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From its sunny beaches to rolling hills, the state of California contains some of the rarest and most exquisite rocks, minerals, and gemstones in the U.S. This guide will cover the most common rocks and minerals you can discover in the Golden State, as well as where to find them.
The most common rocks and minerals you can find in California are:
- Chinese writing rock,
- and garnet.
California is brimming with fascinating rocks and minerals that would delight any rockhound, but since there are many different types of stones in this state, it can be difficult to know where to start and what to look for as you explore. Refer to this list of common rocks and minerals during your California rockhounding trips so that you find exactly what you are looking for in the Golden State.
If you are interested in checking out the best book about rockhounding in California you can find it by clicking here (Amazon link).
What Rocks Are Found in California
Whenever you go rockhounding in California, be sure to keep an eye out for some of these interesting rocks:
|Trinity County||40.890919, -122.708763|
|Trinity River||40.768530, -123.126335|
|Watts Valley||36.933906, -119.359318|
|Point Sur||36.304758, -121.899745|
|Jade Mines||41.876563 -123.460240|
|Shady Run Gravels||39.206411, -120.742092|
|Escondido Canyon||34.035324, -118.777541|
One of the most common rocks that you will come across in California is serpentine. Serpentine is California’s state rock, and it varies in color from apple green to jet black. In California, serpentine is known for its close association with gold, so the two are often found together.
Another mineral that’s often found with serpentine is benitoite, a shiny blue stone that is one of the world’s rarest gemstones.
To find serpentine in California, visit Trinity County, which is known for producing some of the most beautiful stones. You can also look near the Trinity River, Watts Valley, and Point Sur for high-quality pieces.
Recommendation box: All tools and equipment you need for rockhounding and rock identification* (Amazon links):
1. Estwing Rock Hammer – Light, comfortable, and extremely durable hammer.
2. Estwing Geologist Pick – Classic and the most trusted paleo pick in the world.
3. Finder 12-Inch Chisels – Heavy-duty chisels set with hand protection.
4. Mini Handle Shovel – Great tool for digging deep in the dirt.
5 Ironclad Utility Work Gloves – Breathable but they also protect the areas requiring them most.
6. 3M Safety Glasses – Comfortable and efficient goggles for rockhounding.
7. Convoy 8+ UV Light – 365nm UV LED flashlight with a patented glass filter.
8. Wesley’s Jewelers Loupe – High magnification options (30X and 60X) with carrying case.
9. Mohs Hardness Kit – A specially designed kit for rockhounds
*All recommended products are personally tested and regularly used by experts from this website.
|Jalama Beach||34.510485, -120.502106|
|Cresent City Beaches (Pebble Beach)||38.128284, -122.887155|
|Bullion Mountains||34.379015, -115.941243|
|Agate Beach||41.143737, -124.144279|
|Turtle Mountain||34.285731, -114.851190|
|Jenny Creek||36.294966, -118.738152|
|Kramer Hills||34.922445, -117.465284|
|Goose Lake||41.917611, -120.362579|
If you are a fan of agates, California is one of the best states to explore. You can find all kinds of agates with lace, banding, and moss patterns on the beaches and deserts.
Additionally, California is one of the few states in the U.S. where rockhounds can collect fire agates, which were named after their bright orange, red, gold, and green colors.
Rockhounds often pick up agates from the beaches and waterways of California, but people also find them in the mountains. To add California agates to your collection, stop by Jalama Beach, Cresent City Beaches, and the Bullion Mountains.
TIP: The most common opinion among scholars is that аgate and jasper are not the same minerals. Check out the differences between these two similar minerals in the article below:
Jasper vs. Agate: Crucial Differences (Are They Same?)
|Crystal Mountain||39.557253, -120.088858|
|Black Mountain||33.159609, -116.807438|
|Traverse Creek||38.858273, -120.813731|
|Slate Mountains||38.823178, -120.685422|
|Hauser Geode Beds||33.764178, -115.423562|
|Pino Grande||38.869911, -120.625215|
|Riverside County||33.508130, -115.874627|
There are many types of geodes that rockhounds find in California, including agate geodes, quartz geodes, opal geodes, amethyst geodes, chalcedony geodes, colemanite geodes, and thundereggs.
Geodes are common in California, so as long as you know where to look, you are sure to come back with a great haul.
