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California Rockhounding: 11 Best Spots with Map & Laws

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California is a rockhound’s dream. The state’s deserts, stream beds, and mountains are good places to look for rocks, minerals, and fossils. Given the patchwork nature of the geology of the state, it’s possible to find entirely different mineral sites in close proximity. California, like much of the American West, has a large proportion of public lands overseen by the Bureau of Land Management, which includes free and pay-to-dig public rockhounding sites. 

The best rockhounding spots in California are:

SitePublic or PrivateGPS Coordinates
Wiley’s WellPublic33.4939 N – 114.8897 W
Kramer HillsPublic34.9208 N – 117.4686 W
Crystal Peak MinePublic39.5958 N – 120.0766 W
Alvord MountainsPublic35.0688 N – 116.6263 W
Chambless Trilobite QuarryPublic34.5625 N – 115.5225 W
Pebble BeachPublic41.7650 N – 124.2309 W
Diamond CreekPublic41.9558 N – 123.9352 W
Trinity RiverPublic40.8791 N – 123.5270 W
Modoc National ForestPublic41.6015 N – 121.5044 W
Benitoite Mining CompanyPrivate36.2426 N – 120.5972 W
The Himalaya Tourmaline MinePrivate33.2340 N – 116.7625 W
The best rockhounding spots in California

In this state, you can find nice specimens of agate, chalcedony, fossils, garnets, geodes, gold, hematite, jade, jasper, onyx, quartz, tourmaline, and turquoise, among many others. Some of these are easy to locate, others are harder to find. In general, the ones that are harder to get to offer more opportunities to find better or more interesting specimens for the rockhounding community.

Where to Find Rocks in California
Where to Find Rocks in California

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Rockhounding Regulations & Laws in California

Rockhounding is not allowed in national parks (not to be confused with §Bureau of Land Management or national forests).

State parks each have their own regulations but are generally more open to rockhounding, so check with them before taking any rocks or minerals from their sites.

Generally, the most you can take at state parks is 15 pounds per day, and be advised that the use of tools is generally not permitted. Additionally, the collected rocks must be for your own personal collection; commercial gathering is not allowed.

The General Provisions of California State Parks can be found here:

“No person shall destroy, disturb, mutilate, remove earth, sand, gravel, oil, minerals, rocks, paleontological features, or features of caves except rockhounding which may be permitted as defined and delineated in Sections 4610 through 4610.10.”

You can find the rules for rockhounding provided by the Department of Agriculture here. In general, the rules state that low-impact disturbance of the land for rockhounding activities is allowed by the Department of Agriculture on their lands. This includes panning for gold, metal detecting, and collection of specimens without the use of power tools.

The Bureau of Land Management has its mineral collecting rules available here. The BLM allows the collection of rocks, minerals, invertebrate fossils, and gemstones from the lands they oversee. The use of power tools is not allowed. Collection for commercial purposes is not permitted.

If you’re uncertain about the status of the land you’d like to collect from, it’s best to check with the various park services. If you want to rockhound on private land be sure to ask for explicit permission from the landowner to search for specimens of rocks, fossils, and minerals on their property.

The Best Public Rockhounding Sites in California

You can find the best rockhounding sites in California accessible to the public in the section below. In case you need it, the map below shows you the exact locations for all of the best public sites mentioned below:

Wiley’s Well

Wiley’s Well is named after an artesian well located in the Colorado Desert in Riverside County. Although a relatively popular rockhounding site, nice specimens can regardless be found here including agate, geodes, citrine, chalcedony, jasper, quartz, and other minerals.

Wiley’s Well can be accessed via the Wiley’s Well road off Interstate 10. Wiley’s Well takes its name from an old artesian well. The site lies to the west of Blythe. This is one of California’s best-known rockhounding sites.

Given the extreme heat in the summer (up to 130f!) it’s better to visit during the cooler parts of the year. There is a campground at Wiley’s Well.

Here are some of the commonly and less commonly found rocks and minerals you can find at Wiley’s Well:

Rocks / MineralsRarity
Fire AgateRare
Wiley’s Well Rocks and Minerals

Kramer Hills

A short way east from the town of Boron lie the Kramer Hills. To visit this site, drive to Kramer Junction, where Highway 58 and US 395 intersect.

From here drive south for about a fifth of a mile until you reach a pole line road. Turn to the southeast and go for another two and a half miles until you reach another pole road. Turn south from the intersection of the two pole roads. In just over a mile you’ll find a trail to the east.

