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Best Rockhounding in Minnesota: What & Where to Find

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Minnesota might not have the same diversity of gems, minerals, and rocks as Oklahoma; however, it is a delicate state for rockhounding enthusiasts since it contains some beautiful things.

Minnesota is known for its agates, predominantly found in the Lake Superior region or Moose Lake; however, you can also find geodes, gold, fossils, amethyst, yooperlites, and much more sedimentary igneous and metamorphic rocks. The most famous gravel pits are the Hatchery Pit, the Soo Line Pit, and the Airport Pit.

Let’s explore some of the best rockhounding locations in Minnesota and what you can find!

Best Rockhounding in Minnesota: What & Where to Find
Best Rockhounding in Minnesota: What & Where to Find

If you want to check out the best rockhounding tools I recommend and use, you can find them here (Amazon link).

Best Places to Rock Hunt in Minnesota

Minnesota is famous for its agates, and there are many great locations throughout the state where you can find these beautiful gems and other rocks and minerals. In this post, we’ll explore some of the best places to go rock hunting in Minnesota, focusing on the northern parts of the state. Let’s get started!

Cook County

Cook County, located in northeastern Minnesota, is home to some of the most stunning agates in the state. The Lake Superior region is particularly well-known for its Lake Superior Agates, which come in various colors, including yellow, red, and orange.

One of the best times to search for these agates is during storms when they often wash up on the beaches. However, you can also find them in gravel pits and rocky outcroppings throughout the area.

Over the years, many people have collected Lake Superior Agates, so you may have more luck finding them after a storm has passed through the area. Some of the best beaches to search for agates in Cook County include:

  • Lutsen-Tofte-Schroeder
  • Grand Marais
  • Grand Portage

Remember, any beach or location with exposed rock gravel is an excellent place to search for agates, so keep your eyes peeled whenever you’re exploring the area.

Lake Superior Agate found in Cook Country, Minnesota
Lake Superior Agate found in Cook Country, Minnesota (source)

The Lake Superior Agates are the state’s national gemstone, so you should definitely look for it in Cook County. Here, you can also find thomsonite, jasper, amethyst, and chalcedony. The beaches on Lake Superior’s north shore are the best for gem hunting.

Carlton County

In the county of Carlton, Minnesota, there is a city named Moose Lake. This place is famous for its agates and is nicknamed the world’s agate capital.

Plenty of gravel pits are spread throughout Carlton, and you need a permit to pick up agates in many of them. You can find more information about how to get a permit here.

The most famous gravel pits where you can go gem hunting with a permit are the Hatchery Pit, the Soo Line Pit, and the Airport Pit. In Carlton County, you can also find amethyst, fossils, quartz, other rare stones, and even yooperlites, particularly in gravel pits.

If you find yourself in Carlton, you should definitely visit the Jay Cooke State Park. Here, you can gaze upon the Precambrian Thomson Formation, which formed around two billion years ago.

Another popular place is the  Moose Lake State Park, where you can find agates around 1.1 billion years old, among the world’s oldest specimens.

Cloquet City in Carlton County hosts an amazing place for enthusiasts: the Get Picking area. You can find Lake Superior Agates, quartz, jasper, fossils, and even other cool rocks here.

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):

TIP: Minnesota, a state that’s famous for its natural beauty and wilderness, has some of the most desirable rocks and minerals in the United States. Find out more in the article below:
10 Common Rocks & Minerals You Can Find in Minnesota

What Gemstones Are Found in Minnesota?

Minnesota may not have great diversity regarding gemstones; however, you can find agates and amethyst in this state. Agates are particularly unique since the ones that have formed here are the oldest in the world.

They formed billions of years ago from volcanic eruptions and ended up in river basins, gravel pits, and gravel dumps. They also come in different types.

Lake Superior Agates

Lake Superior agates are only found in Minnesota. They come in different colors, such as yellow, red, and orange, since they have rich iron content. Some specimens can weigh up to twenty pounds but are generally smaller.

Different types of Lake Superior agates can be found in Minnesota, such as the fortification agate, which is the most common, with unique patterns of sharp bands connected. 

The rarest and most precious is the eye agate with rounded bands on its surface, similar to an eye. Other varieties include peeled agates, water agates, or the seemed agates.

You can find these agates in Minnesota on the north shore beaches of Lake Superior, in gravel pits in Cook County, or near Moose Lake City in Carlton County.

Generally, these specimens are found in Minnesota’s northern and western regions. In Carlton County, Get Picking is also a great place to find agates.


