Sheep Rock Unit

Northeastern Oregon

Featuring the most walks and hikes of the three John Day fossil-bed units, Sheep Rock is also closest to the paleontology center. Above loom majestic, layered mountains tilted and eroding into spectacular blue-green formations that date back 28 million years. Fossils are continually being exposed here. The Sheep Rock Unit is between Dayville and Kimberly on Hwy 19.

The most scenic trails lead from the Blue Basin Area: the Island in Time Trail is a well-maintained, mile-long (round-trip) path that climbs up a narrow waterway to a badlands basin of highly eroded, uncannily green (almost turquoise) sedimentary formations. The longer Blue Basin Overlook Trail is a 3-mile loop with amazing vistas of the John Day Valley.

Lonely Planet's must-see attractions

Nearby Northeastern Oregon attractions

1. Cant Ranch House

0.67 MILES

The Cant Ranch House is near the paleontology center. Once upon a time a mail-order house built by a Scottish immigrant family, it offers a peek into…

2. Thomas Condon Paleontology Center


This excellent paleontology center is 2 miles north of Hwy 26 at Sheep Rock Unit. The well-presented displays include a three-toed horse and petrified…