Priest Hole Campground is one of the few places to camp near the Painted Hills in Oregon. The campground is located about 8 miles or 30 minutes northeast of the Painted Hills and is a primitive/dispersed campground. Really this is more of a boat launch/river access area that also has space for tents and RVs.
Getting to Priest Hole can be difficult as the road turns to gravel and then gets very narrow and steep. There are several washout areas that could be bad during the winter months and the road gets narrow at the steeper points which could prove challenging for trailers if you were to meet another vehicle.
Priest Hole itself is worth the trek if you can make it. It is dispersed camping at its finest located right on the John Day River. As you enter the campground you will find a few areas that people have clearly camped and if you follow the dirt road further down the John Day River you will get to a large gravel bank the size of roughly 4 football fields. This area is where you will typically find more RVs or Campers. The only catch is that you must have high clearance as there is a steep entry on the road which could cause problems for lower vehicles and trailers.
Camping here is bare bones: you must bring everything with you and pack out everything you bring in. There are no services and the nearest town is most likely Mitchell – at least 45 minutes away. You are on your own here – so be aware of your surroundings and watch out for Rattlesnakes. Beyond the risks, this is an incredible campground with amazing river access and stunning views. You will see many rafters drift by on the river and can swim pretty much anywhere though the river can be swift. This truly is camping at its finest.