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Best Rockhounding in New Mexico: Where to Go & What to Find

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New Mexico shines in its variety of gemstones, rocks, minerals, crystals, and fossils, just as much as in its diversity of culinary dishes. It is among the best rockhounding locations in the U.S., with plenty of regions where collecting is permitted.

The best rockhounding locations are the various National Forests, mining dumps, wilderness areas, or stream gravels. In New Mexico, you can find geodes, obsidian, turquoise, gold, diamonds, opal, jasper, agate, moonstones, apache tears, amethyst, shark teeth, staurolite, and various other items.

Though New Mexico is a fantastic state to visit, especially for a rock collector, there are certain spots more worthy than others. Let’s see exactly what you can find in New Mexico, and where to go!

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

Best Rockhounding in New Mexico: Where to Go & What to Find
Best Rockhounding in New Mexico: Where to Go & What to Find

Best Rockhounding Locations in New Mexico

The best rockhounding locations in New Mexico are the Rockhound State Park, Jarilla Mountains, Abiquiu Lake, Elk Horn Park, Sante Fe National Forest, Pecos River, Pedernal Park, Jemez National Recreation Area, Kilbourne Hole, Harding Pegmatite Mine, Burro Peak, Oscura Mountains, to name few.

Let’s take a closer look at some of these locations and see what you can find!

Sante Fe National Forest

The Sante Fe National Forest, along with the northeastern New Mexico areas are among the best spots for rockhounding enthusiasts to visit. At the park, you can find jasper, obsidian, apache tears, or agate. At Moreno or Ute Creek, you can find gold, pyrite, pyrrhotite, or chalcopyrite.

The Mexican Gulch area is known for its agate specimens and apatite. Point of Rocks is another region where you can find rare minerals, searlesite, or fluorescent Villiaumite. 

If amber interests you, head towards the Sugarite Mine, search throughout the coal mines. Around Pecos, the mining dump near Willow Creek enthusiasts can find garnet, actinolite, mica, bornite, pyrite, or even tourmaline. Rose-colored agates along with petrified wood can be found in Union County.

Jarilla Mountains

The Jarilla Mountains are situated in southwestern New Mexico and are excellent locations for rockhounds. Here, enthusiasts can find beautiful garnet specimens in the hilly area southwest of the Jarilla Mountains.

The area mines, however, are the real deal. You can find chalcopyrite, galena, gypsum, turquoise, chalcocite, chrysocolla, jarosite, limonite, or malachite specimens.

Oscura Mountains

The Oscura Mountains in southwestern New Mexico is yet another fantastic place to explore. Enthusiasts can head up to the area mines, or by paying a fee at the Blanchard Rock Shop, find barite, azurite, atacamite, chrysocolla, chalcocite, celestite, dolomite crystals, cerussite, galena, limonite, malachite, or quartz crystals.

Burro Peak 

Burro Peak is among the best places to rockhound in New Mexico. The area mines here reveal beautiful specimens of azurite, onyx, pyrite, chalcocite, chalcopyrite, pyrargyrite, chrysocolla, fluorite, galena, malachite, or pyrite.

Harding Pegmatite Mine

The Harding Pegmatite Mine in northwestern New Mexico is something every rockhound enthusiast should experience. Here you can find blue apatite specimens, purple lepidolite, rose muscovite, green tourmaline, bityite, eucryptite, quartz crystals, and spodumene.

TIP: New Mexico is full of earthquake zones where you can find specific rocks and minerals. Check out the list of the most common rocks and minerals from earthquake zones in the article below:


Eight Most Common Rocks You Can Find In Earthquake Zones


What Kind of Rocks Are in New Mexico?

The rock diversity in New Mexico is quite generous, especially for the trained eye. You can find geodes, obsidian, agate, flint, moonstones, apache tears, staurolite, sandstone, limestone, chert, and other types of igneous, metamorphic, and sedimentary rocks.

RockLocation
GeodesLa Madera, Luna, Sapillo Creek, Alum Mountain
ObsidianSante Fe National Forest, Jemez National Recreation Area, Los Lunas
AgatesAbiquiu Lake, Union County, Plains of San Agustin
FlintPedernal Park, Turquoise Hill, Mimbres Mountains
MoonstoneRabb Canyon, San Lorenzo, Jimenez Mountains
Apache TearsSante Fe National Forest, Mule Creek, Los Lunas
StaurolitePicuris, Pilar, Velarde
Common Rocks You Can Find in New Mexico

You can find some very beautiful geode specimens in New Mexico. Regular geodes can be found in La Madera, in the area of hillsides to the northeast. In southwestern New Mexico, head towards Luna, 2 miles west on the ridge, to find amethyst geodes.

