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Arizona is one of the best states in the United States for finding gemstones in the wild, and that means there are plenty of great places to rockhound there. Not only is Arizona full of gemstone mines that can be accessed for a mining fee, but many gems can also be found just by inspecting the ground in rivers, creeks, and undeveloped areas.
Gemstones can be found all across the state of Arizona, and over eight main types of rocks and minerals can be collected there. Arizona is an incredible place to rockhound, not just because of its diversity of native gemstones but also because of its beautiful natural landscapes. Arizona contains many areas where you can legally rockhound.
Rockhounding is more than just a hobby; it is a lifestyle. Arizona is a fantastic place to find rocks, minerals, and crystals that can be displayed in a collection, made into jewelry, and more. In this article, you’ll learn where to rockhound in Arizona and find tips for rockhounding in the state. You’ll also find a list of Arizona-based rock and gem shows that you can visit.
If you are interested in checking out the best book about rockhounding in Arizona you can find it by clicking here (Amazon link).
Where Can You Rockhound in Arizona?
Are you thinking of taking a trip to Arizona for some rockhounding? You’re in luck! Arizona has some of the best rock and gem collecting in the world.
Famous for its turquoise, Arizona is home to many Bureau of Land Management (BLM) land areas, national parks, and operating mines that offer both independent or supervised rockhounding tours and sessions that are open to the public.
The emphasis on rockhounding at the state’s many parks means that you’ll have plenty of options to choose from.
Each Arizona Gem Tells Its Own Amazing Story
Arizona boasts an amazing array of precious stones and minerals that can be found by amateurs and professionals alike.
Whether you’re a tourist taking your family out on a fun one-time adventure or an extreme hobbyist who has dedicated your life to uncovering amazing gemstones, Arizona is a great location to find them.
Because of the diversity of stones that can be found there, Arizona is one of the most popular rockhounding regions in the United States.
From turquoise to jasper, the many rocks and minerals of Arizona each have beautiful qualities, and these gems can be found in many different areas around the state. Successfully rockhounding in Arizona depends on knowing exactly where to look.
Here are some of the most common rocks and gemstones you can discover in Arizona and the most popular mining areas where you can find them:
|Common Rocks and Gems Found in Arizona||Where to Find in Arizona|
|Turquoise||Bisbee, Castle Dome, Kingman, Morenci Mines|
|Peridot||Peridot Mesa, Four Peaks, San Carlos|
|Onyx||Big Bug Creek Onyx Quarries|
|Garnet||Garnet Ridge, Buell Park|
There are so many areas across Arizona to collect rocks and gems that you could make an entire trip to the state just based around rockhounding.
And many serious hobbyists in the field do exactly that each year. Not only are there great places to find rocks and minerals out in the field, but there are also several prominent gems and rock shows that are held in Arizona each year.
But where are the actual spots and locations in Arizona where you can get to go rockhounding on your own? Below you’ll find some of the best places in Arizona to find the gems, stones, rocks, and minerals you are looking for:
- Burro Creek BLM Land in Wickenburg, Arizona
- Santa Cruz County outside of Nogales, Arizona
- Arizona Amethyst Mines in Fountain Hills, Arizona
- Petrified Forest National Park in Northeast Arizona
- Round Mountain BLM Area in Duncan, Arizona
- Black Hills Rockhound Area in Safford, Arizona
- Sun City Rockhound Club in Sun City, Arizona
- Four Peaks Mining Company in Scottsdale, Arizona
- The Bureau of Land Management Locations
The best rockhounding spots in Arizona are not the ones with recognizable names or boundaries. Instead, your best bet for finding amazing rocks and gems is to go out onto uncultivated lands such as those found in BLM areas and national parks.
Though they may not be the best option for families of tourists with young children, these wilder rockhounding areas are great for people who want to find the stones they are looking for.
The Bureau of Land Management is a United States Department of Interior agency responsible for taking care of public lands. These lands are considered public because they are technically free and open to anyone for recreational use.
This means that the rules and regulations for the use of the land tend to be lax compared to other public lands like national parks. BLM public lands are usually not equipped with any campsites or businesses, so any rockhounding done there will be very do-it-yourself.
But this is also one of the reasons that rockhounding on BLM land is so fruitful. Often, other people have not yet gathered up all the available rocks.
