47 Pretty Great Spots To Find and Dig For Crystals In Montana In 2024

By Dr. Keith Jackson - Geology PhD

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47 Pretty Great Spots To Find and Dig For Crystals In Montana In 2024

By Dr. Keith Jackson - Geology PhD


The intricate patterns and stunning colors of crystals make them a marvel to behold, and the thrill of finding them can be truly unforgettable. Montana is one of the most well-known places in the United States for crystal hunting, but with so many locations to choose from, it can be a challenge to identify the best ones to visit. Don’t worry, though, because we’ve done the legwork for you.

We scoured our state, visited numerous locations, and consulted with experienced collectors and enthusiasts to create a comprehensive guide on the best places to find crystals in Montana, including Crystal Park, Rock Creek, Missouri River, Yogo Gulch, and Jefferson River. Let this guide help you identify the perfect crystal hunting spot for you!

How We Picked The Best Places To Find Crystals in Montana
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 Montana Crystals You Can Find

An interesting piece of Sapphire crystal with one end colored deep blue and the rest of its body transparent white

Well-known for its rich deposits of crystals, Montana boasts of having some of the most breathtaking crystal formations in the world. The variety of crystals here is a testament to our state’s geologic diversity. From its volcanic deposits in the west to the sedimentary rocks in the east, Montana offers crystal enthusiasts a wide range of options for exploration and discovery.

Rare crystals found in Montana

  • Amazonite
  • Amethyst
  • Aquamarine
  • Dumortierite
  • Kyanite
  • Rhodochrosite
  • Rhodonite
  • Ruby
  • Sapphire
  • Tremolite
  • Vanadinite

More common crystals found here

  • Agate (Moss)
  • Apatite
  • Azurite
  • Carnelian
  • Chalcedony
  • Chalcopyrite
  • Chrysocolla
  • Copper
  • Diamond
  • Fluorite
  • Galena
  • Garnet
  • Hematite
  • Jasper
  • Malachite
  • Muscovite
  • Onyx
  • Opal
  • Pyrite
  • Quartz (Clear, Smoky)
  • Serpentine
  • Topaz
  • Tourmaline

The Best Locations For Crystal Mining in Montana

A beautiful piece of sparkly red Ruby crystal on white background

Here are what we consider the best spots for crystal hunting in our state based not only on our personal experiences visiting them, but also on the recommendations of other experienced rockhounds in the area.

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.

These requirements are subject to change without notice and may differ from what we state below.

Always get updated information directly from the source ahead of time to ensure responsible rockhounding.

Crystal Park is Our Favorite Crystal Mine in Montana

A woman digging through the land of Crystal Park to find crystals

Pioneer Mountains, Southwest MT

Located in the Pioneer Mountains, Crystal Park is a unique location that has attracted rockhounds for decades. It’s designated as a recreation area by the Forest Service in the 1950s and has since been a popular destination for rockhounds.

The reason it’s so popular among rockhounds is because the area is perfect for crystal formation. It’s situated on top of a high ridge that’s made up of volcanic rock, which has been eroded over time by glaciers, leaving behind a rich deposit of crystals.

Crystal Park is located about 60 miles southwest of Bozeman. To get here, you’ll need to take a dirt road for about 10 miles, so make sure you have a vehicle that can handle rough terrain. The park is open from Memorial Day to Labor Day, and there is a small fee for admission.

Where we found crystals at Crystal Park

What’s pretty great about Crystal Park is that you can practically search for crystals in any part of the area. Here, you can find amazing pieces of Amethyst and Quartz crystals.

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 supplies 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 

Northwest Treasure Hunter's Gem & Mineral Guide 

Earth Treasures: The Northwestern 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.

Rock Creek

Scenic photo of Rock Creek and its surrounding formations

Granite County, MT

Back in the 1800s, gold was discovered in the area of Rock Creek. And to this day, the creek remains known for its abundant crystal formations and attracts rockhounds from all over the country.

Rock Creek flows through a canyon made up of granite, gneiss, and schist, which are all known for producing high-quality crystals. One of the best things about this spot is that the crystals are easily accessible. You can simply walk along the creek and find crystals just lying on the surface of the ground. Of course, you can also dig in the gravel and dirt to find even more crystals.

To reach this creek, head to Philipsburg and follow the signs to the Rock Creek Recreation Area. Once you’re here, you’ll need to hike down to the creek, so make sure to wear appropriate footwear.