When it comes to finding amethyst in Minnesota, it usually resides where agates are also seen. Search in places such as gravel pits; the Gunflint Trail region, in particular, is known for its amethyst specimens. Another area that may host amethyst is Get Picking in Carlton County.

TIP: Minnesota is full of lakes and rivers. These places are suitable for rockhounding. Check out the most common rocks and minerals you can find in rivers in the article below:
Ten Most Common Types of Rocks You Can Find In Rivers

What Minerals Are Found in Minnesota?

Plenty of minerals can be found in Minnesota due to its ancient and active volcanic activity. Minerals such as thomsonite arose from these events; however, you can also find jasper, quartz, and gold in Minnesota.

Many places require you to have a permit to enter and explore areas that might have these minerals.


Thomsonite can be found in quite a few places in Minnesota. Among the most outstanding varieties in color exist here, and they can be found on the north shore, on the beaches around Tofte, or on the Cook-Lake County line.

Thomsonite is a form of zeolite. They formed around the same time as the famous Lake Superior agates due to volcanic activity, so they are often found in the same places as agates. They come in colors such as white, light yellow, beige, pink, light brown, light grey, or even light orange.

Among the most beautiful specimens can be found at Thomsonite Beach, on the shores of Lake Superior in Cook County.


A relatively unique type of jasper can be found in Minnesota, namely the Mary Ellen Jasper. It was named as such since it was discovered in the Marry Ellen Iron Mine in St. Louis County, the Mesabi Range, more than a hundred years ago.

At almost 2 billion years old, this type of jasper comes in various colors, such as pink, green, red, and white swirls of Precambrian fossil algae, namely the Stromatolites.


Quartz minerals are plentiful in Minnesota; other famous specimens such as agates, amethyst, or thomsonite are made from them.

You can find quartz in Minnesota in places such as Gunflint Trail, the north shore of Lake Superior, the Zumbro River, east of Grand Marais, near Biwabik, the area around Ironton, and the other Cuyuna Iron Range localities.

TIP: Ore and mineral are two quite widespread terms. However, many people do not know how to distinguish these two terms correctly. Find out the main differences between ore and minerals in the article below:
Main Differences Between Ore and Mineral You Should Know

Where to Find Cool Rocks in Minnesota?

There are plenty of igneous, metamorphic, and sedimentary rocks to be found in Minnesota. Among the most famous are the yooperlites, binghamites, or geodes. Here is where you can find them!


Among the rarest variety of quartz, binghamite, also dubbed as a type of agate stone, is present in Minnesota. It is made out of hematite and goethite, and they are found in places where iron is predominant.

Binghamite Found in Minnesota
Binghamite Found in Minnesota (source)

They come in different colors, such as gold, black, red, and yellow; some are multicolored. Binghamite is found in the Cuyuna Iron Range, near Crow Wing County, Minnesota. It is the only known location in Minnesota where Binghamite is found.


Yooperlites are beautiful and have been found in Minnesota in various places. You can find yooperlites in Minnesota, on the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, and even in areas around Whitefish Point to Grand Marais.

They can also be found in gravel pits. Some have found them on Lake Michigan near Chicago or the Point Betsie Area.

TIP: We consider binghamite and yooperlites to be cool rocks. Do you know what other rocks are considered cool rocks? Check out other cool rocks and where you can find them in the article below:
What are Cool Rocks & Where to Find Them? Follow These Tips

Where Can You Find Fossils in Minnesota?

Fossils are quite common in Minnesota, being present across the state. Many marine fossils like corals and other fish, as old as 380 million years, are usually found in the state’s north-central region.

A diversity of fossils is present here, from oysters and snails to shark teeth and clams, dating back to the Cretaceous Period.

At the Precambrian iron formation, which is located in the northeastern part of Minnesota, you can also find two million-year-old algae. In southeastern Minnesota, you can find cephalopods and trilobite fossils that date back to the Ordovician era.


Arrowheads can be found along the Minnesota River, where old Indian trails used to be. Many rivers in Minnesota are great for finding arrowheads, especially the ones that shrank over time.

Lakes, rivers, and creeks are all good places where you might stumble upon arrowheads, as Indians would hunt animals as they approached the waters.

Shark Teeth

Shark teeth are usually found in sedimentary rocks. Exposed river beds in Minnesota are usually great places to find them. Near Rochester or the St. Paul area are also some great locations.

The Ellis County, or the iron ore areas in Hibbing and Keewatin, along with the granite mines in the Bellingham area, are also excellent places to find shark teeth.