Take the trail about a mile to find agates and jasper, which will take you to the Kee Kay site. Here you can also find petrified palm wood, autunite, flower agate, jasper, and peridot. 

You can find the rules and regulations, as well as the directions to the site here and here.

Here are some of the commonly and less commonly found rocks and minerals you can find in the Kramer Hills:

Rocks / MineralsRarity
Petrified WoodOccasional
Kramer Hills Rocks and Minerals

Crystal Peak Mine

Located in the Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest, Crystal Peak Mine is a good place to find quartz crystals and geodes. This mine was utilized heavily during WWII as the quartz crystals were needed for communication gear. Now, it is one of the more interesting places to rockhound.

The mine is located on Long Valley Road, a short way to the north of the Crystal Peak Campground.

No power tools are permitted on this site; this is a hand tool only mine. No commercial collecting is allowed. Each vehicle is permitted to take one five-gallon bucket of crystals per week.

Here are some of the commonly and less commonly found rocks and minerals you can find at the Crystal Peak Mine:

Rocks / MineralsRarity
Crystal Peak Mine Rocks and Minerals

Alvord Mountains

Many types of rock and minerals can be found in these mountains including chrysocolla, petrified wood, chalcedony, gold, and more. 

These mountains lie to the north of Highway 15 between Baker and Barstow, 17.5 miles to the northeast of Yermo, and twenty miles east of Calico on land and are managed by the Bureau of Land Management. 

To get there take US Route 15 eastbound and take the Harvard exit, then turn right at the end of the off-ramp. From there take the left turn onto Yermo Road. Once you are past the overpass the road you’ll be on is Alvord Mountain Road.

Continue north to a bend in the road where you’ll find a smaller road. Turn onto that road. You’ll see a slanting, dark streak in the mountains; the Alvord mine is adjacent to the dark rocks.

When you reach the entrance to the canyon, if you’re not driving a four-wheel drive vehicle, it’s better to park here and walk the rest of the way (it’s not far). As you hike the road, the ruin of a cabin will come into view.

Just before the cabin the road splits. Take the right fork and head up the canyon until you reach the mine site. Interesting specimens can be found in the mine tailings as well as on the surface of the ground. 

You may want to use a four-wheel drive vehicle to reach this site as the roads can be quite treacherous and sandy.

Here are some of the commonly and less commonly found rocks and minerals you can find in the Alvord Mountains:

Rocks / MineralsRarity
Petrified WoodCommon
Alvord Mountains Rocks and Minerals

Chambless Trilobite Quarry (situated within the Chambless Rock Collecting Area)

The Chambless quarry is well-known for its trilobites and other fossils and is situated at the southern end of the Marble Mountains the desert of Southern California, In addition to fossils, there are deposits of magnetite, hematite, garnet, and epidote nearby.

For additional information and directions, the Bureau of Land Management has a website where you can find maps and further details.

Here are some of the commonly and less-commonly found rocks and minerals you can find at the Chambless Trilobite Quarry:

Rocks / MineralsRarity
Chambless Trilobite Quarry Rocks and Minerals

Pebble Beach

Best accessed at low tide, Pebble Beach in Crescent City is one of the more popular rockhounding sites in the state due to the ease of getting there. A

t this site, you can find a variety of different agates such as white agate, green agate, dendritic agate, and swirling agate, naturally rounded and polished by the waves.

Jasper can also be found on this beach. Another of the better places to find agates on this beach are at Port St. George, a short bit north of Pebble Beach.

All the beaches from Pebble Beach in the south to Port St. George in the north are good places to look for agates. Agate can also be found at most beaches in Del Norte County but in lesser quantities.  

To get to the beaches, take North Pebble Beach Road from Crescent City to the northwest. Pebble Beach will be on your left. To get to the beach at Port St. George, continue on Pebble Beach Drive for a couple of miles until it ends. The beach will be on your left.

Here are some of the commonly and less-commonly found rocks and minerals you can find at Pebble Beach:

Rocks / MineralsRarity
Pebble Beach Rocks and Minerals

Diamond Creek

Diamond Creek is a good place to find native copper, agate, jasper, and petrified wood, and, as the name suggests, the occasional diamond. Additionally, you can find chalcedony, gold, and moonstone at this site. 

A short way south of Crescent City around the city of Eureka is another good rockhounding area. The Trinity River is a good place to look for diamond and platinum nuggets. 

