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Best Rockhounding Sites in Idaho & What You Can Find

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Idaho is an excellent place to rockhound as it is also known under the name of “The State Gem.” Its mountains are filled with silver veins, gold, and other mineral ores, and it is home to the deepest canyon in the US, Hell’s Canyon. Many interesting geological formations are present here; even gigantic lava flows and meteorites appeared to be common here. But where to rockhound in Idaho, and what can you find?

Idaho is known for its variety of gems, such as garnet, opal, jade, topaz, zircon, agates, tourmaline, star garnets, fossils, and more. The best places to hunt for them are Owyhee, Custer, Blaine, Gem, Latah, and Washington counties. The south and western parts of Idaho are generally where the best spots are located.

Forests and streams are generally the best places to rockhound in Idaho, but there are certainly many other places. Let’s see what you can find in certain counties in Idaho.

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

Where to Rockhound in Idaho?

Best Rockhounding Sites in Idaho & What You Can Find
Best Rockhounding Sites in Idaho

Many Idaho counties are home to various gemstones, minerals, and rocks that can be collected, though, on some, it would be best to research the legality of doing so. Here are some of the best places for rockhounding in Idaho!

Owyhee County

Owyhee County is located in the southwest corner of Idaho. Here is a perfect place to find yellow, red, green, and mossy jasper specimens.

Common and fire opal, pink and white plume agates are also famous in this area. Quartz crystals, geodes, thundereggs are found in the western part of the county.

Southwest of Homedale is a good place to start looking for agates or visit Squaw Creek. Red and green specimens are found in Succor Creek, the eastern fringe, while amethyst can be found in the War Eagle Mountain, as well as chalcedony varieties. Cobalt crystals and garnet are present in the Silver City area, while varieties of quartz are in the Long Gulch south of it.

Custer County

Custer county is another sweet spot for gem hunting. Citrine, quartz, or amethyst is plentiful here. Giant geodes or petrified wood near Challis would please anyone. A rare material known as zeolite is also present in the Challis area, and copper, zinc, and other specimens.

South of Callis, in the Lime Creek, is where you will find agates and cryptocrystalline quartz. Or, you can go 3 miles west and find red agates. Agatized wood is present at around 12 miles south of Challis. The Lost River area is where you will find amethyst.

Quartz crystals are plentiful in the Bayhorse and Yankee Fork Mining District. Garnet can be found in:

  • Phi Kappa Canyon,
  • Copper Basin,
  • or near Mackay.

Latah County

The county of Latah in Idaho is known for its common and fire opals. They are usually found in vesicular basalts. Gems, garnet, and the famous star garnet can be found of high quality and quantity in the Emerald Creek area. Green beryl or tourmaline can be found in the Avon area, while malachite is regularly found in the Hoodoo District.

Fire opals are common in Opal Creek, which is situated 5 miles south of Forney. Common opals, on the other hand, can be found in the Moscow Opal Mines.

Opalized wood is present in the Potlatch River Canyon, in the Kendrick area. Zoisite fossils are found in the Lost River Range near Mackay.

Gem County

The Gem County, as its name implies, is abundant in gemstones. For example, fire opals are found near Emmett, at Squaw Butte. They range from pink to cherry red. 

Blue agates are also present here. The Willow Creek area contains opalized and agatized wood of great quality and enormous opals. The Black Canyon Dam is also known to host fire opal specimens.

Adams County

Adams County is an intriguing place for hunting gems, especially precious stones. Here both diamonds, rubies, garnets, and other specimens have been found in the Rock Flat near the New Meadows area, as well as sapphires and corundum.

Diamonds have been found in the Little Goose Creek area, while garnet, malachite, thulite, in the Seven Devils Mining District. For different garnet varieties, the White Monument, Peacock, and Coppey Key mines situated in Kinney Point are a must-visit spot!

