The 185-mile / 300-kilometer day trip from Bend to see the Painted Hills near Mitchell, Oregon, was so worth it!

As we had full a day in the car ahead of us, we started off the day with our early breakfast at The Row, while enjoying the magnificent views.

I chose the McTetherow Breakfast Sando (Fried egg, sliced ham, and cheddar cheese on an English muffin, served with an agave mint fruit salad). Chantal opted for the Avocado Caprese Toast (House pesto, fresh mozzarella, avocado, cherry tomatoes, and balsamic reduction on a slice of striatta toast). The kids savored their stacks of pancakes served with whipped butter, house vanilla bean maple syrup, and a side of bacon.

route 15 Bend 2

From Bend, we took the Highway 97 north until Redmond, before heading east on Highway 126, the Ochoco Highway. At Prineville, it continues as Highway 26 and lead us past the Ochoco Reservoir and through the Ochoco National Forest.

Close to Mitchell, you have the exit to the Painted Hills, which is named after the colorful layers of the hills formed by floodplain deposits corresponding to various geological eras. However, the abundance of fossil remains of early horses, camels, and rhinoceroses that have been found at the Painted Hills as the reason for its full name: the ‘John Day Fossil Beds National Monument – Painted Hills Unit’.

The Painted Hills are rightfully listed as one of the Seven Wonders of Oregon, and as soon as you take the exit to the Painted Hills Overlook Point, the outer worldly scenery becomes visible…


The black soil is lignite that was the vegetative matter that grew along the floodplain. The grey colorings are mudstone, siltstone, and shale. Over at Painted Cove, about 1 mile from the main outlook, the red soil is most prominent; it is laterite that formed by floodplain deposits when the area was hot and humid.

On the way back to Mitchell, we saw some mini Painted Hill that we couldn’t have spotted on the way to the site. In Mitchell, both restaurants turned out to be closed, so we got some gas and headed back to Prineville to get some lunch there.

Club Pioneer, Prineville
Club Pioneer (1851 NE 3rd Street) goes back to the early 1940s and has a cowboy and logging traditional feel. It’s a somewhat curious roadside establishment: it’s a family restaurant, but you also have The Saloon, a (sports)bar where you can even gamble (the logo from Oregon Lottery is absolutely brilliant!). As the bar is prohibited for minors, the building had two separate entrances, but inside we noticed that they were just adjoining spaces.

The men all went for the Pioneer Wagyu Beef Burger (½ pound of ground Wagyu beef on a grilled bun with lettuce, tomato, pickle, onion, and mayo). We all added cheese (Cheddar for the kids and Pepperjack for me) and bacon. No nonsense, just juicy and delicious burgers with great fries or extraordinary crispy onion rings. Chantal tried their Mushroom, Kalamata Olive & Marinara flatbread which was topped with a very interesting Cada Dia jalapeño feta. The very hoppy, yet not bitter, RPM IPA from Bend’s Boneyard Beer Company was very welcome! Great food, a very enthusiastic service, so we were happy to have made the lunch stop here.

Crux Fermentation Project, Bend
On the way back to the hotel, we did a quick stop at Crux Fermentation Project (50 SW Division Street) in Bend. A craft beer company with a knack for non-traditional brewing methods and experiments with open fermentation, barrel aging, wild yeast, and experimental hops.

Located in a former AAMCO Transmission plant (to which homage is paid with a T-shirt based on the AAMCO logo) on an industrial site in the middle of Bend, the tasting room is inside next to the brewery. Inside they had a small menu of pub fare, but outside there is also a bar as well as several food stalls (Mexican, Hawaiian, Pizza’s, and Brats). Combine that with the bar tables and the picnic area, it is a great way to be spending the afternoon with friends and family and enjoy the sunset. The kids didn’t really want to go but quickly changed their minds when they found out the Manua Kea food stall also served a Hawaiian ice cream cones, a combination of regular ice cream and flavored shaved ice.

From the 20 or so beers on tap, Chantal had a go at their Gimme Mo IPA. One they advertised as a “next-generation IPA”. Instead of some of the rather bitter hop bombs we tried earlier during our road trip, this one was still hoppy, but more leaning towards a slightly sweet pilsner type of beer with tropical fruit aromatics. Indeed a pleasant and refreshing take on the IPA!

The Row, Bend
Due to the late lunch, we just had some appetizers and salad for dinner at The Row at our hotel, Tetherow.

Chantal chose the Kale & Quinoa Salad (sautéed shredded kale with quinoa, pickled onions, and roasted shallot vinaigrette topped with fresh veggies and crumbled feta).

I chose the Beer Cheese Hopanero Dip, but I should have checked beforehand what hopanero exactly meant. Being under the impression that it was a local (mild) chili pepper, I found out the hard way that term is used for combining beer (hop) and habanero chilies 😳. Some beers combine the two, but this dish seemed to just mix a beer-infused cheese dip with habanero peppers. If not, I really don’t want to try hopanero beer on its own!! Together with fire-roasted tomato and served with grilled flatbread and tortilla chips, it was as described: melty, crispy, charred, and (insanely) spicy and, therefore, absolutely delicious. We did need to put out the fire with some wheat beers…😅.

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