Some of the best locations to find geodes in California include Crystal Mountain, Black Mountain, Traverse Creek, and Slate Mountains. Also, the Hauser Geode Beds are a favorite spot for local rockhounds, so be sure to check it out if you are in the area.
TIP: Check out the complete guide If you are interested in finding geodes in California:
Guide: 9 Best Locations to Find Geodes in California
|Warner Mountains||41.449700, -120.251401|
|Middle Fork Davis Creek||41.725416, -120.314262|
|Glass Mountain||41.601001, -121.504565|
|Gem Hill||34.924032, -118.221488|
|Modoc National Forest||41.499778, -121.001532|
|Pisgah Crater||34.744959, -116.375535|
|Obsidian Dome||37.758690, -119.021066|
|Obsidian Butte||33.170683, -115.637406|
Did you know that you can find the rarest type of obsidian in California? While obsidian usually displays a pitch-black sheen, rainbow obsidian, also called fire obsidian, displays a swirl of iridescent colors. You can also find pink obsidian and traditional black obsidian in various regions of California.
Anyone who wants to add a stunning piece of rainbow obsidian to their collection should stop by Warner Mountains and Middle Fork Davis Creek. A few other places to visit for obsidian are Glass Mountain, Gem Hill, and Modoc National Forest.
TIP: Obsidian is valuable for its beautiful textures, rainbow sheen, and snowflake-like appearance. Find out more about obsidian’s value in the article below:
5 Crucial Factors of Obsidian Value: What’s Obsidian Worth?
|Two Harbors Beach||33.441395, -118.498073|
|Klamath Mountains||41.319579, -122.480387|
|Russian River||38.442010, -123.113000|
|Condrey Mountain||41.937437, -122.979464|
Blueschist is a real treat for rockhounds who enjoy collecting colored stones, and California is one of the best places to find it.
This rock requires very specific conditions to form, including high pressure, low temperature, and iron-rich or magnesium-rich rocks, and California is one of the few states with terrain that meets all the conditions.
Rockhounds who are searching for blueschist should stop by Two Harbors Beach on Catalina Island. As you search, keep in mind that certain areas of Catalina Island prohibit rockhounding, so you’ll need to be careful where you go during your trip.
|San Gabriel Mountains||34.288145, -117.652508|
|Santa Clarita||34.445042, -118.454809|
|Los Angeles||34.169018, -118.219524|
|San Andreas Fault||35.135667, -119.676428|
|Fish Fork||34.302681, -117.665125|
|Big Butch Wash||34.262080, -117.637487|
Although anorthosite is commonly found on the moon near the lunar highlands, rockhounds don’t have to travel to space to pick up some of this rock.
Since the conditions for anorthosite exist in California, you can find this interesting stone in multiple areas of the state. Anorthosite varies in color from white to smokey grey, and it displays its colors beautifully once tumbled and polished.
The best place to find anorthosite in California is the San Gabriel Mountains, but you can also acquire some near the outskirts of Santa Clarita.
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)
Chinese Writing Rock
|North Fork American River||38.884089, -121.059505|
|Yuba River||39.298045, -121.211597|
|Lake Clementine||38.944228, -121.007062|
|Middle Fork American River||38.955599, -120.939728|
Chinese writing rock is a rare igneous rock that’s only found in China and California. With its unique black background and white lines that resemble sprinkles, this rock is sure to catch the eye of any rockhound.
The interesting patterns of the white lines of feldspar on the black basalt look similar to characters used in Chinese writing, hence the name of this stone.
As mentioned, the only places in the world to find this special rock are China and California. To uncover some of these rare rocks, stop by Auburn, which is near the foothills of the Sierra Nevadas.
What Minerals Are Found in California
California provides a wide variety of valuable and beautiful minerals, including:
|South Yuba River||39.292951, -121.191442|
|Placerita Canyon State Park||34.377819, -118.467237|
|Trinity River||40.768903, -123.126577|
|Merced River||37.602962, -120.104713|
|Santa Clarita||34.418990, -118.509741|
|Butte Creeks Fork Recreation Area||39.908930, -121.617997|
|Kern River||35.923088, -118.499963|
Gold has a long and interesting history in California, so it’s only natural for rockhounds to seek out this alluring mineral when they are in the state. Although hundreds of thousands of people hunted for shiny nuggets during the California Gold Rush in the 1800s, there is still plenty of gold left in the Golden State.
