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GUIDE: Best Rockhounding in North Carolina & What to Find

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North Carolina is among the best rockhounding states in the U.S. It is arguably the best place worldwide when it comes to crystal and gemstone hunting. The western and central regions in North Carolina have among the most mineralized terrain in the world.

You can find rubies, emerald, gold, diamonds, jade, opal, aquamarine, amethyst, geodes, sapphires, quartz crystals, rutile crystals, agate, jasper, topaz, kyanite, platinum, and various other minerals and fossils. The richest regions are in the central and western parts of the state, around Franklin, or Piedmont.

The stream gravels in this state are also filled with various collectible specimens, and the areas around the mountains are also abundant in minerals, gemstones, crystals, and fossils. Let’s see exactly where to go rockhounding in North Carolina, and what you can find! 

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Best Rockhounding in North Carolina
Best Rockhounding in North Carolina

Best Rockhounding Sites in North Carolina

The best rockhounding sites are in the central and western regions, especially near the town of Franklin, the gravel and mountainous regions, and Piedmont. The Emerald Hollow Mine, Corundum Hill, Shining Rock Ledge, Elijah Mt. Gem Mine, Crabtree Emerald Mine, Neuse River, Raleigh, Crowders Mountain, are some excellent places for rockhounding.

You can also try your luck at Little Pine Garnet Mine, Cherokee Ruby & Sapphire Mine, Hiddenite, Hall & Silver Creek, Balsam Gap Mine, Unaka, Kings Mountain, Burnsville, Davidson County, Clubb Mountain, Crowders Mountain, Island Creek, Cape Fear River, Cumberland County, or Cowee Creek, among many other places.

All of them are excellent rockhounding locations in North Carolina, where you can find various specimens. Let’s examine a couple of them and see what you can find!

Emerald Hollow Mine

The Emerald Hollow Mine is located in Western North Carolina, and it is among the best rockhounding locations in the state. Here you can find emerald, tourmaline, aquamarine, sapphire, garnet, clear smoky quartz, topaz, amethyst, citrine, rutile, and other minerals.

Elijah Mountain Gem Mine

The Elijah Mountain Gem Mine is also in western North Carolina, and it’s even richer. Adventurers can find here rubies, amazonite, sapphire, labradorite, emerald, quartz crystals, citrine, amethyst, garnet, aventurine, sodalite, peridot, opal, fluorite, aquamarine, topaz, tourmaline, and pyrite.


The town of Franklin is possibly the best rockhounding location in all of North Carolina. In the many area mines and prospects near it, you can find just about anything.

From amethyst, bronzite, epidote, fibrolite, garnet, jasper, kyanite, dendritic quartz crystals, rhodochrosite, ruby, rutile, sapphire, sphalerite, to staurolite, and many other gemstones, crystals, and minerals.

Crowders Mountain

In central North Carolina, you will find Crowders Mountain. It is one of the many rockhounding hot spots in the region.

You can find here barite, chalcopyrite, corundum, gold-bearing galena, gold, garnet, hematite, limonite, magnetite, blue-gem quality kyanite, rutile crystals, topaz, tourmaline, and many other things.

Clubb Mountain

The area mines and exposures near Clubb Mountain in central North Carolina is also among the best rockhounding locations in the central parts of the state. Here you can find corundum, lazulite, gem-quality kyanite, damourite, gold, garnet, hematite, magnetite, rutile crystals, or tourmaline.

Island Creek

The eastern parts of North Carolina aren’t as rich as the others, however, even here there are some awesome rockhounding locations, such as Island Creek.

The area mines east of Little Island Creek are filled with chalcopyrite, apatite, fluorite, hyalite opal, galena, quartz crystals, rhodochrosite, scheelite, sphalerite, and tetrahedrite.

Cumberland County

Another awesome eastern North Carolina rockhounding location is Cumberland County. The countywide stream gravels, pits, and other regions are filled with agate, chert, jasper, chalcedony, opal, and agatized wood.

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 Rockhounding Clubs in North Carolina

The best rockhounding clubs in North Carolina are Catawba Valley Gem & Mineral Club, Greensboro Gem & Mineral Club, or TarHeel Gem & Mineral Club. Though North Carolina is filled with countless rockhounding locations, and you can find just about anything, everything is much more fun with a couple of friends!

So don’t hesitate to contact these clubs, and make some new acquaintances. You might discover some new rockhounding locations in the state as well, or have people show you around.

Can You Take Rocks from Black Hills National Forest?

If you want to collect rocks from the Black Hills National Forest, know that you don’t have to obtain a permit to do so.

However, you are only allowed to carry small rocks and minerals from the surface for personal use. There are some historical sites here, however, where rockhounding is prohibited. Be sure to do your research beforehand.

TIP: Alluvial deposits along rivers are brilliant places to go rockhounding. Find out the best tips on finding gemstones in the nature in the article below:

8 Tips On Finding Gemstones In Nature (Rivers & Creeks)

Common Rocks in North Carolina

North Carolina Beaches are Great for Rockhounding
North Carolina Beaches are Great for Rockhounding

The most common or popular rocks in North Carolina are gates, geodes, flint, chert, jasper, epidote, staurolite, unakite, itacolumite, sandstone, limestone, marmolite, serpentine, aventurine, moonstone, sunstone, sodalite, rhodochrosite, among many others. Meteorites are also occasionally found in the state as well.