TIP: Idaho is full of beautiful rocks, crystals, and minerals. So it can easily happen that you have a large collection of rocks. But do you know what to do with your old rock collections? Check out these simple and clever ideas on what to do with old rock collection in the article below:


What To Do With Old Rock Collection? 3 Simple & Practical Ideas


What Rocks and Crystal Can You Find in Idaho?

Start Garnet - The official state gemstone
Start Garnet – The official state gemstone (source)

Idaho certainly has a variety of rocks, crystals, and gemstones that would interest any rockhound. From diamonds, rubies, emeralds, gold, sapphires to geodes, topaz, turquoise, opals, obsidian, amethyst, agates, jades, jasper, garnets, quartz crystals, and petrified wood.

Idaho is well known for its meteorites specimens, arrowheads, and fossils as well. The official state gemstone is the star garnet since 1967.

It is an unusual-looking garnet specimen that can be found only in Idaho and India, and it is part of the star gemstone class, displaying a 4-ray or even 6-ray star. But let’s see where you can find rocks in Idaho first!

Where to Find Rocks in Idaho?

Idaho is well known for its gigantic geodes and agate specimens. Obsidian is also present here, among other beautiful rocks that are a great addition to anyone’s collection. Let’s see where exactly can you find these rocks in Idaho.

Agates

There are various types of agates in Idaho. They range from colors like light blue, red, green, or different specimens such as branded, scenic, dendritic, sagenetic, polka dot, smokey, or moss agates. 

You can find agates in Idaho in places such as Owyhee County – green and red specimens, smokey, mos, or polka dot agates. In Washington County, you can find agates in Mann Creek, and they are highly prized due to their iridescence. In Gem County, agates are light blue, and they can be located in Willow Creek or near Emmett.

TIP: Agates can be really valuable rocks. The real value of agates depends on a lot of factors. Find out what the agates worth is and what factors are crucial for their value in the article below:


Are Agates Valuable rocks? The True Worth of Agates


Geodes

Geodes in Idaho are quite interesting as they range in size. You can find gigantic geodes in the Custer country, more specifically in the Challis area, where diamonds are pretty common as well. In Owyhee County, geodes appear to be smaller and can be found in the Succor Creek area.

Obsidian

When it comes to obsidian, Idaho only has the typical black variant, and they are found in a couple of places. However, they are often very small. In the southern and central regions of Idaho, there are several places where you might find obsidian.

You may find obsidian in the famous Emerald Creek near Clarkia or around the county of Owyhee. Kilgore seems to be the hot spot for obsidian, but so might be Kelly’s Canyon, but the specimens are rather small. You can also search for obsidian in the railroads’ tunnels along Highway 95, which is near Culdesac.

Where to Find Crystals and Minerals in Idaho?

Though interesting rocks are rarer in Idaho, things take a different turn when it comes to crystals and minerals. Plenty of varieties of minerals and crystals are in this state, and yours for the taking if you know where to look for them.

Here are some of the best minerals and crystals that you can find in Idaho, and of course, a couple of places where they are located.

Amethyst

Amethyst is quite amazing to find, and if you are in Idaho, you certainly have to visit the county of Blaine. In Blaine County, you can find amethyst specimens near Hailey, and if you are there, you will surely stumble upon copper, silver, lead, and zinc minerals.

When it comes to the County of Custer, amethyst and clear quartz seem to be in the same place.

You can find amethyst in the county of Custer if you go to the famous Challis area. The Lost River area is where you will find amethyst. You can go to Washington County to find amethyst in the Beacon Hill, Hog Creek, and Weiser areas as well.

TIP: Amethyst also occurs in the neighboring state of Oregon. Actually, amethyst from Oregon is really valuable and rare so it could be a great opportunity trying to find them. Find out more about rockhounding in Oregon in the article below:


All About Rockhounding in Oregon: Where to Go & What to Find


Diamonds

Diamonds are the ultimate treasure to find no matter how you look at them, and diamonds have been found in Idaho in a couple of places.