From state parks to public land, there are plenty of places to pan for gold all over California; just be sure to follow California’s rockhounding laws during your exploits. Some popular places to pan for gold include the South Yuba River, Placerita Canyon State Park, Downieville, and the Trinity River.
TIP: Thankfully, there are plenty of places where you can legally pan for gold in California. Find out the complete guide about gold prospecting in California in the article below:
Gold Prospecting in California: 8 Best Locations & Laws
|San Gabriel Mountains||34.287648, -117.651950|
|Trinity County||41.025976, -122.740977|
|Portal Ridge||34.706070, -118.520174|
Although rhodonite ranges in color from pink to red, the pieces found in California are usually pink with distinctive black patterns. Luckily, it’s quite common in multiple areas of the state, so rockhounds should have no problems acquiring some of this decorative mineral.
If you are on the hunt for rhodonite, check out the San Gabriel Mountains or Trinity County. The best places to look are outside of manganese claims, but before you go, make sure it’s legal to collect in the area that you visit.
|Jade Cove||35.913048, -121.470218|
|Big Sur||36.361913, -121.897156|
|Butte County||39.644358, -121.554306|
|Storm Jade Mine||33.860483, -115.623428|
|Feather River||39.169625, -121.614687|
|Happy Camp||41.793526, -123.371168|
|Eel River||40.604914, -124.195250|
|Lake Mendocino||39.212251, -123.164945|
When you visit the beaches of Northern and Central California, keep an eye out for some nephrite jade. Since California also has plenty of green chert and jasper, it can be difficult to tell the difference between these green stones and jade unless you conduct a hardness test.
Although green is the most common color of California jade, some fortunate rockhounds find black jade, which is much rarer in the state.
One famous place to go for jade in California is Jade Cove, an area of Big Sur that contains the only concentrated underwater deposit of quality nephrite jade in the world.
TIP: Jade can occur in a surprisingly significant number of colors, not only green. Check out the complete guide on all jade color varieties in the article below:
All Jade Color Varieties (Description & Explanation)
|Himalaya Mine||33.213604, -116.800044|
|Oceanview Mine||33.389879, -117.049723|
|Queen Mountain||34.052077, -116.099296|
|Lake Henshaw||33.232571, -116.754866|
Did you know that the rich, saturated colors of California tourmaline are said to rival those of rubies and emeralds? For decades, California tourmaline was prized for its exquisite black, pink, green, yellow, and purple colors, and it was regularly mined and shipped overseas during the early 1900s.
Tourmaline is often discovered outside of old tourmaline mines near San Diego County, and one of the best places to look is near the world-famous Himalaya Mine.
TIP: The U.S. generally has plenty of regions with a rich volcanic history. Because of this, you can find tourmaline in half of all the states with no problem. Find out more in the article below:
Where to Find Tourmaline: Best Environments & Locations (USA)
|Blue Bell Mine||35.245270, -116.205760|
|Reward Mine||36.751288, -118.050905|
|Cerro Gordo Mine||36.538827, -117.791057|
|Twentynine Palms||34.161580, -116.135197|
|Joshua Tree||34.145867, -116.323943|
California has some of the heaviest concentrations of chrysocolla in the U.S., so it’s a great place to be if you want to add some of this blue-green mineral to your collection.
As you search for this mineral, keep in mind that it can look very similar to turquoise, a blue-green mineral that’s also fairly common in California.
For California chrysocolla, look near Blue Bell Mine in San Bernadino County or Reward Mine near Eclipse Canyon.
|Blue Bell Mine||35.243693, -116.207649|
|The Malachite||34.797800, -120.034200|
|Copper Prince Mine||38.792500, -122.674700|
|Blue Star Mine||37.122051, -118.411026|
|Santa Barbara||34.450951, -119.696987|
|Inyo County||36.286095, -117.332006|
|Pocahontas Mine||37.343630, -120.064107|
Since there’s plenty of copper in California, it makes sense that rockhounds often come across copper minerals, such as malachite. California malachite is light green with swirling patterns, and it’s usually found with calcite and azurite.