You can also go to Sapillo Creek, and search in the stream gravels for banded agate geodes, or go to Alum Mountain, where you can also find these types of geodes in the area.

Obsidian is often termed black rock in New Mexico, and the northwestern parts of the state are the most abundant in it. You can find obsidian at the Sante Fe National Forest, or the Jemez National Recreation Area, near Battleship Rock.

Obsidian is also present in Los Lunas, the southwestern area. The south area of Las Cruces of southwestern New Mexico is also filled with obsidian.

Agate is found in over 40 locations across New Mexico. It’s almost everywhere in the state. To name a few, let’s start with regular agate specimens, which you can find in the south side of Abiquiu Lake, Sante Fe National Forest, or the Mexican Gulch area.

Gem-quality agates are found in the region from Belen to Los Lunas, in the area of gravel and washes, or in Youngsville. Red, banded agates are located in the southwestern area of Los Lunas. The rose-colored agates are located in Union County, in the northeastern parts.

Gem-banded agate is commonly found in the San Francisco River, north of Highway 180. To find moss agate, you can go to the Plains of San Agustin, at the volcanic tuff exposures.

High-quality seam agate, or sagenitic, can be found at the Big Diggins Mine, however, you have to pay a small fee, or at the Rockhound State Park.

To find flint in New Mexico, you can go to the northwestern parts of the state at Pedernal Park. The northern areas of the park are an excellent place to find it.

Another great area is Turquoise Hill, and the regions surrounding it. In southwestern Mexico, you can find flint at the Mimbres Mountains, on the west slopes.

For beautiful moonstone specimens in New Mexico, you should head to the Jemez Mountains. However, the best place is the Rabb Canyon Moonstone Pegmatites Gemstone Mine, situated near San Lorenzo.

To find Apache tears in New Mexico, you can go to the Sante Fe National Forest. In Los Lunas, the northwestern areas are also filled with Apache tears. In southwestern New Mexico, you can find Apache tears at Mule Creek. Go to the west near the state border and search there.

Finding staurolites in New Mexico is quite easy. Go to Picuris, and search in the area for gravel, or head to Pilar, and start your digging on both sides of the highway to Velarde.

TIP: Moonstones are beautful rocks that can be found in New Mexico. But you need to be careful when buying moonstones because you can buy the fake ones. Find out differences between real and fake moonstone in the article below:


Real vs. Fake Moonstone: Focus on These 8 Differences


What Gemstones Are Found in New Mexico?

New Mexico has a variety of gemstones that can be found throughout the state. Some of the most popular gemstones here are turquoise, opal, amethyst, jasper, onyx, aquamarine, tourmaline, feldspar, beryl, pyrite, garnet, villiaumite, quartzite, apatite, lepidolite, and muscovite, among others.

GemstoneLocation
TurquoiseMount Chalchihuitl, Apache Mine, Jarilla Mountains
OpalBig Hatchet Mountains, Fort Bayard, Isleta Pueblo
AmethystLeggett Peak, Black Mountain
JasperMassacre Mountain, Pajarito Mesa, Laguna
Common Gemstones You Can Find in New Mexico

Beautiful turquoise specimens can be found in New Mexico. It is the state’s officially designated gemstone. You may find turquoise at Mount Chalchihuitl, in the area of slopes and draws.

Head towards the Apache Mine, near Hachita, in southwestern New Mexico to find turquoise, or you can try the Jarilla Mountains. There, search for the gem in the area of the mines.

Opals are another beautiful gemstone that you can find in New Mexico. You can try your luck at Isleta Pueblo, in the area surfaces, draws, or washes to find it.

Both common and fire opals are located in Fort Bayard, southwestern New Mexico, in the area. Moss opals can be found in the Big Hatchet Mountains, in the area.

Finding amethyst in New Mexico can be a bit hard, as there are few locations where this gem was reportedly unearthed. You can try to find amethyst at the Black Mountain, in the west slopes and draws, or head towards Leggett Peak, north of Highway 180, in southwestern New Mexico.

Jasper is quite common in New Mexico, being present throughout the state. If you want to find gem-quality jasper, go to Cutter, and search for it on the eastern side of the road.

Dendritic jasper can be found at Mockingbird Gap, on the western side. A deep-red specimen of jasper is commonly found in the Massacre Mountains.

What Crystals Are Found in New Mexico?

Chrysocolla Can  Be Found in New Mexico
Chrysocolla Can Be Found in New Mexico

There are various crystals that you can find in New Mexico. Some of them are quartz crystals, peridot crystals, rock crystals, dolomite crystals, aragonite crystals, Pecos diamonds, calcite crystals, limonite crystals, spodumene, chrysocolla, glauberite, fluorite, or sphene, among many others.

