Hiking around Mitchell
The Owens Ranch Hike: 5 minutes out of Mitchell, easy trail, 30 minutes to 2 hours, very picturesque, historical point of interest
Directions: Just a mile out of Mitchell on Hwy 26 towards Prineville, you can see Mitchell Rock on the right looming over the road. Drive slowly as you approach it. Right at the foot of it, before the bridge, take a right into a dirt road. Park your car and start walking. It’s an easy walk of 20 minutes till you get to the old Owen Ranch with its historical ranch house and barn buildings. It’s a very picturesque place with old cotton wood trees, orchards, and the creek bending through tall grasses. Often you’ll see deer and antelope or the occasional coyote. You can keep on walking for another half hour till you’ll reach the end of the road joining Hwy 26 again. On your walk back, you’ll have a great view of Mitchell Rock on the left side and the much taller Bailey Rock on the right.
The Old Logging Road Hike: 5 minutes out of Mitchell, easy trail, 1-2 hours, sweeping landscape views, great sunsets,
Directions: Heading east out of Mitchell, take a right on road 207 towards Fossil. After you’ve passed the transfer station, you’ll see hills in the near distance. Slow down as you’re reaching the foothills and take a left into the dirt way below these hills. That’s the Old Logging Road. You can park your car at any place along the road and start walking. You can see Black and White Buttes in the distance to your left and the Bridge Creek Watershed below.
If you like to hike up into the hills, there is a path going up on your right in the beginning of the road right off road 207. It will bring you to the top of a hill from where you’ll have a fantastic sweeping view. Another good walk uphill will be on your left if you drive the road to the point where it starts going down hill. Park just before it starts sloping down and take the small path to your left.
If you follow the old logging road, it will connect with Burnt Ranch Road which brings you to the Painted Hills taking the right turn, and back to Hwy 26 taking the left.
Hiking in the John Day Fossil Beds National Monument:
The Painted Hills Unit (one of the 7 Wonders of Oregon)
Directions: 11.5 miles from Mitchell, 15 minutes on the Journey through Time Scenic Byway. Drive from Mitchell towards Prineville on Hwy 26 until you come to the National Park sign for the Painted Hills and take a right. Follow the road for about 6 miles.
There are 5, well maintained easy hiking trails throughout the Painted Hills, each giving the visitor a different angle to view the fantastic colors and shapes of the landscape. From sweeping overview with the 1.5mile Caroll Rim Trail, to a close up experience on the ¼ mile educational boardwalk of the Painted Cove trail, the Painted Hills are magnificent from above and within.
The Sheep Rock Unit:
Directions: 32 Miles from Mitchell, about 45 minutes on the Journey through Time Scenic Byway. Turn right on Hwy 26 until it joins Or-19 right after Picture Gorge. Turn left. You will see the sheep Rock Information center to your left. This is also the location of the Thomas Condon Paleontology Museum. Blue Basin is a ¼ mile further to your right.
The trails at Blue Basin, with about four miles of distance, are the most extensive hiking opportunity in John Day Fossil Beds National Monument. The Blue Basin loop gains 700 feet to a prime viewpoint. The trailhead is just a few feet off of highway 19 near Kimberly within the Sheep Rock Unit of the National Monument. You are practically at the trail as soon as you cut the engine to your car. There is a rest room on site, a covered picnic table and the John Day River is just across highway 19 from the parking lot. There are actually two trailheads accessed from the parking lot, the 3.25 mile Overlook Trail, which will lead you in a circle around Blue Basin, and the Island In Time Trail, an easy one-mile stroll into the basin.
The Clarno Unit:
Directions: 63 miles, about 1.5 hours from Mitchell on the Journey through Time Scenic Byway. Take Or-207 until Service Creek. Take a left onto OR-19 for 19.4 miles. Take a left onto Or-218 for another 19 miles. Clarno has 3 ¼ mile short trails that allow the visitor to experience the stone palisades close up.
Hiking in Sutton Mountain:
Check out the Sutton Mountain Map, courtesy of ONDA
Sutton Mountain is the name of the geologically layered mountain that makes up the east skyline from the Painted Hills. It’s open country managed as a BLM wilderness study area. There are different trailheads even though trails are often hard to detect but the terrain is easy enough to hike. The 29,536-acre site is a wilderness study area under the federal Bureau of Land Management
Sutton Mountain Recreation Map.pdf
Directions from Mitchell to different trail heads:
1. From Burnt Ranch Rd, across the Painted Hills for the Spring Gulch Trail.
Take Hwy 26 towards Prineville. At the brown direction sign for the John Day Fossil Beds National Monument, take a right onto Burnt Ranch Rd. in direction of the Painted Hills. After about 6 miles, pass the Painted Hills entrance and leave the black top onto country gravel road. After the first cattle guard take a right to find parking and find the trail marked with a BLM sign.
Here are several links to different Sutton Mountain trail stories that will be helpful with directions and what to expect:
2. From Or- 207, Mile Marker 15
Take OR-207 towards Fossil and Spray.
Find the beginning of the trail (marked as public land) just north of mile marker 15 on then west side of the road between Mitchell and Spray. This is just south of where the main highway 207 veers right (toward Service Creek and Spray) at the junction of Girds Creek Road, which goes left toward Twickenham. The public land entry is fairly discrete, so you will need to look closely. At about 0.4 mile south of the junction, there is a wide spot on the east side of the highway. Park there, then walk south along the west side of the highway. At a couple hundred yards, just before mile marker 15, there is a sign saying “public lands.” Open the gate and you’re in. Close the gate, too. From there, you can follow an obvious old Jeep road to the top. You’re walking at first along the edge of an active private ranch, so be courteous and obey the signs.
Here is a link for directions and insights on hiking this trail: