Our 56 Favorite Places To Find And Dig For Crystals In California In 2024

By Dr. Keith Jackson - Geology PhD

| Updated

Our 56 Favorite Places To Find And Dig For Crystals In California In 2024

By Dr. Keith Jackson - Geology PhD

Updated

Finding crystals in California can be fun, but it’s also quite a challenge! With such a big state, there are a lot of great places where you can find crystals, but it’s also REALLY easy to waste your time in bad locations.

Fortunately, we can help you make your crystal hunting dreams come true!

From the forests of Del Norte County to the Imperial Valley (and everywhere in between), we have local recommendations for finding some pretty incredible crystals. We have an impressive variety of crystals and crystals mines in our state, so much so that you could spend a lifetime exploring them.

Take a peek at our favorites below before you head out!

How We Picked The Best Places To Find Crystals in California
We spent a lot of time determining which of the many options for digging and mining for crystals that we have available would be recommended. We wanted to have a good mix of locations for experienced and novice crystals hunters in a variety of settings. Here are the main factors we used when determining the recommendations we set out :

  • The extensive local experience and understanding of our team
  • Input from multiple local crystal hunters and crystal collecting groups
  • The accessibility of the crystal mining locations
  • Safety and potential hazards when collecting
  • Private and public locations
  • A desire to include locations for both experienced crystal hunters and those who are just starting out

Using these weights we think we’ve put together the best list out there for those who love finding new crystals for our collections!

The Types of California Crystals You Can Find

Reddish California trona crystal
Photo provided by Weinrich Minerals – @weinrich_minerals_inc

California has one of the most diverse geologies of any state. Being a huge state certainly helps but there is also a large range of geological environments below the surface here.

Compared to states in the southeast (like Alabama) which are pretty boring when it comes to crystals we are truly blessed.

Crystals are like nature’s little works of art. Solid materials with atoms, ions, or molecules arranged in a highly ordered pattern give them that unique, eye-catching look.

It’s no wonder people are drawn to them!

These gems are more than just pretty faces. They have some truly fascinating properties that make them real standouts in science. They also have this nifty ability to split light into a spectrum of colors – talk about putting on a show!

Rare crystals found in California

  • Agate
  • Benitoite
  • Bloodstone
  • Carnelian
  • Diamond
  • Garnet
  • Moonstone
  • Prehnite
  • Tourmaline
  • Turquoise

More common crystals found here

  • Actinolite
  • Azurite
  • Calaverite
  • Citrine
  • Epsomite
  • Jade
  • Jasper
  • Laumonite
  • Lepidolite
  • Lapiz Lazuli
  • Nephrite
  • Obsidian
  • Quartz
  • Rhodochrosite
  • Rhodonite
  • Serpentine

The Best Locations For Crystal Mining in California

An enormous bloodstone with red hues and gray minerals sitting on a wooden surface

If you visit only a handful of places, it should be there. We’ve seen the best success at these spots and think you will.

Always Confirm Access and Collection Rules!

Before heading out to any of the locations on our list you need to confirm access requirements and collection rules for both public and private locations directly with the location. We haven’t personally verified every location and the access requirements and collection rules often change without notice.

Many of the locations we mention will not allow collecting but are still great places for those who love to find beautiful rocks and minerals in the wild without keeping them. We also can’t guarantee you will find anything in these locations since they are constantly changing. 

Always get updated information directly from the source ahead of time to ensure responsible rockhounding. If you want even more current options it’s always a good idea to contact local rock and mineral clubs and groups

The Oceanview Mine is Our Favorite Crystal Mine in California

Woman digging for crystals at the Oceanview Mine

37304 Magee Rd, Pala, CA 92059

The Oceanview Mine in San Diego county has become our favorite place to mine for crystals. This location has been mined for over 100 years, and it’s produced various minerals and gems. In the 1960s, the mine shifted its focus to the world of gemstones, and it’s been a top destination for rockhounds ever since. This is also one of the better places to find gems in California.

The geography of the Oceanview Mine is unique and plays a huge role in the types of crystals you’ll find there. The mine is in the Pala Mining District, known for its rich mineral deposits. The area is also home to various rock formations, including pegmatites, one of the best sources of gem-quality minerals.

Regarding geology, it’s situated on a hillside comprising various rock layers containing various minerals, including tourmaline, kunzite, and morganite, all popular with crystal collectors. The mine is one of the only places in the world where you can find certain types of tourmaline, including a rare green and pink variety.