Here are some of the commonly and less commonly found rocks and minerals you can find at Diamond Creek:

Rocks / MineralsRarity
Petrified WoodOccasional 
Diamond Creek Rocks and Minerals

Trinity River

On the shores of the Trinity River, you can find jade, petrified wood, platinum, serpentine, and other interesting rocks and minerals in the stream bed and gravel bars. This is also a good location to pan for gold.

To find the site, drive north from Highway 299. Turn north onto Lewiston Road. Lewiston Road becomes Ponderosa Pines Road. Follow that road as it turns to the west. A short way past the curve, Ponderosa Pines Pine Flat Road will appear on your right. Follow that road north until you reach the shore of the Trinity River. 

Here are some of the commonly and less commonly found rocks and minerals you can find at the Trinity River:

Rocks / MineralsRarity
Petrified WoodOccasional
Trinity River Rocks and Minerals

Modoc National Forest

The Modoc National Forest is a good place to find obsidian. Obsidian is a natural form of glass that is created when lava cools too fast for crystals to form.

It can have incredibly sharp edges which can be considerably sharper than a razor blade. Heavy gloves are highly recommended while rockhounding for obsidian.

A permit is required to collect obsidian at this site. The permits are for a single day only and each person can only receive a permit three times each year.

The permit is valid for use in any of the four areas collection is permitted:

  • the Lassen Creek Rainbow Mine,
  • the Needles Mine,
  • the Middle Fork Davis Creek Mine,
  • and the Pink Lady Mine. 

In order to get a permit, you’ll have to go to the Modoc National Forest Headquarters located at 225 W. 8th Street in Alturas. 

Only hand tools are permitted to be used in the park. More information on this site can be found here.

Here are some of the commonly and less commonly found rocks and minerals you can find in the Modoc National Forest:

Rocks / MineralsRarity
Modoc National Forest Rocks and Minerals

BTW: Do you want to know more about rock and mineral identification? The books listed below are the best ones you can find on the internet (Amazon links):

Best pay-to-dig sites for rockhounding in California

Some of the best rockhounding sites are located on private land. Here we point you to a couple of the best pay-to-dig mines. In case you need it, the map below shows you the exact locations for all of the best pay-to-dig sites mentioned below:

Benitoite Mining Company

This site is a good place to look for Benitoite. The cost is $70 per person; children under 12 are charged $20. In addition to benitoite, you can find apatite, neptunite, and others.

Benitoite, the state mineral, is found in a few locations in California, but some of the best crystals come from the Benitoite Mine.

To reach the mine follow these directions:

From I-5 drive along Polk/Jayme for one mile. Drive along the curve to the right where the road becomes Derrick Avenue. Continue along Derrick Avenue for three miles. Turn left onto Los Gatos Road and continue on Los Gatos Road for fifteen miles where you’ll see a statue of a white buffalo. Turn right just before the buffalo and you’re there.

Here are some of the commonly and less commonly found rocks and minerals you can find at the Benitoite Mining Company:

Rocks / MineralsRarity
Benitoite Mining Company Rocks and Minerals

The Himalaya Tourmaline Mine

The Himalaya Tourmaline mine lies to the northeast of San Diego. Here you can find tourmaline, quartz, garnet, and other nice specimens. The cost for adults is $75 and the cost for those between 13 and 15 is $38.50. Younger children can dig for free.

The Himalaya mine is close to Santa Ysabel at the Lake Henshaw Resort. The address for the mine is:

Himalaya Tourmaline Mine Dig
Lake Henshaw Resort
26439 Highway 76
Santa Ysabel, CA, 92070

Once you arrive you will have to go into the store to ask for the mine dig. More information and directions to the Himalaya Mine can be found here.

Here are some of the commonly and less commonly found rocks and minerals that can be found at the Himalaya Tourmaline Mine:

Rocks / MineralsRarity
Himalaya Tourmaline Mine Rocks and Minerals

Other Notable Rockhounding Spots in Southern California

Some of the best Public Sites in Southern California are Alvord Mountains, Chambless Trilobite Quarry, Kramer Hills, and Wiley’s Well, among others. While less known and not as productive as the sites above, here are some additional rockhounding spots that can be found in Southern California. 

