“A short trail leading to a great viewpoint with 360-degree views of John Day Fossil Beds National Monument.”
— David Hitchcock
Depending on weather conditions in the winter, one or more areas of John Day Fossil Beds may be closed if the roads are not open or passable. The park service urges you to stay on the trail to prevent damage to the ecosystem.
The Carroll Rim Trail provides some of the best views in the John Day Fossil Beds National Monument. The trail climbs from the main road up to the top of Carroll Rim, where 360-degree views of the surrounding area await.
There is a small parking lot at the entrance to the Painted Hills Overlook
area where 4-5 cars can comfortably park if everyone parks smartly. Cross the road and there is a sign indicating the start point of the trail. If you look up the hillside, you can see the trail stretch before you. The trail starts as a gravel trail before it narrows and turns into a dirt track that climbs the hillside. A short distance up the trail, there is a ledger where you can see who else has been on the trail and sign your name if you would like. The trail begins to transform from gravel to clay as it begins to climb up the hillside. Along the way, you'll pass large rocks that have rolled down the hill from the top. Taking on the character of the painted hills that you see, the clay underneath can be very sticky when it is wet, so make sure your footwear is appropriate if it has been raining. At the quarter mile mark, there is a bench that sits off to the right where you can enjoy the views of Painted Ridge and the multicolored hills found there.
The trail resumes its ascent, climbing a little more steeply now as it heads toward a pass in the hill. Moving through the pass, the trail turns to the left and follows the backside of the hill that you just climbed up. From here, you can see a neighboring farm that sits just outside the park boundary. Where the other side of the hill was barren, this side of the hill has long grass and short shrubs that grow alongside the trail. The trail levels out as it runs along the top of the ridge as more of the monument comes into view. As you enjoy the hike along the top of the hill, take in the various views that are offered along the way. Keep following the dirt trail until you arrive at two benches that sit at the end of Carroll Rim. From here, great 360-degree views of the monument and surrounding areas can be enjoyed. You can see the Painted Hills Overlook area, Painted Cove, Fossil Leaf Hill Trail, Red Scar Hill, and much of the surrounding area that is just outside the national monument. Once you have taken in the views, follow the trail back to your car as this is the only trail off the mountain.