The mine offers a unique experience that you won’t find anywhere else. You can take a tour of the mine and participate in the mining process, which means you have the opportunity to find some incredible crystals yourself.

The mine is known for producing high-quality gemstones, so if you’re looking for something truly special, this is the place to be.

Now, you should remember that there are times when can be very easy to confuse some of the more common crystals that are found here. That’s why we created a few guides to telling them apart:

Where we found crystals at the Oceanview Mine

We had the best luck going through the mine dumps and using the available sluices. You can find out how much crystals are worth by visiting our detailed guide.

Rock pick being used

The tools every crystal hunter will need

When you're out looking for crystals having the right tools for the job is very important. You don't need a lot for most trips but there are a handful that are critical and will make your life a lot easier.

We get asked a lot about the equipment we use. Over the years we've found a handful of tools that we recommend to both new and experienced crystal miners which we outline in great detail in our complete rockhounding tools guide. These are quality options that also happen to be relatively inexpensive.

Below are the basic tools that make your life so much easier and save you a ton of time. Check out the full guide to see everything we recommend bringing. One quick note, as an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases but we try very hard to only recommend gear we would use ourselves and often recommend brands you can't find on Amazon.

At a minimum you should have:

1 - Sturdy rock hammer: The Estwing Rock Pick is our standard

2 - Rugged chisels: Try Kendo' 3-piece Chisel Set

3 - Compact shovel: The Koleiya 28-inch shovel works well

4 - Rock screen pan: The Wazakura Soil Sieve Set fits the bill

5 - Eye protection: DeWalt Safety Glasses are cheap and comfortable

6 - Head protection: Malta's Safety Helmet has been our go-to

7 - Jewelers lens with at least 20x magnification: Jarlink's Jewelers Loop is perfect

The crystal-finding books that we use most

There are also a few books that have been extremely helpful in the search for gems. These books have great recommendations and tips:

National Audubon Society Field Guide to Rocks and Minerals: North America 

Southwest Treasure Hunter's Gem & Mineral Guide 

Earth Treasures: The Southwestern Quadrant 

We provide links to find these tools on Amazon but some can also be found at your local hardware stores. For more recommendations check out the link to our full tool guide above.

The North Feather River

The North fork of the Feather River, especially in Butte County

The Feather River has been mined for gold for centuries but is home to various minerals and crystals. It’s probably the best place in the state to find huge and highly translucent Vesuvianite.

The river flows through the Sierra Nevada mountain range, known for its rich mineral deposits, and is also home to various rock formations, including granite, schist, and gneiss, all of which can contain crystals.

When it comes to geology, the Feather River is situated in a fault zone, which means that there are areas where rocks have been shifted and fractured, creating pockets where minerals and crystals can be found. The river’s fast-moving water can also help uncover crystals and minerals buried in the sediment.

The river has minerals and crystals, including quartz, garnet, tourmaline, and beautiful vesuvianites. It’s also easy to get to, making it an even better option.

Where we found crystals around the Feather River

We had the best luck finding big vesuvianites along the west shore of the river’s north fork. There are also quite a few bends, banks, and shallows that make great places to dig.

Riverside County

Black Tourmaline from the Williamson Mine

The Riverside area has been mined for minerals and gems for centuries, and it’s known for producing a wide variety of crystals, including quartz, garnet, and tourmaline. The county has also been an important location for gold mining in California, and many miners found valuable gems and minerals while panning for gold.

The county is in Southern California and has various rock formations, including granite, gneiss, and schist. These rocks contain a wide variety of minerals and crystals, and they’re often found in pockets and veins that have been created by geological activity over millions of years.

Regarding geology, Riverside County is situated on a series of fault zones, which have created pockets and veins where minerals and crystals can be found. The area is also home to various rock formations, including pegmatites and skarns, known for producing gem-quality minerals.

There are quite a few abandoned and active mines and quarries in the area, which can make finding crystals much easier.