Here are the three best Arizona BLM land areas to rockhound in:
- Black Hill Rockhound Area in Safford, Arizona
- Round Mountain BLM Area in Safford, Arizona
- Burro Creek BLM Land in Wickenburg, Arizona
Arizona’s National Parks and Strewn Fields Are Perfect for Rockhounds
The best Arizona National Forest areas to rockhound in are the following:
- Tonto National Forest Area in Gila County, Arizona
- Strewn Fields
Strewn fields are open areas at a high altitude that are spanning over a large area. The strewn fields of Arizona range from only a few acres to many miles wide.
These landscapes are incredibly beautiful and full of wildlife and nature. So, even if you don’t end up finding any gemstones when you’re out in the strewn fields, you should still have a chance to enjoy yourself just by walking around in the natural beauty of Arizona.
In Arizona, strewn fields are often located at the ends of primitive roadways and do not offer much car access. These areas are not maintained thoroughly or regularly, and hiking in them can be tedious, depending on where the strewn field is located.
Rockhounds who plan on going into the field should be sure to bring plenty of food and water as well as supplies such as a map, a flashlight, first aid, and other items in case of an emergency.
Make sure to drive a car with a four-wheel drive if you intend to visit a strewn field for your next rockhounding adventure. If you don’t, you might find yourself stuck in the middle of nowhere, waiting for someone to come along and rescue you.
As long as you have the right gear, you can find various rocks and meteorites in the strewn fields and national parks of Arizona.
The best rockhounding strewn fields in Arizona are found in the high deserts of the following regions in the state:
- Winslow, Arizona
- Holbrook, Arizona
- Arizona’s National Parks
While Arizona has many national parks dedicated to rock and gemstone preservation, visitors to these areas should remember that most of them do not allow you to take anything from the park home with you; this includes rocks and gemstones. (Source: Arizona National Park Service)
While you’re still able to find rocks and gems in these national parks, you’ll be forced to leave them behind and take a photo as a souvenir instead.
If you are interested in rockhounding within the boundaries of an Arizona national park, it is important to consult the national park’s website first.
Some parks may allow rockhounding in the backcountry areas, but most backcountry access requires a special pass after completing an application process and paying a special fee.
If you find a beautiful rock at a national park that does not allow rockhounding, do the right thing and put it back. The only way to preserve the nature, natural history, and beauty of national parks is to adhere to the honor system and abide by all national park rules.
TIP: Arizona is full of amazing national parks where you can find a lot of beautiful rocks. But it is always important to know where is allowed to take rocks from. Learn more in the article below:
Currently Active Gem and Mineral Mines
Sometimes the best way to rockhound for gems and minerals is to find a currently active mine and either take a visitor’s tour of the mine, which usually includes some available mining areas, or find a “pick your own” working mine that allows visitors to mine gems and rocks themselves for an hourly rate or a pay-by-the-ounce situation.
Here are some of the best active gem and mineral mines in Arizona:
- Four Peaks Mining Company (Amethyst)
- Arizona Amethyst Mine (Amethyst)
- Arizona Onyx Quarries (Onyx)
- Colbaugh Processing (Turquoise)
Active gem and mineral mines in Arizona are a great way for rockhounds to pick up some fascinating specimens and learn more about the local mineral-based industries and mines in the state.
BTW: Do you want to know more about rocks and minerals identification? The books listed below are the best ones you can find on the internet (Amazon links):
- The Crystal Bible
- Smithsonian Handbooks: Rocks & Minerals
- Gemstone & Crystal Properties (Quick Study Home)
- Ultimate Explorer Field Guide: Rocks and Minerals (National Geographic Kids)
Tips for Rockhounding in Arizona
If you’re going rockhounding in Arizona, here are some things to remember that will make your rockhounding expedition in Arizona a more fun and fruitful one:
- Make sure to educate yourself ahead of time.
Know which areas of Arizona are known for what types of gemstones and plan your trip accordingly. It’s also a good idea to get all of the contact information for mines and other areas of interest in the state before you get there so you have a general idea of where you’re going and what you’ll be doing.
- Bring plenty of water.
The scorching deserts of Arizona are unforgiving, with very little shade cover (if any). Ensure that you stay hydrated while you’re out collecting rocks and gems in the desert to make sure that you don’t succumb to dehydration or heatstroke.
- Warm weather in Arizona is rattlesnake weather.
Going out on wild tracts to rockhound is fun and exciting, but if you get bit by a poisonous rattlesnake, your trip can turn painful and deadly fast.
Be sure to wear high-ankle leather boots for protection and make plenty of noise as you move to give rattlesnakes a chance to vacate the area. Do not attempt to move or disturb any rattlesnake you find while rockhounding.
- Be overly prepared.
