The Oregon Trail

The only concentration of human habitation near the John Day Fossil Beds National Monument is Mitchell (pop. 121), a semi-ghost town 45 miles or so east of Prineville and 2 miles east of the turnoff for the Painted Hills section of the fossil beds. The main “town” of Mitchell lines up along the three-block stretch of old road signed as the Business Loop, just south of US-26, where Main Street holds the old-fashioned general store Wheeler County Trading Co., capturing the flavor of the 1870s, and a pair of pleasant cafés: The Little Pine Café and Lodge (100 E. Main St., 541/462-3532) and the Sidewalk Café (204 W. Main St., 541/462-3800) offer good food and great berry pies.

Mitchell also holds one of the more atmospheric old places to stay in this part of eastern Oregon: The Oregon Hotel (104 E. Main St., 541/462-3027, $20-110) has genuinely friendly owners and a comfy front porch overlooking the lazy old-road loop.