In the county of Adams, a famous area where you can find diamonds, rubies, and even pink garnets. It is called the New Meadows, and you may search for these specimens in the Rock Flat area.

Another place where you can find diamonds in the County of Adams is Little Goose Creek, which is also in the New Meadows area.

Topaz

If you want to find topaz in Idaho, then get ready, because there are various types of topaz which you can find here. If you go to the county of Elmore, you might find regular topaz. Go to the Dismal Swamp 9, which is ½ miles northwest of Rocky Bar.

In Valley County, you can find blue topaz. Go along the tributary of Paddy Creek in the Paddy Flat area on Gold Fork Creek. Another great place to find blue topaz is within the Donnelly area. When it comes to yellow topaz, you have to visit the county of Clark. Here, you can find yellow topaz in the Camas Creek area.

Garnet

Garnet is probably the most common thing you can find in Idaho, with the star garnet being the state’s official gemstone after all. There are several types of garnets to be found in Idaho, and all of them are beautiful.

Starting with the pink garnet, you can find this rare specimen in the county of Adams, if you go to the Rock Flat area near New Meadows.

If you go to the county of Latah, you will find the famous garnet digging site on Emerald Creek. This is where you have high chances to find both regular garnet and the famous star garnet.

Red garnet can be found in the county of Shoshone, in the Canyon Creek and the Purdue Creek areas. If you go to Owyhee, you can discover purple-red garnets in the Silver City area.

Another great place is again the Adams County. You can find red and pink garnets in the White Mountain, Peacock, and Copper Key mines near Kinney Point.

Quartz Crystals

Clear quartz can be found in Idaho in Custer County, in the Challis area. Near the East Fork of the Salmon River, you can collect various types of quartz crystals.

You can also go to the Lime Creek area, which is 12 miles south of Challis, or the Iris along Willow Creek south of Callis to find quartz crystals. About 3 miles west of Challis is also where you can find quartz.

You can also find quartz crystals near the Bayhorse and in Yankee Fork Mining District areas in Custer. Another great place is Owyhee County. Near the Idaho-Oregon border, go to the Graveyard Point southwest of Homedale.

Quartz crystals are also found in Blaine County, at around 9 miles north of Muldoon, south of Clary, along the Little Wood River area. 

Lemhi County has cryptocrystalline quartz in the south of Meyers Cove. In the county of Gem, you can find quartz crystals near Emmett, while in Owyhee county, in the Eastern fringe of Succor Creek.

TIP: Quartz crystals are quite common and it is not difficult to find some of them. And maybe you already have some quartz crystals in your rock collection so it will definitely be good to know their value. Check out the article below and learn more about the value of quartz crystals:


How Much is Quartz Worth? Value for Common Quartz Varieties


Where to Find Gemstones in Idaho?

Having counties such as Gem County, Idaho is a gemstone paradise! There are many types of gemstones you can find here, so let us present to you the most famous and find them!

Opals

Both common opals and fire opals are easy to find in Idaho. In Gem County, fire opals are located in Squaw Butte near Emmett, and they range in color from red cherry to pink. In the Willow Creek area, opals vary from light blue, deep red, or even salmon pink to white and pale blue.

In the county of Gooding, you can find opal in the fossil beds in the Hagerman area. In Latah County, common and fire opals are typically located in the vesicular basalts and can be found in Emerald Creek.

Lincoln County is also great for finding opals, while in Owyhee, they are found in the volcanic rocks, such as those located in Succor Creek.

An interesting opal named the Harlequinn was discovered in Spencer, near the Constellation mine, as well as the pinfire opal.

Rubies

Rubies are rare no matter where you are, and when it comes o Idaho, you might find them in Adams County. You have to go to the New Meadows, in the Rock Flat area.

Some rubies have been found in Valley County as well. Apparently, the highest chance of finding rubies in Idaho is in Adams County, after reviewing any sites.

