December 1, 2002
The first we went to was the Sheep Rock Unit, which is close to the visitors center off of ORE rte 19. The visitors ctr has excellent exhibits and friendly folks to help you plan your trip. The kids should like it b/c there is a lot of info about big and exciting fossils archeologists have dug up in the units.
The Sheep Rock unit is a big green and yellow structure that is a few hundred feet off the road - we just stopped and took it in, it is breathtaking. there is a short Island in Time hike that starts out several miles from the visitor center-it is lined by beautiful green rock - very photogenic! There is a large fossil of a turtle shell on display too that the kids would like, if they like dinosaurs. Of all the units, this is the least exciting.
Secondly we went to the Clarno Formation, just north of Fossil, OR. There is a moderately difficult hike - the arch trail - with exhibits along the way. the elevation gain is steep, might be challenging for elderly travelers and little kids. But the vision of the tall spikes of the formation on the clear blue skies of central Oregon is worth the work. Along this trail you will see many, many fossils of flora and nuts. Less colorful than the other units.
Finally we went to the Painted Hills unit, while is east of Prineville, OR. There are several short (less than 3 miles each) hikes that are worth taking. The unit itself though is worth just sitting in front of and eating a packed meal. It is a deep raveen and collection of rolling hills of deep reds, yellows, oranges and browns, draped against the pure blue sky. I haven't seen anything so awe inspiring since the Grand Canyon. The unit faces west, so the deep yellow rays of the sun setting hit the unit to enhance the colors - amazing! The days are long in the summertime in central Oregon - we had to stay until 9 pm to watch the sun set, but I recommend it if at all possible.
From journal "john day fossil beds, central oregon"