FlintFlint Knob, Flint Hill, 
AgateUnaka, Butner, Chapel Hill, Cape Fear River
GeodesShooting Creek, 
Common Rocks in North Carolina

If you want to find flint in North Carolina, you should go to either Flint Knob or Flint Hill. However, the best places to find flint in this state are on the beaches. North Carolina beaches are filled with flint, and so do the various river banks and even streams.

The variety of agates is limited in North Carolina, however, you can find them across the state. To find regular agates in western North Carolina, go to Unaka, and search in the area gravels, and pits.

You can also find them on the western shore of Lake Summit, or in Mitchell County, the area of gravel, pits, and streams.

In central North Carolina, you can find agates in the general area of Butner, or in Statesville, the large area to the south of Mooresville. Moss agates can be found in Chapel Hill, in the area surfaces, gravels, and creeks.

You can also try your luck in Hillsborough, in the area gravels, and streams. To find agates in eastern North Carolina, search the Cape Fear River and tributaries, especially the gravels, or go to Cumberland County, and search the wide stream gravels, and pits.

When it comes to finding geodes in North Carolina, there is only one confirmed hunting ground, namely the Shooting Creek, in western North Carolina. Here, in the area of outcrops and gravels, explorers can find beautiful and rare hyalite opal geodes.

Finding meteorites in North Carolina is also difficult. There are around thirteen confirmed meteorite findings in the state. However, the last one occurred in the 1930s, so it’s been over 90 years since then.

TIP: Rocks like agate are one of the most popular rocks for rock tumbling. There are some key supplies and equipment you need to ensure your tumbled rocks come out looking smooth and shiny. Check them out in the article below:

GUIDE: Rock Tumbler Accessories, Equipment & Supplies

What Gems Can be Found in North Carolina?

North Carolina is filled with various gemstones. You can find emerald, rubies, pyrite, amethyst, jade, hiddenite, opal, sapphire, aquamarine, topaz, tourmaline, garnet, feldspar, kyanite, beryl, quartzite, epidote, chalcedony, jasper, hornblende, carnelian, titanite, rubellite, andalusite, cassiterite, or barite gems among many others.

EmeraldEmerald Hollow Mine, Elijah Mountain Gem Mine, Crabtree Emerald Mine
RubiesFranklin, Newfound Gap, Corundum Hill
PyriteGrandmother Mountain, Collettsville, Anson County
AmethystOtto, Tyro, Butner, Mooresville
JadeFayetteville, Burnsville, Elijah Mountain Gem Mine
Common Gemstones in North Carolina

You can find emeralds in North Carolina in almost all the regions of the state. In western North Carolina, you can find emeralds at the Emerald Hollow Mine, or in Hiddenite. They are present in Elijah Mountain Gem Mine as well.

The area to the northeast of Stice Shoal Lake Dam is also abundant in emeralds, or you can go to Emerald Village, at the Crabtree Emerald Mine. Emeralds are present in the many mines around Burnsville. 

Ruby has a particular beauty, and in the western parts of North Carolina, you can find plenty of astonishing rubies. You can find them at Elijah Mountain Gem Mine, or the area of pegmatite in Newfound Gap. You can also pay a small fee and search for them in the Cherokee Ruby and Sapphire Mine.

In the many areas around Franklin Town, rubies are quite common. In the dunite exposures of Corundum hill, you can also find rubies, or, you can try your luck at the Higdon Mountain, the area south near U.S. 64. The various area mines of Cowee Creek are also filled with rubies, but if you are in central North Carolina, go to Montvale, and search for them in the area.

If you want to find pyrite in North Carolina, head to Grandmother Mountain, and search for it in the area. The road cuts to the north of Collettsville is where you can find pyrite cubes. In the countywide stream gravels of Anson County, you can also find pyrite, or go to Eldorado, the old area mines.

Amethyst is incredibly common in North Carolina, and you can find it throughout the state. Try your luck in the general area of Butner, central North Carolina. In Tyro, they are found in the southern parts. Go west of Lake Norman in Mooresville, or go to Gold Hill and search the area for quarries and mines.

Finding jade in North Carolina is quite rare. You can try your luck at the Elijah Mountain Gem Mine, or head towards Fayetteville. You might be able to find jade in the many mines around Cowee Creek, or Burnsville.

TIP: If you will be lucky and find jade gemstone you might be interested in its value. Check out the main factors of jade value in the article below:

6 Factors Why Jade is Valuable (+ Prices for Colors & More)

What Minerals Are Found in North Carolina?

North Carolina is rich in minerals. You can find Gold, diamonds, spodumene, sphalerite, rutile, corundum, vermiculite, platinum, silver, labradorite, purpurite, galena, beryl, kyanite, smithsonite, malachite, hornblende, muscovite, magnetite, limonite, chalcedony, feldspar, calcite, mica, siderite, lazulite, and many others.