CrystalLocation
Quartz CrystalsHarding Pegmatite Mine, Leggett Peak, Kingston, Oscura Mountains
ChrysocollaNacimiento Mountains, Organ, Mimbres Mountains
FluoriteGlenwood, Mogollon, Burro Peak, Playas Lake
Common Crystals You Can Find in New Mexico

Quartz crystals can be found in a couple of locations across New Mexico. Double terminated quartz crystals can be found at Kingtone, just one mile away in the northern parts.

Quartz crystal clusters can be found north of Highway 180, near Leggett Peak. Pecos diamonds, which are also quartz crystals, are located in Artesia, the hills near Pecos River, or Fort Summer, about 28 miles west along US 60.

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):

What Minerals Can Be Found in New Mexico?

New Mexico shines in its variety of minerals. You can find gold, diamond, garnet, chalcedony, malachite, azurite, carnelian, gypsum, silver, goethite, topaz, copper minerals, apatite, or even rare minerals such as villiaumite, mica minerals, and many others.

MineralLocation
GoldWhite Oaks, Moreno Creek, Ute Creek
GarnetJarilla Mountains, Silver Hill, Pecos
ChalcedonyBlanco Trading Post, Turquoise Hill, Quemado
Common Minerals You Can Find in New Mexico

You can find gold in New Mexico in places such as White Oaks, in the area of mines and deposits, in southeastern New Mexico. Some other popular locations where you might find gold in New Mexico are the areas around Moreno Creek, or Ute Creek, northeastern New Mexico.

True diamond gemstones are quite hard to find in New Mexico, especially due to the confusion of Pecos diamonds, which are double-terminated quartz crystals.

Diamonds haven’t been found in New Mexico, however, the discovery of several kimberlite pipes and at least one lamproite pipe in the state, leads to the possibility of finding diamonds in the western parts of the state. 

Some possible diamond areas in New Mexico might be Potrillo Mar, Dog Canyon, Raton, Maxwell, Red Mesa, Moses, Buell Park, or Green Knobs, east of Navajo.

TIP: Do you know how to spot fake garnets? Knowing difference between real and fake garnets can save you a lot of money when buying these rocks. Find out more in the article below:


5 Crucial Factors of Garnet Value: What’s the Garnet Worth?


Are There Fossils in New Mexico?

There are various fossils that you can find in New Mexico, including plant fossils, marine fossils, dinosaur bones or tracks, and more. The area surfaces around Zuni Mountains contain petrified wood, or you can try your luck at Mount Chalchihuitl, where the area slopes and draws. 

You can also find petrified cycads or petrified palm trees at Red Rock Spring. The area mines in Kelly Ghost Town are another excellent location to find various fossils. Megalodon teeth aren’t common in New Mexico, however, there are the giant fossilized remains of the Godzilla nicknamed shark.

They were discovered in the Santa Fe region. The Shark Tooth Ridge in central New Mexico contains various amounts of shark teeth fossils and other types of fossils. The areas around Cabezon have also been noted for their shark teeth fossil remains, some quite big.

When it comes to finding relics and artifacts in New Mexico, such as arrowheads, it’s relatively easy. Both the eastern and western parts of the Pecos River are excellent locations to start. The Blackwater Draw site, situated near highway NM 466 north of Portales, is also another famous location.

FAQ About Rockhounding in New Mexico

Sill did not find the answer to your answers about rockhounding in New Mexico? Find frequently asked questions in the section below:

New Mexico is an excellent state for rockhounds to fulfill their dreams and find various rare, or precious items. It is legal to rockhound in the state, and there are various places where you are permitted to do so. Always make sure that you aren’t collecting in prohibited or private lands.

What is New Mexico’s State Fossil?

The official state fossil of New Mexico is the Coelophysis, since 1981. It is a small biped meat-eating dinosaur that lived during the Late Triassic, between 205 and 210 million years ago. Its name translates to “hollow form” due to its limb bones. Most of the fossils are found at Ghost Ranch.

What is New Mexico State Rock?

New Mexico doesn’t currently have an official designated state rock, despite its variety of sedimentary, igneous, and metamorphic rocks. Apache tears might seem like a strong candidate, or even obsidian or agates, due to their abundance in the state, but it remains to be seen.

Conclusion

New Mexico is among the best rockhounding states in the U.S. for rockhounds, due to its high diversity and abundance of gems, rocks, minerals, crystals, fossils, artifacts, and rockhounding areas. It is a state that no true rockhound should miss out on in this life!

TIP: A lot of rockhounds are tumbling most of the rocks they found. And rock tumlbing is great activity to do with your kids. Check out the best rock tumblers for kids in the article below:


Best Rock Tumblers for Kids in 2021: Options For Diff Ages