There are plenty of hikes throughout all three units of John Day Fossil Beds. The majority of the hikes range around one mile or less, so they are all very quick yet still allow you to get an excellent taste of all that the park has to offer. If you do head onto the trails, it is essential that you stay on the trail - not only for preservation of the soil, but also because there might be some fragile fossils beneath the ground that could be permanently damaged.
Within the Clarno Unit, you'll find three trails, ranging from 0.25 to 0.5 miles, that will take you through the history of the park. The Trail of Fossils Loop is a must do - it's the only place in the park where visitors can see fossils up close and in abundance.
In the Sheep Rock Unit, you'll find a few overlooks and two of the longer trails in the park. The Blue Basin Overlook, a 3.25 mile trail, will take you through unique, green and blue-hued rock formations, eventually leading you to an impressive view into the John Day River Valley.
At Painted Hills Unit, you'll find stunning, multi-colored hills that represent the various shifts in weather and chemical composition of the area over time. You'll be able to go to some quick overlook trails, but if you want a more panoramic view of the painted hills, take the 1.6 mile, 400 foot climb up the Carroll Rim Trail for one of the park's most spectacular sights.