SitePublic / PayGPS LocationCommon Rocks / Minerals
Afton CanyonPublic35.029136, -116.363102Geodes, Quartz, Fluorite
Near Malibu LakePublic34.108293, -118.749487Analcite
Victor MinePublic33.264189, -116.939199Cookeite, Bismuth
Rouse Hill Pegmatite OutcropsPublic33.672586, -116.772378Amazonite, Rose Quartz, Tourmaline
Little Acorn MinePublic35.716667, -118.500000Epidote, Quartz, Smoky Quartz
Notable Rockhounding Spots in Southern California

TIP: If you are interested in checking out the best book about rockhounding in Southern California you can find it by clicking here (Amazon link).

Other Notable Rockhounding Spots in Northern California

In addition to the excellent rockhounding sites in Southern California, there are many locations in the north of the state that are excellent rock hunting places including The Benitoite Mining Company, Crystal Peak Mine, Diamond Creek, The Himalaya Tourmaline Mine, the Modoc National Forest, Pebble Beach, and the Trinity River.

SitePublic / PayGPS LocationCommon Rocks / Minerals
North Fork Eel RiverPublic39.935460 – 123.358892Nephrite, Jadeite 
Jade Mines AreaPublic41.876563 – 123.460240Jade, Gold, Serpentine
Jenny CreekPublic41.976920 – 122.397776Agate, Fossils, Petrified Wood
Leech LakePublic39.917706 – 123.086825Nephrite, Jadeite
Shady Run GravelsPublic39.206918 – 120.742549Garnet, Serpentine
Notable Rockhounding Spots in Northern California

TIP: If you are interested in checking out the best book about rockhounding in Northern California you can find it by clicking here (Amazon link).

Rockhounding Clubs in California

If you’re looking for information on collecting sites or are interested in joining other rockhounds on field trips, or even if you’re just looking for someone like-minded to have a chat with, consider joining one of the many rockhounding clubs in the state. There are many specialist and local groups that can be found.

The Mineralogical Society of Southern California

The Mineralogical Society of Southern California was founded in 1929 and is a group dedicated to sharing knowledge of mineralogical and earth science information.

The membership dues are $30/year for an individual or $40/year for family memberships and offer monthly society meetings, presentations, field trips to collection sites, and winter and summer picnics and auctions.

Fallbrook Gem and Mineral Society

This society is based in Fallbrook in northern San Diego county,  a ‘stone’s throw’, as they say on their website, from some of the best gem mining sites in the country. The society offers field trips, classes, and meetings and has its own museum and gift shop. Membership fees are $30/year.

The public is welcome to join the society’s members for their meetings and talks. Offers a lapidary course as well as other classes and shared interests in gems, jewelry, minerals, geology, and paleontology.

Santa Rosa Mineral and Gem Society

This society is located in Sonoma County and was formed to increase the knowledge of the science of minerals, gems, and fossils. 

The interests covered geology, mineralogy, archaeology, paleontology, and lapidary arts. Memberships cost $40/year and include access to field trips, the club workshop, and club meetings, among others.

Guided Rockhounding Tours in California

If you’re looking for more guidance in your rockhounding adventures you can book tours and experiences with knowledgable guides. If you’re a beginner, these tours can be a fantastic place to start your new rockhounding hobby.

Roaring Camp Mining Co.

Roaring Camp Mining Co. offers full-day guided gold panning tours. The cost is $40 per person for a guided gold panning tour to the Clinton Bar in the Mokelumne River Canyon, one of the places where the 49ers from the Gold Rush used to pan for gold. 

In addition to panning for gold tours, the Roaring Camp Mining Co. has a placer gold mine operation, museums focused on wildlife and mining artifacts, and historic ruins. In addition to gold panning good rockhounding exists at this site and the river is a fine place to fish.

California Gold Panning

California Gold Panning offers several guided options starting at one-hour gold panning classes through extensive three-day digs.

The three-day foray teaches the basics of prospecting and learning about gold deposits and where to find them. Additionally, several methods of extracting gold are taught including panning, crevassing, and sluicing.

This tour sets up the novice with the basic knowledge needed to hunt for gold on their own after having taken this tour.

BTW: Check out this amazing metal sign (Amazon link) which is perfect for everyone who loves rockhounding in California!

TIP: Check out the complete guide If you are interested in finding geodes in California:
Guide: 9 Best Locations to Find Geodes in California

State Rock, Mineral, Gem, and Fossil of California

The state rock of California is serpentine, which is commonly found in various parts of the state. This rock was chosen as California’s state rock due to its economic value. California was the first state to designate a state rock, back in 1965.