Jasper

Jasper is a great addition to any collection, and you can find various types of it in Idaho. Go to Owyhee County, as jasper is found in different colors there, such as red, green, yellow, or mossy.

Probably the best place to search for them is in the Succor Creek area. Another good place in Owyhee is in the Bruneau River Canyon, just 50 miles south of Bruneau.

You can find jasper in the county of Blaine as well. Just go south of Carey along the Little Wood River. Here many varieties of jasper are present. Another great place to find jasper is in Bear Lake county.

Here, go to the Hummingbird Mine area in Paris Canyon near Montpelier, and you might find red jasper, red with a combination of green malachite.

TIP: Idaho is full of beautiful gemstones. You can actually find gemstones in your backyard. To find more tips on how and what gemstones to find in your backyard check out the article below:


12 Gemstones You Can Find in Your Backyard Right Now


Where to Find Fossils and Petrified Wood in Idaho?

Hagerman Horse Fossil - The state fossil of Idaho
Hagerman Horse Fossil – The state fossil of Idaho (source)

Idaho has many places where you can find fossils, petrified wood, opalized wood, and possibly even meteorites. The state fossil of Idaho is no dinosaur, but rather the Hagerman Horse Fossil, since 1988. It is the oldest species related to the Equus genus, ever discovered. But let’s get back to the other specimens!

Petrified Wood

If you want to find petrified wood in Idaho, then the best place to go would be in Custer County. Here, go to the Challis area, and you will find a whole forest of petrified wood.

The Malm Gulch area is also abundant in petrified wood. If you go to Washington County, you can find some beautiful specimens from Mann Creek just northwest of Weiser. Another great place here is the Beacon area.

Another great place is the county of Owyhee, as you can find black petrified wood in the Coal Mine Basin, just south of Marsing, or 9 miles south of Coal Mine Basin. The Clover Creek area is also filled with petrified wood.

In the county of Boundary, you can find opalized wood. The Willow Creek area in Gem County is also filled with it. The famous horse fossil beds near Hagerman, in Gooding, are also abundant in opalized wood, especially in the Clover Creek area. Lincoln County is also a great spot. 

If you want to find black opalized wood, head for Owyhee County. Here, you can search for it just a few miles southeast of Highway 95 at the Idaho-Oregon state line in the Coal Mine Basin.

TIP: Do you know what is the value of petrified wood? Some pieces can be quite valuable. Check out the crucial factors of the petrified wood value in the article below:


Crucial Factors of Petrified Wood Value: What’s the Worth?


Fossils

Probably the most famous spot for fossils in Idaho, are the horse fossil beds near Hagerman, in the county of Gooding. Here are the most samples of the state fossil of Idaho, the Hagerman Horse Fossil. In the county of Latah, you can find fossil plant remains in the siltstone of the interbeds between the basalt layers. 

In the county of Adams, you can find zoisite, fossils, in the Seven Devils Mining District. The same can be said of Bonner County, particularly in the limy rock just southeast of Pend Oreille Lake.

Zoisite fossils can be found in Owyhee, just 9 miles south of Bruneau, or in Bonneville County, in the northwestern part of Willow Creek.

Some other good locations include the Vallet County, south Fork of Gold Creek, in Blaine County, at the Trail Creek, just east of Sun Valley, or the Bayhorse area in the Custer County. The Lost River Range near Mackay is also filled with fossils.

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):

Conclusion

Idaho is a beautiful state filled with precious or regular gemstones, fossils, quartz crystals, petrified or opalized wood, and many unique types of opals and garnets. It is a must-visit state for any gem hunter, but just be sure you check if it is legal to rockhound in any area. Happy hunting!

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

TIP: And it’s rockhounding time now! Do you know what tools you need for rockhounding? Check out the complete list of tools and equipment you need for rockhounding in the article below:


The Complete Guide: All Tools You Need for Rockhounding