Outdoor Activities

A river is in the foreground with a colorful cliff in the background.
Cathedral Rock is just one the many scenic spots along the John Day River.


Clarno Unit Trails
Painted Hills Unit Trails
Sheep Rock Unit Trails

Don't Hurt the Dirt! Not only do our delicate fossil soils look best when they are footprint free, but fragile fossils may be hidden just below the surface.

Dogs are allowed on trails (and roads) so long as they are on a six foot leash under the control of the owner. Dogs are not allowed off trail. Only service animals are allowed in buildings in the monument.


While there is no camping within the three units of the monument, there are many choices for nearby camping.

River Rafting

Large portions of the John Day River system, including those travelling through John Day Fossil Beds National Monument, are designated as a National Wild and Scenic River as well as an Oregon Scenic Waterway. Spring flows bring the best rafting conditions with the river usually becoming unfloatable by July 4th for most boats. Local outfitters generally recommentd floating at levels between 1500cfs and 5000cfs. Call Oregon River Flow at 503-261-9246, visit the Oregon Water Resources Department website to determine current stream flow levels.

Advance BLM/Oregon State Parks permits are required for to travel on the John Day River during the main float season between Service Creek, Clarno, and Cottonwood, regardless of distance travelled.


It is legal to fish in the monument and elsewhere on public lands along the John Day River with the proper Oregon state fishing license. Smallmouth bass and rainbow trout are abundant. Note that the monument has a restriction on taking frogs and crawdads. No other special regulations apply; follow state fishing laws. For more information, contact the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife in Canyon City at 541-575-1167


Photograpy & Videography

Recreational photography is one of the most popular activities in the monument. West and Northwest facing landmarks such as the Painted Hills, Sheep Rock, and Foree are favorite evening spots. East facing landmarks such as Cathedral Rock are favorite morning spots. South facing landmarks such as the Clarno Palisades are great for photography in morning and evening.

Some photography or videography may require a special use permit or commercial use authorization. The most common situations that require a permit include the use of models (such as photography for catalogues or advertisements.) Permits are required for photography of models even if the photos are for non-commercial use (senior photos, school projects, engagement or wedding photos, etc. are good examples, even if the photographer is unpaid.) When in doubt, please contact us to find out if your activity requires a permit.

Permits will not be issued for drone use. No one is permitted to operate a drone from within the monument under any circumstance.



Several Oregon Scenic Bikeways travel near or through the monument.

Biking is only allowed on roads that are also open to motor vehicles. Biking is not permitted on trails or gated roads, but there are many routes on other nearby public lands.

Mountain Biking in Deschutes National Forest
Mountain Biking in Ochoco National Forest
Mountain Biking in Malheur National Forest

Last updated: June 17, 2022

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32651 Highway 19
Kimberly , OR 97848


541 987-2333

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