“A short trail leading to the site of extensive paleontological research with some good views.”
— 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.
This trail is short, so unless you are looking for a quick .25 mile run, it might be better to look for a different trail or consider running on the road through this area since a majority of the trails are short.
The trailhead for the Leaf Hill Trail (also known as the Leaf Fossil Trail) is located toward the end of Bear Creek Road in the John Day Fossil Beds National Monument. There is a parking area on the lefthand side of the road that is big enough for several cars.
This short, quarter mile loop trail provides access to a hill that has been the site of extensive paleontological research through the years. Crossing a short, wooden bridge, the trail forks to the left and to the right. There is an arrow that points to the right, but you can go either direction and have the same experience. A sign below the arrow reminds everyone that removal of rocks or fossils is strictly prohibited to protect the treasures of the national monument.
Following the wide, gravel trail to the right, the path works its way through shrubs and short trees. Crossing over another wooden bridge that spans a seasonal creek, views of surrounding hills similar to the other Painted Hills, come into view. After taking in the views, the trail moves to the left and a wooden fence separates you from the fossil hill. There is a large sign where the history of the hill and examples of some of the fossils that have been discovered here can be viewed.
The trail climbs gently around the hill, where better views of some of the hills you saw earlier come into view. The trail has transformed from gravel to dirt at this point. You pass around the backside of the hill and descend along a red rock/dirt trail through some small trees until it reaches the fork in the trail that you passed earlier. Take a left and the trail returns to your car.