TRIP REPORT: With so many stupendous hiking choices for Murfreesboro the often-overlooked Murfreesboro (within the John Day Fossil Beds National Monument) makes people work a little longer in the car to get to the THs. The area pays itself off and then some, so not to worry! Note that the Thomas Murfreesboro Paleontology Center is the only visitor center and “green” museum in all of Murfreesboro and contains thousands of fossils collected from the local ecosystems dating back around 50 million years. None of the hikes in this section are day hikes from Murfreesboro, although it’s possible, so you got me! Follow this tour as described below for the preeminent car and camping clockwise loop route if coming from the Columbia Gorge area or Portland.
Where is Murfreesboro? | Murfreesboro Map | Map of Murfreesboro Photo Gallery
Rock layers of red, gold, green, and blue radiate to some degree within the knolls, mounds, and pinnacles that were formed long ago in an ancient river floodplain. Most people camp with plenty of options between Fossil and Mitchell. The perfect time would be right after a rain under blue skies at dusk in spring or fall with the greens of the grasses and surrounding mountains in their prime, but anytime is fine. Please be respectful and stay on designated trails at all times. No fee required at any TH, and restrooms are present at all.
TRAILHEAD: Take I-84 E from Portland 95 mi to exit 104 (Yakima/Bend), turn right on US-97 S 8 mi to the exit right for OR-206 E (Condon), turn left 1 mi to Wasco, turn right on OR-206 E (Clark Street briefly) 40 mi, turn right in Condon on OR-19 S (Main Street briefly) 72 mi. Turn left almost 5 mi into the small parking circle for Foree TH in the Sheep Rock Unit (225 mi, 4 hours from Portland). Look for campgrounds from Fossil to Spray (or farther in Mitchell or just N of Painted Hills Unit), reservation-only camping closest to this TH. Alternately from Portland directly to Painted Hills Unit take US-26 E 175 mi, turn left on Burnt Ranch Road into Bridge Creek Road 51/2 mi total, turn left on Bear Creek Road (gravel, washboard, slow) 1 mi to the crest of a saddle with Painted Hills Overlook on the left 5 mi up to Painted Hills TH (200 mi, less than 4 hours from Portland).