Where we found crystals in Riverside

There are a lot of great options here. For starters, try out:

  • The Williamson Mine near Cahuilla Mountain for aquamarine, rose quartz, smokey quartz, and tourmaline
  • Hills and gravel pits around Desert Center for big agates
  • The Storm Jade Mine for agates, jade, and vesuvianite
  • The Crestmore Quarry for really nice blue calcite crystals
  • The Jensen Quarry for some beautiful pink and red tourmaline crystals

Benitoite Mining Company

Large raw benitoite from the Benitoite Mining Company

48242 Los Gatos Creek Rd, Coalinga, CA 93210

The Benitoite Mining Company is known for its namesake mineral, benitoite, which was discovered in the area in the early 1900s. The mineral is extremely rare, and the Benitoite Mining Company is the only place to find gem-quality benitoite specimens.

The mine is in San Benito County, California, and is known for its unique geology and mineral deposits. The area is home to a variety of different rock formations, including serpentinite, which is where benitoite is found.

The mine offers a unique and exciting experience, with opportunities to dig for your crystals and explore the underground workings of the mine.

Where we found crystals at The Benitoite Mining Company

The mine allows visitors to dig and pick their crystals. For the fee you pay, you can take home up to a quart-sized bag of specimens that you find if you want to take home larger or more crystals, that’s also negotiable.

Crystal Peak

White crystal found near Crystal Peak

If you want to find crystals in Northern California, the best option is Crystal peak, about 3 miles northeast of the Sardine Valley and about 16 miles northwest of Reno.

This area has been a popular spot for rockhounds for decades, and it’s known for producing a wide variety of crystals, including quartz, amethyst, and citrine. The peak is in the San Gabriel Mountains, known for its unique geology and mineral deposits.

The peak is located at an elevation of over 5,500 feet and on a series of granite formations formed over millions of years. The granite contains a wide variety of minerals and crystals, and they’re often found in pockets and veins that have been created by geological activity over time.

Where we found crystals at Crystal Peak

We had the best luck during the weekdays when it was less busy. Keep a sharp eye out, and don’t be afraid to dig around!

Our Other Favorite Places For Crystal Hunting

A tiny beautiful lazulite with different blue hues

Now that we’ve shared our top five places for crystal hunting, we wanted to give you more options. With a state as big as ours, especially with such geological diversity, there are a lot of great places to look for crystals and find California geodes. Here are more options worth checking out:

Where you can find crystals for free in California

First, let’s talk about some of the free-to-search places. Many of the best options will cost you some money to dig, but there are still some worth checking out that won’t cost you a cent.

County Location
Amador The volcano area around Jackass Gulch for diamonds
Butte Yankee Hill around Banngor for diamonds
Calaveras Above the Moore Creek and Mokelumne River for epidote, garnet, and quartz
Colusa In the Stonyford Creek gravels for jade, jasper, and serpentine
Contra Costa In Berkeley Hills and in Moraga formation for chalcedony
El Dorado At the Traverse Creek area at Georgetown for garnet
Fresno Grub Bulch and Watts Valley for epidote, garnet, and serpentine
Humboldt St. Patrick’s Point and all beaches for agate and jasper
Humboldt Willow Creek for parallels river for jade
Imperial Palo Verde Pass and Hauser Geode Beds for agate, carnelian, and jasper
Inyo The Last Chance Range at Big Pine for turquoise
Kern Greenhorn Mountains gravel road for epidote, quartz, smoky quartz
Kern Many prospects at Gem Hill and Cache Creek Canyon for agate, chalcedony, and jasper
Los Angeles Agua Dulce Canyon and Mint Canyon for agate, bloodstone, chalcedony, and jasper
Madera Masa Hill for jade and serpentine
Mariposa David Gulch and Flyaway Gulch for jade
Modoc Glass Mountain for obsidian
Mono Green creek for massive epidote and lazulite
Monterey In stream gravels at Big Sur between Point Sur and Salmon Creek for jade and serpentine
Nevada Sailor Flat for agate, chalcedony, and jasper
Placer Shady Run for garnet and serpentine
Plumas Rich Bar on Indian Creek for tremolite
Plumas In area gravels and deposits of Genessee Valley for rhodonite
San Bernardino Amboy Crater and Bristol Dry Lake for celestite, jasper, and obsidian

Crystal identification can be a puzzle, but we have the pieces to help you solve it. Our informative guides break down the key characteristics of commonly mixed-up crystals, making it simple to tell them apart:

Other great places to dig for crystals

If you’re open to possibly paying a bit to find crystals, these are the additional spots to consider. How much they change depends on the season (sometimes it can be free, too), so make sure to reach out and contact them before heading out.