GoldCane Creek, Little Snowbird Mountains, Blowing Rock
DiamondHall & Silver Creek, Kings Mountain, South Muddy Creek, Hollands Creek
PlatinumHollands Creek, Sandy Level Church, Brown Mountain
Common Minerals in North Carolina

Gold is easy to find in North Carolina. In the gravels near Cane creek, or at Brown Mountain, you can find gold with ease. The area placers in Grandmother Mountain or the many schist outcrops of Little Snowbird Mountains are also abundant in gold. Placer gold can be found in the area gravels, pits, of Unaka, or the area stream gravels of McDowell County.

If you want to find diamonds in North Carolina, rest assured as there are various places where you can try your luck! In the gravels of Hall Creek and Silver Creek, many diamond specimens were found. The gravel of Kings Mountains is also a popular place to find diamonds.

You can find diamonds in South Muddy Creek, near Dysartsville, or the area mining dumps in Sandy Level Church. Diamonds are also found in Hollands Creek, in the gravels near Rutherfordton.

TIP: If you want to know more about gold prospecting in North Carolina, check out the complete guide in the article below:
Gold Prospecting in North Carolina: 7 Best Locations & Laws

Where to Find Crystals in North Carolina?

North Carolina is the best state in the world to find crystals. The best regions are situated in western, central, and eastern North Carolina. Mineral, gemstone and rock crystals are everywhere in the state.

The public mines and their tailings, rocky outcrops, and the gravels of streams, especially near Franklin, are the best places to find crystals.

Some of the crystals you can find in North Carolina include citrine, rutile crystals, magnetite crystals, fluorite, graphite, cerussite, peridot crystals, vivianite, titanite, clinozoisite, quartz crystals, beryl crystals, rock crystals, feldspar crystals, garnet crystals, kyanite crystals, olivine crystals, actinolite crystals, epidote crystals, pyrite crystals, hornblende crystals, or amethyst crystals, among many others.

Fossils Collecting in North Carolina

Shark teeth and particularly megalodon teeth are among the most popular fossils in North Carolina. The best places to find them are the beaches near the Atlantic Coast.

Topsail Beach is the best among them, where you can find fossilized megalodon teeth usually during low tides, after storms, or you can find regular simple shark teeth.

If you want to find arrowheads in North Carolina, you can try your luck in the plowed fields, creeks, and river banks. Any hunting ground where animals would gather is a potential place to find arrowheads. The Piedmont region of North Carolina is particularly favored in finding arrowheads.

But in North Carolina, apart from various gems, minerals, rocks, relics, and fossils, you can also find sea glass. Some of the best locations to find sea glass in North Carolina include Ocracoke, Pea Island, or Bodie Island. Just wipe away the seashells and look closely for sea glass, or it might skip your eyes easily.

Another interesting and rare specimen that you can find in North Carolina is amber. Amber is incredibly rare, and you can try your luck at the Black Creek Formation along the Neuse River in North Carolina to find some. Amber is found in twelve states in the U.S., and around thirteen outside the United States.

TIP: It’s a real adventure and quite an interesting performance to identify real amber and spot a fake. Find out the key differences between real and fake amber in the article beow:

Real vs. Fake Amber: 9 Key Differences & UV Light Testing

FAQ About Rockhounding in North Carolina

Still did not find the answer to your answers about rockhounding in North Carolina? Find frequently asked questions in the section below:

Where is the Best Place for Rock Digging in North Dakota?

North Dakota is a good state to find interesting and cool rocks. Some of the best rockhounding locations in North Dakota are along the major rivers and their tributaries.

Agates and jasper are quite common there. The Yellowstone, Missouri, and Cannonball Rivers are among the best places to start digging for rocks in North Dakota.

What is North Carolina’s State Fossil?

The official state fossil of North Carolina is the fossilized shark teeth of the giant and ancient Megalodon shark. This monstrous shark feasted on whales and other large marine animals about 23 million years ago.

Its teeth were over 7 inches long, and megalodon shark teeth frequently appear on North Carolina’s rivers and beaches.

What is North Carolina’s State Rock?

The official state rock of North Carolina is granite, since 1979. The largest granite quarry in the world is located here, outside of Mount Airy in Surry County. It is one mile long and 1,800 feet in width.

The granite here is of the highest quality and is frequently used as a building material in both industrial and laboratory applications.

What is North Carolina’s State Mineral?

The official state mineral of North Carolina is gold, since 2011. The gold rush began in North Carolina in 1799 after a twelve-year-old named Conrad Reed, discovered a seventeen-pound gold nugget in Little Meadow Creek in Cabarrus County. The discovery took place on his family’s farm. Gold is found throughout the state though.


North Carolina is among the best rockhounding states in the United States, and the best state in the world to find crystals. If you are lucky enough to head towards North Carolina on a rockhounding adventure, you will be in for a pleasant surprise!

TIP: We have all been there: realizing you are missing something not more than 5 minutes after you have embarked on a mineral hunt. Let me help you with the list of all tools you need for rockhounding in the article below:

The Complete Guide: All Tools You Need for Rockhounding