TIP: Fossils can often be found in sedimentary rocks. Do you know why? The answer lies in how the different types of rocks are formed. Find out more in the article below:
Fossils Can Be Often Found in Sedimentary Rocks & Here’s Why

Where to Find Gold in Minnesota?

When it comes to gold in Minnesota, around six regions are constantly explored, namely the Bigfork, Cook County, International Falls, Linden Grove, Vermillion, and Virginia Horn. Deposits of gold are strongly believed to exist in these regions.

Near Oronoco, at the Zumbro River, placer gold finds had been reported decades ago. Around Lake Vermilion, similar reports have been made; however, the town of Winston City was founded as gold was found in ore samples, but alas, Minnesota is not a good place to find gold. 

If you wish to try your luck, the areas around Soudan, Trout Lake, Ely, and Lake Vermilion in the northern parts of the state are your best bet.

TIP: Check out the article below if you are interested in the complete guide on gold prospecting in Minnesota:
Gold Prospecting in Minnesota: 7 Best Locations & Laws

FAQ about Rockhounding in Minnesota

If you’re still looking for more information about rockhounding in Minnesota, check out these frequently asked questions and their answers:

What is Minnesota’s state gemstone?

The official state gemstone of Minnesota is the Lake Superior agate. It was officially designated as such in 1969. Minnesota’s Lake Superior agates stand out from other varieties since they are among the oldest agates in the world.

They are noted due to their orange, yellow, and red coloring, which sometimes includes white or grey parts. They formed more than one billion years ago due to volcanic activity, and they come in various shapes and sizes, with some weighing even twenty pounds.

What is Minnesota’s state mineral?

Minnesota is noted for its Lake Superior agate gemstones but doesn’t have an officially designated state mineral. However, minerals such as thomsonite, jasper, quartz, or gold can be found throughout the state.

What is Minnesota’s state rock?

Despite having relatively rich sedimentary, igneous, and metamorphic rock deposits, Minnosate does not have an officially designated state rock. Some cool rocks you can find in Minnesota include specimens such as binghamite, yooperlites, and even geodes.

What Types of Agates can you find in Minnesota?

Minnesota has various types of agates, with the Lake Superior agates being its official state gemstone. Apart from these unique agates, you can also find paradise beach agates, cold water agates, thunder egg agates, eye agates, peeled agates, or seemed agates. The rarest and most precious agate you can find in Minnesota is the eye agate.

Is Rock Collecting Allowed in Minnesota’s State Parks?

Rock collecting is usually prohibited in state parks since they preserve natural resources. Near parks, however, there are some cases in which you are allowed to collect. If you want to go fossil hunting, some tours are available by reservation through Hill Annex State Park.

Agate hunting is also available in some gravel pits near Moose Lake State Park; however, you need permission first. This is also true if you want to collect items on private lands. Obtain the consent of the owners first.

What Are Some Great State Parks to Visit in Minnesota?

Minnesota has various state parks that are worth visiting. The Hill Annex Mine State Park in Calumet is filled with fossilized marine remains. The Soudan Underground Mine State Park in Soudan is Minnesota’s oldest and deepest iron ore mine, where volcanic rocks formed around 2.7 billion years ago.

The Banning State Park in Sandstone has plenty of old sandstone quarries, while the Jay Cooke State Park in Carlton County has a formation that dates back to two billion years ago.

If you want to gaze upon the oldest agates in the world, then the Mooe Lake State Park is the place to go. The effects of 11,000-year-old glaciers can be witnessed in the Interstate State Park in Taylor’s Falls. 

Do I need a permit to go rockhounding in Minnesota?

In most cases, you do not need a permit to rockhound on Minnesota public lands, such as state parks or national forests. However, it’s always a good idea to check with the specific park or forest you plan to visit, as some may have special regulations or restrictions.

If you plan to rockhound on private property, you must obtain permission from the landowner first.

What tools do I need for rockhounding in Minnesota?

Some basic tools you may want to bring with you on your rockhounding adventure include:

  • Rock hammer or pick
  • Chisel
  • Safety glasses
  • Gloves
  • Magnifying glass
  • Backpack or bucket for carrying your finds

Can I keep the rocks and minerals I find while rockhounding in Minnesota?

In most cases, you can keep the rocks and minerals you find while rockhounding on public lands in Minnesota, as long as you follow any guidelines or restrictions set by the park or forest.

However, if you are rockhounding on private property, you should always check with the landowner first to see if they allow collecting and if there are any limits on what you can take.

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

TIP: And it’s rockhounding time now! Do you know what tools you need for rockhounding? Check out the list of all needed tools and equipment for rockhounding in the article below:
The Complete Guide: All Tools You Need for Rockhounding