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Mitchell is a small town of pioneer days located in Eastern Oregon just 9 miles away from the Painted Hills which is one of the 3 units of the John Day Fossil Bed National Monument. Bend is about 2 and Portland about 4 hours away by car. The town is situated in a rugged canyon right off Highway 26 with an impressive rock formation, the Mitchell Rock, looming above the town’s entrance and two impressive hills, Black Butte and White Butte, rising up in the near distance.
Mitchell is called the gateway to the Painted Hills because it’s the only town in the close circumference of the monument’s unit making it a popular stop for visitors in need of gas, groceries, food or accommodations. At this time the town is still a diamond in the rough with a big potential to serve more tourists in the future as it develops its identity as a popular tourist spot. Most of the downtown buildings are the original structures like the Wheeler County Trading Post and the Little Pine Cafe. Today the town features three restaurants, an Espresso stand, a general store, a gas station, and three different types of accommodations in the form of a hotel, a motel and a vacation rental with 2 cottages. The town is also known for the annual Painted Hills Festival happening every Saturday of Labor Day Saturday since 1995.
The region around Mitchell is famous for its wild and natural beauty with spectacular rugged landscapes and impressive vistas at every turn. It’s a real paradise for hikers, fishermen, photographers, wild life watchers, star gazers, and any other friend of the great outdoors. The most beautiful gem though of all the wonderful places in the region are the Painted Hills!
The Painted Hills are not easy described in words – they need to be experienced!
Visitors are always amazed at the many different shades of colors, the different lighting at different times of the day or seasons, and the unique shapes and forms of this geological wonderland. It’s an awe inspiring place where time just seems to stop – a poem of Mother Nature herself.
The untamed John Day River can be accessed about 10 miles past the Painted Hills and is a popular magnet for boaters, campers, and fishermen. There are some magnificent hikes along its banks, at Priest Hole for example, the local swimming and fishing spot, or the Burnt Ranch boat launch.
The other two units of the John Day Fossil Beds National Monument, the Clarno unit (about 40 miles North West of Mitchell past the town of Fossil) and the Sheeprock unit (about 35 miles East of Mitchell on the way to Spray), are easily reached by car on great scenic bye ways with breathtaking views of different landscapes and photogenic rock formations along the way. Mitchell is a great base for visiting this beautiful area.