The Wonders of Central Oregon

I know things have been kind of slow here in July with blog posts, but apparently I’m getting back in my groove here at the end of the month! Three posts in one week, what what!

Earlier this month, we took a little family trip to Central Oregon and while we were there, we were able to visit two of Oregon’s Seven Wonders (at least according to Travel Oregon) – The Painted Hills and Smith Rock! They’re both such gorgeous desert landscapes that are probably not what most people picture when they think of Oregon. However, they’re really breathtaking and definitely worth checking out! I shared a few of these photos on Instagram already, but I wanted to share some more, along with our thoughts on visiting these places with a toddler in tow! 🙂

 Ever since I heard about (and saw pictures of) the the Painted Hills, I really wanted to check them out; however, since they’re a little bit of a drive from Portland (over 4 hours) we hadn’t gotten around to it. Earlier this year, we were considering going there to camp over Memorial Day weekend, however, it seemed like a lot of the camping in the area was first come first serve and we didn’t want to take the risk of driving all the way out there and having no place to stay over a holiday weekend. Also, when I had previously looked online, I was had a little bit of difficulty trying to gather information about planning a trip to the Painted Hills as they’re in a pretty remote area. So, we ended up just deciding to take a short day trip from Bend to see them instead, and that ended up being a really good choice!

The Painted Hills are just under two hours from Bend; I was concerned that it might be kind of long for Henry to be in the car to drive out there and then turn around and drive back, but it ended up being just fine! The drive was really pretty (you pass through the Ochoco National Forest) so it felt like it went by really quickly. Plus, we left Bend right around Henry’s nap time and he slept the entire drive there 🙂 The only problem was that on the day we decided to drive out there, the skies were cloudy and gray, which was not what I was hoping for after seeing so many amazing photos of these vibrant red hills against blue sky. But we continued on and initially headed towards the Painted Hills Overlook Trail; it’s a super short trail that offers amazing views!

I know I’ve shared this photo like 3 times already, including in yesterday’s post, but I love it!

I don’t think we were out of the car for more than 15-20 minutes before it started POURING rain, so that was kind of a bummer! But since this is such a dry desert landscape, it was actually kind of neat to see it in the rain, even if it wasn’t what I was initially hoping for when we planned this trip. And of course Henry didn’t mind at all, he’s such a happy little guy no matter the weather 🙂

I couldn’t decide which of the photos of him waiting out the rainstorm in the hiking pack that I liked best, so I just included them all 🙂 Anyway, we got back in the car to wait out the rain storm and not long after, it stopped! And the sun came out! And we had blue skies! It seriously felt like a miracle!

We quickly drove over to the Painted Cove Trail, which is a super short trail that features a boardwalk right through the hills, and it’s probably the one you’ve seen in most of the Instagram photos from this area. And for good reason, it’s stunning! You can see the hills up really close and really take in their vibrant colors.

It’s a pretty small area though so it didn’t take us long at all to walk around, take a few photos (ok, a lot of photos), and then we done. Which was perfect timing because the clouds started to roll back in and it started pouring rain again shortly after we got in the car! All in all, I think we spent less than two hours at the Painted Hills, but I honestly felt like that was enough time? Granted, we probably would have spent a little longer there had it not been raining, but once you see the hills and walk around a little, I feel like you kind of get the experience? Had we been staying closer to them, I’m sure there are other, more lengthy hikes in the area we could have checked out, but with Henry, we were totally fine with the short little walks we did. Also, I should mention that the Painted Hills are one of three units that make up the John Day Fossil Beds, so if we wanted to make a longer trip, we could have checked out the other two areas. (Although, the three units are pretty spread out and the other two are kind of a drive from the Painted Hills) But honestly, all I wanted was just to see the Painted Hills in person, and I’m SO glad we did. But I’m glad we ended up staying in Bend and just doing it as day trip, since Bend has a lot more to offer in terms of a getaway destination 🙂

On our drive home from Bend, we made a stop by Smith Rock! You can see the Smith Rock area from highway 97 driving north out of Bend, and usually we just see it out the window as we’re headed to and from Portland. But this time, I thought it would be fun to stop and walk around a little and I’m so glad we did! Even though Smith Rock is world famous for rock climbing, it’s also a great area to hike and to just take in the views! Since it was close to Henry’s nap time when we stopped, we didn’t end up doing a hike since we needed to get back on the road, but I know there are quite a few of varying length and difficulty that you can do in this area. It’s definitely worth checking out if you haven’t seen it!
They had this mini rock climbing wall for kids that Henry loved, even though he was kind of little for it 🙂

Central Oregon is only a few hours from Portland, yet it feels like worlds away thanks to these dramatic dessert landscapes! It’s been fun to get out and explore more of the state now that Henry is running all over, and I know we’ll be coming back to these places down the road too 🙂

We’re actually headed out this weekend to explore another area of Oregon that I’ve never been to, so be sure to follow along on Instagram (@inthepinkandgreen) for more on that over the next few days!