Where we found crystals at Rock Creek

We suggest exploring the area gravels of Rock Creek, particularly in Anaconda and Sapphire gulches, and along all its tributary draws, where you can find samples of Quartz and Sapphire crystals.

Curious about the value of these natural wonders? Read our article on crystal prices here.

Missouri River

Aerial view of the winding waters and surrounding rock formations at the Missouri River

Lewis and Clark County, MT

Missouri River is the longest river in North America. It’s well known that the river has played an important role in the history of the United States, but did you know that it’s also a great place to find crystals?

The river runs through some of the most diverse geology in the country, making it a prime location for crystal formation. The geology of the river itself is complex, with layers of sandstone, shale, limestone, and other sedimentary rocks. These rocks provide the perfect environment for crystal formation, and you can find a wide variety of crystals in the river.

If you want to explore here, you’re in luck because the crystals here are found in the riverbed, which means you don’t have to dig to find them. Instead, you can walk along the riverbank and look for crystals that have been washed up by the current. The best time to go crystal hunting here is during the low water season, which typically occurs in late summer and early fall.

Where we found crystals at Missouri River

You can explore in the gravels near Helena to find stunning specimens of Chalcedony, Garnet, Kyanite, Sapphire, and Topaz crystals.

Yogo Gulch

Top view of Yogo Gulch showing the land formations and surrounding forests in the area

Judith Basin County, MT

Yogo Gulch is a historic location with a rich mining history dating back to the late 1800s. Located in the Little Belt Mountains in central Montana, the gulch is known for its world-famous Yogo Sapphires.

Yogo Gulch’s geology is fascinating, with layers of limestone and dolomite that have been altered by heat and pressure. This process has created the ideal conditions for crystal formation, and you can find a wide variety of crystals in this area aside from Sapphires.

Planning to visit here? The best news is you don’t have to pack much gears because you don’t need any special equipment to find crystals. You can simply walk along the creek bed and look for crystals that have been washed down from the mountains. However, it’s important to note that the area is located on private property, so you’ll need to get permission from the landowner before you start your search.

Where we found crystals at Yogo Gulch

Located at foot of Little Belt Mountains, you can explore the area’s igneous dikes intruded into limestone outcroppings on the hills above the gulch. By searching here, you can find stunning samples of Ruby and Sapphire crystals.

Jefferson River

A stunning photo of the winding Jefferson River and the forests around it

Madison County, MT

A tributary of the Missouri River, Jefferson River was named after President Thomas Jefferson, who commissioned the Lewis and Clark Expedition to explore the western territories of the United States.

This river is a prime location for crystal formation because it’s rich in metamorphic rocks, which have been altered by heat and pressure to create ideal conditions for crystal growth. Aside from its rich crystal deposits, Jefferson River also offers a stunning scenery. Just look at its photo! The river winds through picturesque valleys and is surrounded by mountains, making it a beautiful location for a rockhounding adventure.

If you want to go here, head to the town of Twin Bridges and take Highway 41 south towards the river. You can park at one of the many public access points along the river and start your search. When hunting for crystals, it’s important to be patient and thorough. Walk along the riverbanks and scan the gravel bars for any signs of these natural wonders. You can also use a shovel and bucket to dig into the gravel and search for crystals.

Where we found crystals at Jefferson River

Search through the gravels of Jefferson River to find crystals like Agate, Chalcedony, and Jasper.

Our Other Favorite Places For Crystal Hunting

A classy-looking sample of a polished blue Dumortierite crystal with details of black

Aside from the best crystal hunting places that we shared above, there are tons more pretty great spots to find crystals here. We’ve listed them down below for your easy reference. Plenty of these spots are also great sites to find Montana geodes, so visiting them will be totally worth it!

Where you can find crystals for free in Montana

With Montana’s vast area, there are many free-to-search areas here that not only contain amazing crystal reserves, but will also give you a chance to appreciate our state’s beautiful landscapes.

