A Beautiful Union

The choice to elope gives couples unprecedented freedom. Without the constraints of a traditional venue and without hundreds of wedding guests, you can turn your wedding into an adventure.

Nestled within the John Day Fossil Beds National Monument, the Painted Hills in Oregon provide an extraordinary backdrop for your elopement. The vivid layers of red, gold, and black volcanic ash add an element of intrigue in your photos. Perhaps more importantly, the location lends itself to an epic elopement film.

This guide will provide you with everything you need to know in order to elope at the Painted Hills.

About The Painted Hills

The Painted Hills are a series of natural formations housed within a National Monument in Eastern Oregon. The hills themselves are renowned for their strikingly colorful layers, which represent various geological eras. This region is also rich in fossils, offering a glimpse into the prehistoric flora and fauna that once inhabited the area. Today, the Painted Hills are accessible via five walking trails.

  1. Painted Hills Overlook Trail - The best location for saying your vows
  2. Painted Cove Trail - The iconic boardwalk you see in everyone’s photos
  3. Leaf Hill Trail
  4. Carroll Rim Trail
  5. Red Scar Knoll Trail

The Painted Hills also features a picnic area that is located right at the entrance to the National Monument. This picnic area is very ideal for small gatherings. There are bathrooms and picnic tables, as well as ample parking.

Getting To the Painted Hills and the Best Time to Visit

Located in Wheeler County, the Painted Hills are about a four-hour drive from Portland and two hours from Bend. The best time to visit is during the spring and fall when temperatures are moderate. The lighting during these seasons also enhances the vibrant colors of the hills, making for stunning video footage.

We’ve seen some blogs that tell couples from out-of-state to fly in through Portland International Airport. But we don’t recommend this route. Instead, consider flying in through Redmond Municipal Airport, which is a much shorter drive. The Bend-Redmond area has exploded in popularity among remote workers and vacationers over the last decade, and there are a considerable amount of flights available through most major airports.

Driving out to the Painted Hills should be considered a significant part of your wedding day. Unless you camp nearby or stay in an oddball country Airbnb, expect to drive for a couple of hours from your accommodations. The natural scenery along this drive is profoundly beautiful, and couples who go into the day with a "road trip" mentality are able to enjoy some unprecedented alone time.

Keep reading to check out our list of recommended stays and eats. Our team members are Bend locals, and they’ve compiled their inside scoop on the best spots that aren’t just tourist traps.

Permits and Regulations 2024 update:

The National Park service requires permits for all wedding ceremonies taking place within the grounds at the Painted Hills. You can find the most up to date information on the official website. In a nutshell, you’ll need to download this permit, and mail it in. The application fee is $50.

You can have up to 16 people gathered on the Painted Hills Overlook trail, or up to 50 in the picnic area.

Pro tip: While some of the prettiest views of the Painted Hills are found within the gated area, there are surrounding hills outside of the monument with a similar aesthetic where couples are not bound by the same limitations. In the video above, the table with charcuterie was filmed outside of the park next to this amazing view.

Best Locations for Videography and Photos

The Painted Hills offer several locations that are perfect for videography:

  1. Painted Cove Trail: This short trail provides close-up views of the hills and is ideal for intimate shots. This is where the iconic boardwalk can be found, and parking is very close by.
  2. Overlook Trail: This easy trail leads to an overlook that provides a panoramic view of the Painted Hills, making it an excellent spot for capturing wide-angle video footage. This is our favorite place to take couples when it comes time to exchange their vows.

Videography Tips for Painted Hills Elopements

  1. Golden Hour: Plan your shoot start time about 2 hours before sunset to take advantage of the soft, warm light that enhances the colors of the hills.
  2. Drone Footage: The Painted Hills enacted strict no-drone policies in April of 2022. So where did we get all of the cool shots in the video above? Well, we’ve been filming weddings for over a decade. Our team has a vault of incredible drone shots that were taken long before drone limitations were ever put in place. We gladly use this footage in our elopement films when couples take us to locations where we are no longer permitted to fly drones.
  3. Getting ready: some of the best moments in an elopement happen behind the scenes. Sharing a slow morning with your partner at a cute hotel or Airbnb is a sacred time that can be very fun to capture on video. Check out the video below to see what we’re talking about.

Nearby Accommodations and Amenities

Best Lodging

Some blogs have included links to Airbnbs in Mitchell, which is the closest town to the Painted Hills. Simply put, there is very little to do in Mitchell. If you want to make your elopement into a fun-filled adventure, consider staying in Bend. It’s the closest town with amazing attractions like hikes, food, and river play. Our team, composed of several Bend-Oregon locals, has shared their top picks for accommodations and dining for visiting family and friends:

  1. Campfire Hotel: Features a great outdoor pool and hot tub, conveniently located near fantastic eateries like El Sancho Taco Shop. It's the top choice for budget-friendly lodging.
  2. Juniper Preserve: Offers luxurious amenities including fine dining, golf, a spa, and a pool, making it perfect for family stays.
  3. McMenamins Old St. Francis School: Known for its quirky charm and proximity to downtown Bend. Be sure to inquire about the hidden speakeasy at the front desk for a fun adventure.

Best Food

  1. El Sancho Taco Shop West: A fantastic spot for lunch and dinner. Instead of tacos, try the Sancho Bowl.
  2. The Sparrow Bakery: Don't be deterred by the line—it moves quickly. The Ocean Roll pastry is a local favorite.
  3. Jackson’s Corner: A wonderful brunch destination offering tasty sandwiches and pizza, with ample indoor and outdoor seating.
  4. Wild Rose: Offers unique and elevated Thai cuisine that is popular among locals.

Planning Your Elopement

  1. Get an Oregon marriage license. Here’s our comprehensive tutorial on how.
  2. Decide on whether you’ll want an officiant. Friends and family can fill in for this purpose by getting ordained online. Alternatively, many couples choose to simply do a one-on-one vow reading.
  3. Pack Smart: Bring plenty of water, snacks, and sun protection. The high desert can be harsh, and it's essential to stay hydrated and protected from the sun.
  4. For micro weddings with more than a few people, consider hiring local vendors like The Indigo Bride to put together an event with photography, florals and food.

Capturing your Elopement Video

One of the best parts of eloping is that you have the opportunity to turn the adventure into a short film. We’ve been working with couples across the West Coast for over 10 years, and we specialize in creating authentic, timeless videos to document the day. If you’re interested in bringing our team along for the ride, we would love to chat with you. 


Eloping at the Painted Hills in Oregon offers a blend of natural beauty and intimate adventure, perfect for creating unforgettable memories. By planning carefully, respecting local regulations, and hiring a skilled elopement videographer, you can ensure that your special day is captured in a way that you'll cherish forever. Whether it's the vibrant colors of the hills, the serene moments of your ceremony, or the adventurous spirit of your journey, your Painted Hills elopement will be a story worth telling.