure makes for a fun trip but pack layers and be adaptable to weather conditions.

4. Adapt

Trailheads in the Painted Hills and John Day Fossil Bed area have become more popular in recent years which has lead to crowded parking lots. Prepare to hike a less crowded trail while waiting for a busier trail’s parking lot to reopen. This entire area is gorgeous and the less popular trails still have a lot to offer. We opted for short hikes with our young girls; The Painted Cove Trail and The Clarno Palisades. Both trails are near a picnic areas and restrooms.

5. Come prepared

Never go camping without the essentials: chocolate, graham crackers and marshmallows;)

We explored this area just last month and we will be back for sure. We were only able to stay for a few days and wish we had more time to explore. There are endless dirt roads, off-grid camping, river frontage, fishing, hiking and relaxing areas.

  • June 2, 2022

    Love this guide so much, so informative and helpful

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