As you would expect, California malachite is found in or next to the various copper mines scattered across the state. Check out Blue Bell Mine, The Malachite, and Copper Prince Mine.
|San Diego||32.924464, -117.017021|
|Riverside County||33.860680, -117.302975|
|Lake Henshaw||33.230992, -116.755295|
|Tourmaline Queen Mountain||33.389422, -117.070120|
|Williamson Mine||33.557546, -116.791862|
|Cahuilla Mountain||33.576514, -116.783763|
Anyone who enjoys collecting beryl and its various mineral forms should stop by California, especially if you want to collect aquamarine.
California aquamarine is popular due to its high clarity and vibrant color, and its appearance is frequently compared to the calm waters of the ocean. Additionally, some rockhounds find emeralds along with California aquamarine, although it’s a much rarer find.
To add aquamarine and other beryl minerals to your collection, visit San Diego, Riverside County, and Lake Henshaw.
|San Diego||32.761781, -117.059593|
|San Bernadino||34.087739, -117.256539|
|Hatfield Creek||33.057830, -116.852396|
|Gem Hill||34.924032, -118.221144|
Any rockhound who visits Southern California should pick up some gem-grade spessartine garnets. While you can find grossular garnets, spessartine garnets are far more popular.
The gem-grade spessartine garnets from Southern California are lovely and display a deep, rich orange color, which makes them a popular choice as gemstones.
For spessartine garnets, look near Ramona County first, then swing by San Bernadino, San Diego, and Pala.
TIP: There are more than twenty different species of garnets but only five species of garnets are worth cutting and polishing. Find out more in the article below:
How To Cut & Polish Garnets: Follow The 6 Simple Steps
FAQ About Common Rocks & Minerals in California
Some common FAQs about the various rocks and minerals from the Golden State include:
What Rare Rocks Can You Find in California
California is a paradise for any rockhound who enjoys collecting rare rocks, such as serpentine, jasper, geodes, Chinese writing rocks, blueschist, and agates. One unique type of agate that’s only found in a few U.S. states is fire agate, which is named after its streaks of red, gold, orange, and green.
Another rare California rock that’s popular among rockhounds is the Chinese writing rock, a rare kind of basalt that’s sprinkled with white feldspar. Because California is one of the few places in the world that possesses Chinese writing rocks, many rockhounds visit the state just to collect these unique stones.
Whether you prefer colorful rocks such as serpentine or patterned stones like Chinese writing rocks, California will not disappoint!
Although there isn’t a place in California where you are sure to find all these rocks together, it’s best to start with the mountains and rivers in central and southern California, which are known for their abundance of rocks and minerals.
If you are looking for a specific rock, take a look at the locations above to find the best rockhounding sites for each one.
What Rare Minerals Can You Find in California
During your California rockhounding adventures, some rare minerals you might come across include jade, topaz, tourmaline, aquamarine, turquoise, garnets, rhodonite, gold, amethyst, opal, and benitoite.
A fun fact about Benitoite is that it’s one of the rarest gemstones in the world, and gem-quality pieces are only found in California! This dazzling sky-blue stone is California’s state gemstone, and it’s also known as “the blue diamond” because of its color and brilliance.
If you are on the hunt for Benitoite, the best place to go is San Benito County. If you want to find other gemstones and rare minerals in one area, Lake Henshaw and the Himalayas Mine are the best spots to visit.
What is the Most Famous Rock or Mineral Found in California
All the renowned tales of the California gold rush paved the way for gold to become the state’s most famous mineral.
Despite the fact that California had one of the largest gold rushes in U.S. history, there’s still plenty of gold left in this state for eager rockhounds. However, as you pan for gold, remember that pyrite is also common in California, so be sure you know how to distinguish the two!
Any rockhound who wants to pan for gold in the Golden State should add the Trinity River, the South Yuba River, and the Kern River to their rockhounding itinerary. You can also look near Downieville, Santa Clarita, and Placerita Canyon for the mineral that forever changed the state of California.
If you are interested in checking out the best book about rockhounding in California you can find it by clicking here (Amazon link).
During your California rockhounding adventures, there’s no telling what valuable and unique rocks or minerals you might come across in this state. Perhaps you’ll find an exquisite piece of Benitoite or a special Chinese writing rock during your travels.
Whether you visit California beaches, mountains, or deserts, you are certain to find some one-of-a-kind treasures that will become the highlight of your collection.
TIP: California is a rockhound’s dream. Check out the complete rockhounding guide in California with maps and all regulations in the article below:
California Rockhounding: 11 Best Spots with Map & Laws