County Location
Alameda The Alma Mine around Freemont for Melanterite
Alpine The Morningstar Mine around Markleeville for Enargite
Calaveras Hughs Mine for azurite and malachite
Calaveras The Melones Mine and Stanislaus around Angels Camp for calaverite and sylvanite
Colusa Manzanita Mine for calcite and chalcopyrite
Fresno Copper King Mine abundant in chalcopyrite
Henry Keokuk Geode Beds
Humboldt Woods Mine for rhodochrosite
Imperial Silver Mom Mines on east flanks of the Chocolate Mountains for opal and turquoise
Inyo San Carlos Mine for garnet, lapiz lazuli, and opal
Kern Aldridge Mine and Greenback Mine for azurite and epidote
Madera Star Mine for large cubes of galena
Modoc Rainbow Mine for obsidian
Napa Copper Prince Mine for azurite and malachite
Placer Alabama Mine for galena
Plumas Pocahontas Mine and Laura Quartz Mine for malachite, opal, and rhodonite
San Bernardino Blue Bell Mine is abundant in chrysocolla and malachite

How to find crystals in California

An elegant black obsidian with a unique cut and an irregular shape

Many of the recommendations above are for some fairly large areas. To help you narrow down where you will be hunting, there are more specific recommendations on where to spend most of your time in a particular area. When it comes to finding crystals, some of the best places to search include:

Washes and ravines

Washes and ravines are formed by the natural movement of water over time, exposing various rocks and minerals, including crystals. The crystal formations in these areas are often unique and different from what you might find in other types of terrain.

Take your time and carefully examine the surrounding area for any exposed rocks or crystals. Look for areas where the terrain changes, such as where the soil is rocky, or there are small boulders.

Be patient and take your time. The best crystals are often hidden deep inside rocks, so finding them may take some time. Remember to respect the environment and follow any rules or regulations. Leave no trace and avoid damaging any natural features.

Mines and mine dumps

Searching for crystals in mines and mine dumps offers a unique and exciting opportunity for amateur and professional mineral enthusiasts. Mines and mine dumps are essentially treasure troves for crystal hunters, as these locations are rich in minerals and crystals, including quartz, amethyst, fluorite, and many more. Mining operations often involve the extraction of valuable minerals from deep within the earth, exposing a plethora of hidden gems in the process.

One reason mines and mine dumps are ideal for crystal hunting is the abundance of exposed mineral veins, making it easier to locate and collect specimens. These sites have already been explored and excavated, increasing the chances of finding unique and high-quality crystals. Moreover, the discarded rocks in mine dumps may contain overlooked treasures, making them an attractive location for persistent seekers.

Streams and creeks

Streams and creeks offer nature lovers and mineral collectors an enjoyable and rewarding experience. These aquatic environments provide a natural habitat for various crystals as water flows through rock formations and mineral deposits, gradually eroding and releasing crystals into the streambed. Over time, these gemstones are carried downstream, found in gravel beds, or trapped in crevices along the watercourse.

One advantage of searching for crystals in streams and creeks is the accessibility of these locations. Many beautiful specimens can be discovered without specialized equipment or extensive digging. Additionally, the water’s natural sorting and tumbling action often polish the crystals, giving them a smooth and attractive appearance.

California Crystal Mining Laws And Regulations

Crystal mining is legal in California, but it’s important always to follow all state and local laws, especially those from the California Department of Parks and Recreation which regulates the collection of crystals on public lands. This includes obtaining any necessary permits or permissions from the landowner or government agency responsible for the area you plan to mine. There may also be regulations or restrictions to protect the environment and wildlife in the area. By respecting these laws, you can help ensure crystal mining remains legal and sustainable for years.

The Best Crystal Shops In California

Dynamic Energy Crystals in California where you can find and buy different crystal specimens

There are so many different types of crystals in the state spread out over such a wide area that many of us like to spend a little money to round out our collections. These are the best crystal shops in California that we’ve found if you’re looking for rare and beautiful pieces for your collection:

Additional places to find crystals in nearby states

If you’ve already tried all of our recommendations above or are planning a trip out of the state, you should check out our guides for neighboring states:

If you have any recommendations we haven’t covered please leave them in the comments below!

About Dr. Keith Jackson - Geology PhD

Keith Jackson is an avid rockhound who is constantly exploring new sites to expand his collection. He has worked as a professional Geologist for over 20 years and holds a PhD in Geology from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, a Masters Degree in Geology from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, and a Bachelors Degree in Geology from the University of Connecticut.

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