Fossil Hunting, Paleoclimates, & Painted Hills Cabin Trip

  • Image shows red and white striped hills extending away from the camera. In the foreground, there are green shrubs and yellow wildflowers.
  • Image shows a blue-green cliff off center in the image. A small green pine tree is in the foreground and more cliffs can be seen extending in the background with a clear blue sky above.
  • Image shows eleven people posing together in two rows on the right side of the photo. Behind them is a view of the Painted Hills with multi-color rolling hills. There is a cloudy white sky above them.
  • Image shows a steep rock cliff with sagebrush in the foreground. The is a blue sky with stripes of white clouds above the cliff.
  • Image shows a small wood cabin off-center in the foreground. Behind it is a hillside covered in small shrubs and a blue sky.
  • Image shows close up of yellow wildflowers across the foreground of the image. The background has a view of colorful hillsides and a mountain range known as the Painted Hills.

Hundreds of miles of landscape in this part of Oregon was buried under volcanic ash, creating one of the richest fossil beds and most vibrantly colorful geologic formations in the world! The red, yellow, and black “paleosol” stripes of the Painted Hills create an almost unbelievable panorama in May, when hundreds of thousands of wildflowers add to the visual appeal. On this trip we’ll heads east, into the “rain shadow” of the Cascade Mountains to explore Central Oregon’s famous John Day Fossil Beds National Monument. This beautiful high-desert landscape is home to complex rock formations, tumbleweeds, sagebrush, juniper trees, jackrabbits, and sunshine. You’ll get to learn about Oregon’s fascinating geologic past, and even hunt for fossils that you get to keep.

We’ll stay in cozy rustic cabins (or solo tents if you prefer) on the old Murtha Ranch, now the new Cottonwood Canyon State Park, which boasts the restored barn, windmill and corral of its ranching days. Early mornings and late afternoons here are a Monet’s canvas of stairsteps of volcanic rimrock, dappled with colored light. Read the detailed trip description to learn more.

Trip Specifics

Dates: Saturday, May 8 - Wednesday, May 12, 2021

Cost: $50 - $350. Need-based financial aid is applied on a sliding scale for those who qualify. 

Rigor: Low

Equipment & Packing List (coming soon)

Required Forms

These forms can be completed only after you have received a trip placement email, and are due by Monday, March 15th. To complete these forms, you’ll need to log-in to the Engage LC platform using your email.

  • Waiver
  • Equipment Request
  • Travel Plans

Trip Pictures

This is a brand new trip for us, so we don’t have any pictures beyond those you see here!