County Location
Beaverhead Upstream along Sawmill Creek to the headwaters just below the Continental Divide
Big Horn All area surfaces, especially along the canyon rim in Hardin
Carbon 5 miles north in Pryor Mountains
Cascade Along both sides of the Sun River and on both sides of US-89
Choteau Area of the Bearpaw Mountains at the Black Diamond prospect
Custer At the Yellowstone River, Pumpkin Creek Bridge, and Powder River
Dawson All regional surfaces, draws, and washes at Glendive
Deer Lodge At Dry Cottonwood Creek
Fergus Railroad bridge in area of Ross Fork
Gallatin On Mount Blackmore close to summit
Garfield Upstream and down in Big Dry Creek
Jefferson In Hay Canyon at the Gem Queen claim
Lewis and Clark Upstream on both sides of Elk Creek to mouth of Smith Creek
Madison Pole Creek area gravels
Mineral Snowbird property
Park Area draws, Creek beds, and hillsides in Carbella
Powell Area placers in Montana Territory, veins in granite
Prairie East and North of the Yellowstone River, in side tributaries of Craker-box, Hatchet, Sand, and Whoop-up creeks
Rosebud Upstream and along down along west shore of Tongue River
Silver Bow East to Little Pipestone Creek and east to west form of Radar Creek
Yellowstone Along both sides of Buffalo Creek

Sometimes, we can confuse different common crystals between each other, so to help you sort them out and tell them apart, we’ve created a few guides you can use:

Other great places to dig for crystals

If you want a greater chance to find amazing crystal specimens in their natural environment, you can visit the following places that require a certain fee before any exploration. These fees may vary depending on season (or they could be free!), so reach out first before heading out.

County Location
Broadwater White Creek area mines
Carbon Coal mine in Fromberg
Cascade At the Hartley Mine
Deer Lodge At Rable Mine and Cable Mine
Granite Philipsburg area mines
Jefferson At the Pohndorf Amethyst Mine
Lincoln 4 miles southwest at the Rainy Creek mines
Madison At the Bismark Mine
Missoula Greenough area mines adn placers on Elk Creek
Phillips Area old mines of Landusky
Silver Bow At the Alice Mine, East Colusa Mine, Emma Mine, Kelley Mine, Leonard Mine, and Lexington Mine dumps

How to find crystals in Montana

A sample of blue Kyanite and clear white Quartz crystals on a black surface

Many of the pretty great spots that we shared with you cover wide areas, so to help you focus your exploration on the most productive sites, here are some of the usual locations where crystals abound. We recommend going through these locations first during your search.

Streams and Creeks

Streams and creeks are great locations to find crystals because they naturally transport rocks and minerals downstream. Over time, the flowing water erodes the rocks and exposes the crystals, which then become trapped in the sediment along the streambed. As a result, you’re more likely to find a variety of crystals in these areas than you would on dry land.

Additionally, searching in streams and creeks is a great way to enjoy the natural beauty of Montana. These waterways often flow through picturesque valleys and canyons, and are surrounded by mountains and forests. It’s a wonderful way to combine your love of rockhounding with your love of the great outdoors.

Rivers and River Banks

Rivers and their banks are natural pathways for rocks and minerals, including crystals. As the water moves downstream, it naturally erodes the surrounding rocks and exposes the crystals, which then become trapped in the sediment along the riverbed. As a result, you’re more likely to find larger crystals and specimens in these areas than in streams or creeks.

Searching in rivers and river banks can also be a thrilling adventure as you navigate the current and the rocky terrain. Rivers in Montana offer some of the most beautiful scenery and provide a perfect backdrop to your rockhounding experience.

Mines and Mine Dumps

Searching in mines and mine dumps is an excellent way to find unique and high-quality crystals in Montana. In fact, mines are the primary source of crystals in our state, and many of them have been in operation for over a century, producing some of the world’s finest ones.

A mine dump is an accumulation of materials that are removed during mining operations. These materials are often rich in minerals and crystals. However, make sure to be cautious when searching in mines and mine dumps as these areas can be hazardous due to the risk of cave-ins, falling rocks, and unstable ground. If you’re not yet experienced in crystal mining, we recommend going here with someone who is.

Montana Crystal Mining Laws And Regulations

It’s legal to conduct crystal mining in Montana, provided that you comply with our local laws, especially those mandated by the Montana Department of Environmental Quality, which regulates this activity. These include securing all necessary documents before proceeding to your exploration and strictly observing any existing guidelines to protect the environment and wildlife of the area.

The Best Crystal Shops In Montana

A look at the show room of The Crystal Limit and its available crystal selections

With the many pretty great spots to find crystals in Montana, it can be overwhelming to just choose one or two. If you want to be able to choose from a great selection of crystals without much sweat, visit our local crystal shops here. Below are some of the best ones that we have.

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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