Arizona’s natural environments are harsh and can lead to exposure if you don’t prepare for your rockhounding expedition carefully, so be sure that you bring safety supplies such as a compass, reflector, and a cellphone in case you get in trouble and need to call for help or become lost.
- Don’t forget to check what the local rules are.
The rules for legal rockhounding vary across different areas of Arizona. These rules are especially important to pay attention to in rockhounding areas located on Native American territory.
These are protected lands, and the rules for rockhounding there may be much stricter than in others. To be safe, verify the regulations ahead of time.
- Be aware that there are limits on the weight of specimens you’re allowed to take from BLM rockhounding areas.
The BLM restricts specimens taken from Arizona BLM lands to 25 pounds per day or up to 250 pounds per year. This is more rocks than most people can reasonably carry away with them, so it usually isn’t a problem for most rockhounds.
While it’s unlikely that you’ll be subjected to inspections of your collected specimens, it’s important to be aware that this rule exists. (Source: Bureau of Land Management)
As long as you come prepared when you show up to collect rocks and gems in Arizona, you should be able to start finding excellent specimens in no time.
TIP: I actually wrote a comprehensive article with all PRO tips for rockhounding + safety tips. Feel free to read this article here:
Rockhounding Events in Arizona and Where to Find Them
Don’t feel like going out in the desert to find your rocks and minerals? Along with the many areas where you can find rocks and minerals in the wild, there are also several major rockhounding events and shows in Arizona, where you can find rare rocks and minerals that aren’t found in the state.
Here are a few of the rockhounding events that you can attend while you’re in Arizona, what time of year they occur, and where you can find them:
Quartzsite Showcase and Swap Meet: Quartzsite, Arizona is a small desert town, but this town has become synonymous with rockhounding over the years.
This rock and gem showcase attracts rockhounds and jewelry makers from all over the world, not just the state. While there are only around three thousand residents of Quartzsite, the town explodes with rockhounds who flock to the town for the rock shows in January and February.
Tyson Wells Rock and Gem Show: The Tyson Wells Rock and Gem Show is one of the biggest rock and gem show in the world, and this ten-day market is so large it will take you the full two weeks to see everything.
So, plan accordingly. Not only can rockhounds pick up a dazzling array of precious metals and minerals at this show, but they can also pick up specialized rockhounding tools and supplies. This show is held over 25 acres and features 2.2 miles of aisles to shop.
Desert Gardens Showground: The Desert Gardens Showground is the largest gem and rock show in Quartzsite, and a major upside of this rockhound show is that there are no entrance fees or parking costs, and there’s even food court available for refreshments.
Quartzsite is known as the RV capital of the world, and many of the vendors who sell rocks and gems in Quartsite live there year-round. The Desert Gardens Showground includes both finished pieces and raw rocks.
QIA POWWOW Show: The Quartzsite Improvement Association (QIA) POWWOW Show is another great Quartzsite rock and gem showcase that has been held in the small mineral mecca since 1967.
The POWWOW doesn’t just feature rocks, gems, and precious metals from all over the world for sale; it also features live music and other entertainment. If you’re going rockhounding in Arizona, you won’t regret scheduling your trip to coincide with this gem show.
Combining a rock and gem show with some local rockhounding expeditions can help you get the most out of your Arizona rockhounding trip!
Note: The schedules of some of these rock and mineral shows may be affected by the current worldwide COVID-19 pandemic. Check with individual shows to confirm scheduling and any potential cancellations related to the outbreak.
The Majesty of an Arizona Rockhounding Experience
Rockhounding is one of the most incredibly rewarding and eye-opening experiences that someone can have in nature. Arizona is one of the best places in the world to enjoy your rockhounding passions or to have a brand-new life-changing rockhounding experience.
The reward of working hard to discover fascinating gems, minerals, rocks, and petrified wood will make your finds even more enjoyable.
No matter what kind of gemstone you’re going after and no matter where in the state you choose to search, you are sure to find something marvelous when rockhounding in Arizona.
If you want to know more about rockhounding in Arizona or you prefer paper books, I recommend buying a book Gem Trails of Arizona. I found this book very useful and clearly written. You can buy it here (Amazon link).
BTW: Check out this amazing metal sign (Amazon link) which is perfect for everyone who loves rockhounding in Arizona!
TIP: Visiting a state like Arizona can cause you to stop having enough room for rocks in your home, apartment, or anywhere else. Yes, it happens and you have to start thinking about what to do with your old rock collection. Find inspiration in the article below: