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Nevada, the Silver State, is an outstanding place for rockhounding, especially since it is rich in silver, gold, and you can showcase, trade, or go gem hunting in its famous Las Vega City and its surroundings! Let us present to you all you need to know about rockhounding in Nevada, where to go, and what you can find!
Apart from its abundance in silver and gold, you can also find in Nevada various gems, crystals, fossils, and minerals such as amethyst, obsidian, opals, turquoise, garnets, geodes, rubies, agates, and more! Nevada’s most famous regions for rockhounding are its northern and southern parts, and areas near Las Vegas are also abundant in various specimens.
But let us dwell deeper into this beautiful state, and see exactly what you can find and where. Let’s begin with some locations in Northern Nevada!
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Best Rockhounding Locations in Northern Nevada
Northern Nevada is quite a sight to see, and a great challenge for rockhounding enthusiasts! Probably the most famous area for gem collection is the Virgin Valley, where the unique black fire opal is present.
The Virgin Valley in Humboldt County is where the black fire opal was discovered and later, in 1987, designated as the official gemstone of Nevada, along with the Nevada turquoise.
This is the only location in Northern Nevada where this precious gemstone is found in generous quantities. These opals display bright colors on a black background, but these aren’t the only types of opals in this region.
Opalized wood is also commonly found here. The three mines, Bonanza Opal Mines, Rainbow Ridge Opal Mine, and Royal Peacock Mine, located in Virgin Valley, are also abundant in these specimens.
Another great place to find opals in Humboldt County is Firestone, Gabbs, and Webber Claims counties. Gold is also present here, as well as the common fire opals. At the Osgood Mountains or Adam Peak, you can find amethyst, agates, rhodonite, or beryl.
Black Rock Desert
Another great rockhounding location in Northern Nevada is the Black Rock Desert. Here you can find geodes, agates, opals, jasper, fossils, or petrified wood, among many other things.
Head for the Black Rock-High Rock County and scout for agates, fire opals, geodes, obsidian, topaz, malachite, or malachite. The Black Rock Range geode mine is also a great place for rockhounding.
Search in the southern areas near this mine, and you will find plenty of geodes of all sizes.
Though not technically in Northern Nevada, more like central, the Garnet Hill in Ely is an amazing place! Here you can find garnets easily and take them with you free of charge!
This area is managed by the Bureau of Land Management. Inside the holes of rhyolites is where you will find garnets most of the time; however, these specimens are not suited for jewelry.
Being composed out of a mixture of spessartite and almandite, they appear dark in color, brown, or even reddish-brown. The Ruby Mountains are also plentiful of garnets, but not rubies, though.
Best Rockhounding Locations in Southern Nevada
Not all the best locations for rockhounding are located in Northern Nevada, but Southern Nevada as well, especially near Las Vegas which we will cover separately. Here are some of the best southern locations!
Tonopah County is a must for anyone interested in finding turquoise. If you go to Tonopah, you must visit the Royston Turquoise Mine which is situated at around 237 miles south of Reno.
Though you have to pay a fee to visit the mine, if you can find specimens you are allowed to dig, then you can keep them! However, digging is limited to only three hours per person.
The Nevada Turquoise is the official state gemstone since 1987. Another great place here is Otteson Brothers Turquoise Mines.
If you are on the outskirts of Southern Nevada, there is a place near Goldfield, called Gemfield. This is a great place to dig for various specimens such as agate, jasper, chalcedony, quartz, and other things.
Gemfield is special just because of its diversity in what you can find! You only have to pay a small fee, but you can collect various items, whereas many other dig sites present only a few collectible specimens.
Esmeralda County is a beautiful southwestern area, where you can find amethyst, turquoise, agates, jasper, variscite, beryl, and much more! The Sylvania District of Esmeralda County is the place to go for anyone interested in beryl.
When it comes to amethyst, the Silver Peak Mining District is the place to go in Esmeralda. The Crow Springs Mining District in Esmeralda is filled with azurite, but you can also visit places such as the Lone Mountain Mining District, the Gold Eagle Mine, the Montezuma Mining District, the Gold Crown Mine, or the Tokop Mining District to find various other things.
Clark County & Mohave County
Clark County and its very close neighbor, Mohave County, are great places in Southern Nevada for those interested in gold and silver. This county is not as known as the other mining areas; however, placer gold can be found just southeast of Las Vegas, near Nelson.
The El Dorado district, located near the Opal Mountains, produced gold both in lode and placer deposits.
Some gravels here and along the Colorado River just south of the canyon presented placer amounts of gold. In Clark county, you can also find jasper, while in Mohave, you can find beryl.
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Rockhounding Locations near Las Vegas
You can’t talk about rockhounding in Nevada and not include Las Vegas. Many areas near Las Vegas present huge opportunities for gem hunters to visit, find, and collect various specimens of minerals, rocks, crystals, and especially fossils.
You can also visit Las Vegas and behold the largest gold nugget ever discovered by a metal detector, known as the Hand of Faith – displayed at the Golden Nugget Casino.
If you want to do more than just visit and observe these findings, here are some of the best locations near Vegas to rockhound.
Valley of Fire State Park
At the Valley of Fire State Park near Las Vegas, you will enjoy some beautiful scenes and may even find various types of rocks and other interesting specimens. Purple or blue chalcedony is known to be present here, as well as purple amethyst.
You can find amethyst if you explore the old mining areas in this region. Sandstone is present everywhere, and you can find plenty of petrified wood, petrified plants as well, and dinosaur tracks.
Red Rock Canyon Recreational Lands
In the Red Rock Canyon around Las Vegas, you can discover dinosaur tracks as well. Corals are also predominant in this region, in the Fossil Canyon, as well as sponges, or mollusk shells.
The Red Rock Canyon is famous for its fossils, and especially its petrified wood, sandstone, and petrified plants. Before collecting anything, though, it is best to check with local authorities on the legality of taking anything.
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):
- Smithsonian Handbooks: Rocks & Minerals
- Gemstone & Crystal Properties (Quick Study Home)
- Ultimate Explorer Field Guide: Rocks and Minerals (National Geographic Kids)
What Rocks Can I Find in Nevada?
In Nevada, you can find all types of rocks, sedimentary, metamorphic, and igneous. We will focus on those that collectors are most interested in. Here are the most interesting rocks you can find in Nevada!
Obsidian appears to be quite plentiful in Nevada, and you can find them all across the state. It can be found in Obsidian Butte, Nye County, the Airfield Canyon, the White Rock Canyon, Stonewall Canyon, Oreana Bridge, Pancake Range, or in the Tolicha Wash region in Nye county.
The Nevada Turquoise is quite famous due to its beauty, ranging in color from blue, green, to blue-greenish, while some display a black matrix around them.
There is also the White Buffalo Stone, which is turquoise, white in color, or black, or with either white or black stripes.
You can find Turquoise in Nevada in the Ackerman Canyon, the county of Austin, Lander County, or in the Toiyabe Range in the McGuiness Area. The Belmont District in Nye, or the Esmeralda County, the town of Battle Mountain, or the Iowa Canyon area.
Agates are present in Nevada as well, and they can be found in areas such as Bell Canyon, Green Mountain, Douglas County, Pine Nut Mountains, Elko County, Jakes Canyon, Texas Spring Canyon, Esmeralda County, Fish Lake Mining District, Volcanic Hills, Eureka County, Pinto Canyon, Humboldt County, near Denio, or Lander County among many others.
TIP: Agates are among one of the most popular rocks among all rockhounds. Maybe you also have a few agates at home and you’re wondering if they have any value. Let me tell you, some agates can be quite valuable. Find out more in the article below:
Sandstone is plentiful in Nevada, and you can find it especially in the Valley of Fire State Park, and Red Rock Canyon Recreational Lands near Las Vegas. By finding sandstone in Nevada, you have high chances of stumbling across various types of fossils and even dinosaur tracks.
What Minerals Can Be Found in Nevada?
Nevada is filled with different types of minerals, some of them quite valuable, others incredibly beautiful. Here are some of the most popular minerals you can find in Nevada!
Quartz is typically found in the northern parts of Nevada, and they range in both clear and smoky types of variants. Among the best places to find quartz are the Carson City, McTarnahan Hill, Churchill County, Alpine Mining District, Bell Canyon, and Bell Mountain, Clan Alpine Mountains, Chalk Mountain, Copper Valley Mining District, or Fallon Eagle mine among many others.
Quartz is in all zones of the Dawley Canyon pegmatites, but most abundant in cores and border zones.
Gold & Silver
When it comes to gold and silver, the northern parts of Nevada are still abundant in them. In some areas panning is legal, such as the Rye Patch State Recreational Area, or the Dutch Flats in the Humboldt County, Virginia City-Savage Mining Company, or the Ponderosa Mine, Chollar Mine, Washoe County, or Lyon County.
Probably the most popular thing to collect in Nevada is opal. You can find opals almost everywhere in Nevada, but here are some special locations: search near Gabbs in Nye County, or at the Webber mine in Lincoln County, the Star Fire Opal Mine, the Virgin Valley – especially its 3 famous mines Rainbow Ridge, Royal Peacock, and Bonanza Opal – this is where you can find the rare black opal variants and fire opals.
Another type of opal present in Nevada is fluorescent opal. It can be found in the Royal Peacock Mine, and it is much more fluorescent than your regular opal, emitting green light.
Jasper is quite common in Nevada, and you can find it just about anywhere. You can go to Churchill County, and hunt for it in the Bell Mountain Mining District, the Bell Canyon, or head to Clark County and go to Henderson, or the Muddy Mountains.
Some other great places are Douglas County, the Pine Nut Mountains, or Mount Siegel, Wellington Hills, Elko County, Coal Mining District, Delano Mining District, Spruce Mountain, or Esmeralda County.
Variscite is quite rare, and among all the states in the US, Nevada is among the only places where it can be found. Many have reported collecting this beautiful yet intriguing mineral, which is occasionally used as a gemstone, in Esmeralda County, and in Lander County. It has white streaks and varies in color from shades of light to deep green.
If you want to find vanadinite, on the other hand, go to places such as the Eureka County, at the Gold Quarry Mine, Elko County, or the Downeyville Lead Mine in Nye County, and the Churchill County at the Chalk Mountains.
TIP: Do you know what the difference between ore and minerals is? These terms are often confused so I tried to describe the main differences between these two terms in the article below:
Where To Find Crystals in Nevada?
Very little is known about the crystals present in Nevada, however, being such a rich state, it is clear that it does have at least a couple of interesting specimens.
Vanadinite, for example, has been found in a couple of mines in Eureka County, Elko County, Nye County, Churchill County, or the Chalk Mountains. Here are some of the most popular crystals which you can find in Nevada.
Rhodonite is quite a rare crystal, and in Nevada, there are few places where you can find it. Some specimens were found in Humboldt County, but you may find them in Churchill County, Elko County, Buffalo Mountain, Lander County, Lincoln County, in the Gabbs Valley Range, Santa Fe District, Volcano Peak, or Nye County.
Many beryl-bearing pegmatites were discovered in Oreana and Lakeview – Humboldt Canyon areas, or Pershing County, the Dawley Canyon area in Ruby Mountains, Elko County, and Virgin Mountains, in Mohave County.
The most abundant of these places is the Dawley Canyon area, and it’s definitely worth a visit for more than just beryl!
These specimens come in a variety of colors, from blue, green, pale blue, or sea green. The Sylvania District of Esmeralda County is filled with beryls of various colors.
Azurite is found both in the north and south parts of Nevada, and it is located in areas such as Churchill County, where you can go to the Cottonwood Canyon, Bolivia, Lovelock Mine, or in Clark County, at the Anderson Mine, the New York Mountains, New Berry Mountains, Spring Mountains, Goodsprings, Virgin Mountains, or the Elko County, at Alice Mine, Nevada-Bellvue, the Coral Creek Mining District, the Spruce Mountains, or in Esmeralda County.
TIP: Azurite is one of the rocks that can be found in creeks. But do you know what other rocks you can often find in creeks? I described the seven most common types of rocks that can be found in creeks in the article below:
Where Can I Dig for Gemstones in Nevada?
Plenty of beautiful and interesting gemstones can be found in Nevada, especially garnets. For a place known for its silver and gold deposits, Nevada is a must for gemstone hunters as well. Here are the best places to find gemstones in Nevada:
Rubies are quite a rarity in Nevada, and though many hunts for these beautiful gemstones, chances are slim you will find any here.
Even though Nevada has a place called the Ruby Mountains, it is not filled with rubies, but actually very beautiful garnets. There must be some places where you can find rubies in Nevada, but most people either keep it a secret or they simply do not know.
When it comes to Amethyst, Nevada has some locations where you can find this beautiful gemstone.
Impressive amethyst crystal specimens can be found at the Peterson Mountains, which is located in the county of Washoe. It can also be found at a junction known as the Hallelujah Junction.
You can also find amethyst in the Churchill County, the Eldorado Mountains in Clark County, in Elko County, especially at the Toano Range, Erickson Canyon, In Esmeralda County, Eureka County, Humboldt County at the Osgood Mountains, or Adam Peak, or in Lander, Lincoln, and Lyon counties.
There is a beautiful place in Nevada called the Ruby Mountains, but it is actually filled with various types of garnets ranging in color from ruby red, to brownish.
Garnet Hill in the County of Ely is a must-visit for anyone passionate about garnets. This is where Garnet Mountain is also located. Thus, the best chance of finding garnets in Nevada is by going to the county of Ely.
Where Can You Find Fossils in Nevada?
There are various types of fossils in Nevada, but the best place to find them is in the southern parts of the state. Near Las Vegas, the county of Clark is filled with fossil deposits, which range from trilobites, corals, sponges, dinosaur tracks, petrified wood and plants, and more.
Visit places such as the Frenchman Mountains, National Conservation Area of Red Rock Canyon, Fossils Canyon, Yuka Peak, Blue Diamond Hill, Griffith Peak, Corridor Canyon, or the famous Valley of Fire State Park.
TIP: Do you know where the fossils are often found? It is good to know where the fossils can be often found because that increases the chances that you will be able to find a fossil. Find out more in the article below and increase your chances of finding stunning fossils:
FAQ about Rockhounding in Nevada
Still did not find the answer to your answers about rockhounding in Nevada? Find frequently asked questions in the section below:
Many places in Nevada were set up for gem hunters to enjoy their favorite sports, however, before going anywhere, always try to find out if you need a permit before collecting anything. Some places strictly prohibit the collection of rocks, while others allow only a small amount of them. For more information, check out this link.
The state rock of Nevada is sandstone, since 1987. It is found either in its quartzite form, or a traditional one, throughout the state of Nevada. The state is filled with this sedimentary rock since Nevada was in a huge inland sea for a long period of time, millions of years ago. If you visit areas such as the Valley of Fire or Red Rock Canyon Recreational Lands, situated near Vegas, you will witness the abundance of this rock.
The state fossil of Nevada is the Ichthyosaur since 1977. This creature dominated the oceans in the Mesozoic era, around 200 million years ago. Its name translates to “fish lizard.” They ranged in size from seven to thirty feet long, and the largest of which was discovered in the Shoshone Mountain Range, near Northwestern Nye County.
Unlike most states, Nevada actually has two official state gemstones, namely the Nevada Turquoise and the Black Fire Opal, both of which were chosen in 1987 as state gemstones. The black fire opal is quite unique to Nevada, as the only other region in the world where these gemstones are found is in Australia.
Nevada is known as being abundant in both gold and silver, however, its nickname is the Silver State, and thus, its official state metal is silver, since 1977. The most important site ever discovered, abundant in both silver and gold, is known as the Comstock Lode. Its discovery eventually led to a population boom in Nevada and resulted in the state’s fame.
Nevada is among the most beautiful states in the US, where rockhounding presents plenty of possibilities. Many unique specimens can only be found here, but for those interested in dinosaurs and other fossils, it is a paradise where they can witness themselves ancient evidence of giant reptilians themselves, stumbling across things such as dinosaur tracks.
BTW: Check out this amazing metal sign (Amazon link) which is perfect for everyone who loves rockhounding in Nevada!
TIP: And it’s rockhounding time now! But 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: