• The Clarno is the smallest, oldest, and most remote part of the John Day Fossil Beds
• Clarno's animal and plant fossils are dated from 40 to 54 million years old

PhotographingHiking OregonAgate Hunting

The Clarno Unit is the smallest part of the John Day Fossil Beds National Monument. It is also the oldest and most remote monument in the park. Two other park units are Sheep Rock and Painted Hills.

Clarno's Unique Story

However, despite its smaller size, this is a truly unique place to explore the natural history of our planet saved in fossils. A lot of paleontological discoveries were made in the Palisades - heavily eroded cliffs of Clarno stretching for about a mile. These formations are dated over 40 million years old and reveal mud-flows from the Eocene era that once was covered by a forest.

You can see preserved remnants of a tropical forest in the Palisade cliffs, including petrified imprints of palm, ginkgo, magnolia leaves, and other flora. Interestingly, this place is one of the few areas in the world where ancient plants' stems, leaves, seeds, and nuts are preserved in the same location.

There are also a variety of prehistoric animals like rhinos, brontotheres, and horses discovered at the Hancock Mammal Quarry.

Outdoor Paradise

In addition to seeing unique fossils, Clarno is also a great place to enjoy a hike and a picnic while enjoining the scenic views.

There are two parking lots at the Clarno unit, one near the Palisades trailhead and another at the picnic area.

The Clarno Unit has 3 trails linked together, totaling a 1.5-mile out-and-back hike.

  • Clarno Arch Trail is a 0.25-mile one-way hike up the Palisades to see a natural arch eroded into ancient volcanic mud-flows.
  • Trail of the Fossils is a 0.25-mile one-way hike where you can observe real fossils imprinted in stone.
  • Geologic Time Trail is a 0.25-mile one-way path leading to the picnic area.

The area is full of fossil and non-fossil rocks. However, collecting fossils is prohibited.

There are recreational rockhounding beds in the town of Fossil, where you can find interesting rocks for your collection.

Clarno John Day Fossil Beds National Monument
Trail with Palisades view

Clarno Unit: Camping & Lodging

Camping is not allowed anywhere at the John Day Fossil Beds National Monument.

The town of Fossil, Kimberly, Dayville, and Madras are the closest places to find lodging near Clarno.

Affordable vacation rentals in Fossil, Kimberly, and Dayville

Lodging in Madras

Clarno Unit | Facts

Open: Year-round
Managed by: National Park Service

Amenities: Vault toilets, picnic tables
Activities: Hiking, nature viewing, and picnicking

Distance from the parking: Short
Road access: Any vehicle
Day-use fees: None

Elevation: 1,500 ft (457 m)

Clarno is located:

  • 16 miles southwest of Fossil
  • 154 miles southeast of Portland
  • 188 miles east of Salem.

Adventures Nearby

Directions to Clarno

From Fossil,

  • Take OR-218 W for 16 miles
  • Parking lot will be on your right.

Get Google Maps Directions

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