Serpentine can occur in a variety of colors including blue, black, white, and green. This stone was chosen due to its utility in manufacturing, but as serpentine can contain asbestos, the use of this rock declined as people became aware of the health hazards of asbestos.  Serpentine has a slippery feel to it and is a fairly common rock in northern and central California. 

The state mineral of California is native gold. In this context, native gold means naturally occurring nuggets of metal.


Gold was made the state’s official mineral in 1965. Gold is used in many more ways other than simply pretty jewelry, such as used in electronics, dentistry, and electric components. 

Benitoite is the state gem of California. High-quality benitoite can only be found in San Benito County, however, the uncommon mineral is found in a few other places.


Benitoite was only identified in 1907 and was named the state’s official gemstone in 1985. The mineral can be found in serpentine rocks.

California’s state fossil is the saber-toothed cat (Smilodon californicus) is a well-known extinct animal, famous around the world due to its lengthy upper canine teeth.

Smilodon californicus

It was in 1974 that Smilodon was made the state’s official fossil. This cat went extinct at the end of the Pleistocene (approximately 12,000 years ago).

TIP: California is brimming with fascinating rocks and minerals that would delight any rockhound. Check out the list of the most common rocks and minerals in California in the article below:
15 Common Rocks & Minerals You Can Find in California

Recommended Rockhounding Gear

While special gear is not required to find nice rocks and fossils, having the right tools will help you find more than what’s simply laying around on the open ground. Here are some of the more basic tools and safety gear for interested rockhounds. 

Geological Hammer

This 22oz Pointed-Tip Rock Pick by Estwing (Amazon link) is recommended for its durability and shock-reducing grip.

A rock pick is essential when collecting mineral specimens from a hard substrate such as stone. The pick’s handle is shock-resistant, making it more comfortable for use for longer times in the field. 

Geology Pick

The Geology pick by Estwing (Amazon link) is a good choice for those starting out in the hobby as well as seasoned professionals.

The hammer comes with a pointed tip on one side of the head and a chiseled end on the other. This pick is good for excavating interesting mineral and fossil specimens.

Mini Shovel

The Mini D-Handle Round Point Shovel by Stanley (Amazon link) pairs convenience with durability. Especially in areas of soft material such as sand or clay, it is nice to have a sturdy shovel that is easy to carry.

The D-shaped handle gives you more leverage when digging on your knees, which is something that similarly sized standard-handled shovels wouldn’t provide.

Heavy Duty Work Gloves by Ironclad

Working with your hands in rockhounding environments can be rough; it is easy to get cuts or abrasions when in the field. Protecting your hands is important, especially while working with sharp or abrasive rocks.

The Heavy Duty Work Gloves by Ironclad (Amazon link) protect your hands from sharp rocks and tools. They are machine washable, highly abrasion resistant, and durable. 

Safety Glasses

Eye protection is a must when breaking up a rock or any sort of work where debris could cause injury to your eyes.

The 3M Safety Glasses (Amazon link) are anti-fog and have a corded earplug system, as well as a removable foam gasket. The clear, scratch-resistant lenses shield the eyes against harmful ultraviolet light as well as prevent eye injury from flying rock chips.

First Aid Kit

With its 299 pieces, the Only Emergency First Aid Kit (Amazon link) is a good one for rockhounds. Of course, it’s best to avoid injuring yourself but if things go wrong it’s good to be prepared.

Some of the items found in the kit include fabric and plastic bandages, painkillers, gauze and pads, cold packs, wound closers, and many more.


All in all, California is an excellent rockhounding state. Its diverse topography and geology have created numerous places to collect rocks, minerals, and fossils from the high mountains in the east to the seashore in the west.

Many of the collecting sites are rather difficult to get to due to distance or rough terrain, but many other sites are quite easy to reach. 

If you’re new to the hobby or area, contact the various rockhounding clubs, as they are a good resource for where and when you can and cannot dig, and you might very well find rockhounding companions.

With a state as large and diverse as California things can be overwhelming for the novice, but not to worry, with a bit of help from the regional rockhounding clubs and online guides such as this one, just about anyone can get to at least a few good collecting sites. 

So go on, get out there, and happy rockhounding!

TIP: Thankfully, there are plenty of places where you can legally pan for gold in California. Find out the complete guide about gold prospecting in California in the article below:
Gold Prospecting in California: 8 Best Locations & Laws