The 23 Best Spots For Gem Hunting In Idaho In 2024

By Dr. Keith Jackson - Geology PhD

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The 23 Best Spots For Gem Hunting In Idaho In 2024

By Dr. Keith Jackson - Geology PhD


Looking for a unique and exciting adventure in Idaho? Gem mining is one of the most fun and rewarding activities you can experience here! With its impressive scenery and untouched nature, our state offers plenty of incredible gem hunting spots that are sure to make your time here truly memorable.

From its picturesque landscapes to its rugged mountain terrains, our state boasts of a wealth of sites. So, why not take the plunge, grab your tools, and head out to your next exciting adventure here?

The best places to mine gems here are in the rivers, mines, creeks, mountains, gulches, and parks. Among our favorite places are Emerald Creek Garnet Area, Spencer Opal Mines, Seven Devils Mining District, Crystal Gold Mine, and Yellowstone Gem World, which we have all discussed further below.

How We Picked The Best Places For Gem Mining in Idaho
In order to find the absolute best places in Idaho for gem mining, we had to consider a lot of things. It can be really tough to find good information, so it took us a long time to put together a solid list like the one below. The main inputs to our recommendations are as follows:

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

Overall, we’ve been able to put together a great list that anyone can use to locate a lot of beautiful gems.

The Gemstones Found In Idaho You Can Mine

A beautiful blue Sapphire against a light gray background

Our state is incredibly blessed with abundant gemstones of different kinds, that’s why it’s such a dream for gem hunters to be able to visit and explore the sites here. In this article, we will share with you the best locations to look for gemstones so you can pick the perfect spots for you to visit.

Like this guide for Idaho, we also created other guides to help you find gem sites near you, wherever you are. Different states have different kinds of gemstones that can be found in different sites, so these guides will come in handy for you. With sufficient knowledge and a tinge of luck, you’ll discover why gem mining is such an experience of a lifetime!

Rare gemstones found in Idaho

  • Amethyst
  • Garnet
  • Jade
  • Jasper
  • Opal
  • Sapphire

More common gemstones found here

  • Agate
  • Aquamarine
  • Beryl 
  • Bornite
  • Calcite
  • Chalcedony
  • Chrysocolla
  • Corundum
  • Diamonds
  • Epidote
  • Feldspar
  • Fluorite
  • Kyanite
  • Malachite
  • Marcasite
  • Moonstone
  • Muscovite
  • Obsidian
  • Pyrrhotite
  • Quartz
  • Rhodochrosite
  • Ruby
  • Siderite
  • Sphalerite
  • Staurolite
  • Sunstone
  • Topaz 
  • Tourmaline
  • Zircon

Our Favorite Places For Gem Mining In Idaho

We rounded up our favorite places to gem mines here so that you can choose the one you will visit soon. We made sure to include recommendations for adults who are looking for some real gem-hunting experience and for kids who are just beginning to see the wonders of gem mining.

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

Emerald Creek Garnet Area

A beautiful deep brown Star Garnet with rays forming a star

3232 West Nursery Road, Coeur d’Alene, ID 83815

The Emerald Creek Garnet Area is known for its abundant deposits of star garnets that are found in a variety of colors, but the most common color is green, hence the name Emerald Creek. The area has been a popular spot for garnet mining since the late 1800s when it was discovered by prospectors searching for gold. The area became even more popular during World War II when production of industrial abrasives increased and demand for garnets increased as well.

When you visit here, you can purchase buckets filled with dirt and gravel from local vendors that contain different types of garnets including star garnets, almandine garnets, pyrope garnets, and more. You can also pan in nearby creeks or dig deeper into gravel bars. The area also offers guided tours that will teach you the history of the site, its geology, and how to identify different types of gems found there.

The Types of Gems Found In The Emerald Creek Garnet Area

This site is our favorite because it is one of the only two places in the world (India being the other one) where you can find Star Garnets.

The Best Time To Visit Emerald Creek Garnet Area

If you want to visit here, the best time is during the summer months, from June through August. During this time, the weather is warm and dry, making it easier to search for gems in the creek. The area also tends to be less crowded during these months.

Rock pick being used

The tools every gem hunter will need

When you're out looking for gems it's very important that you bring the right tools with you. 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 gem miners which we outline in great detail in our complete rockhounding equipment 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 gem-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.

Spencer Opal Mines

A beautiful orange Fire Opal with a white banded area

27 Opal Ave. Spencer ID, 83446, USA

The fields of Spencer Opal Mines were discovered in the late 1800s and have been mined for what is considered by many as some of the finest and most valuable Opals in the world, including black, crystal, fire, and white Opals. The mine has produced some of the most sought-after gems in history, including the famous “Idaho Star,” which sold at auction for over $2 million.

Today, you can search here for your own Opals that you can take home with you or ask the mines to create into beautiful jewelry.

The Types of Gems Found In The Spencer Opal Mines

This place is well-known for having different varieties of Opal, especially the high-quality Fire Opal.

The Best Time To Visit Spencer Opal Mines

The best time to visit here is during the summer months, from June to August. The weather is warm and the days are long, giving you plenty of time to explore the mines and find your own gems.

Seven Devils Mining District

A huge green Malachite with detaiils of swirls

Adams County, ID

Mined since the late 1800s, Seven Devils Mining District is known for its rich deposits of different kinds of gemstones. The first mines were established in the area by prospectors during a gold rush that followed reports of gold discoveries near Salmon River. By the early 1900s, mining had spread to other parts of the district as well and several large companies had set up operations. These companies built mills and tramways to transport ore between sites and built housing for their workers.

The district remains an important source for gemstones today, with many mining operations still active in search for new discoveries or reworking old ones. While much has changed since those early days, it still remains an exciting place if you’re looking for your own personal treasure trove!

The Types of Gems Found In The Seven Devils Mining District

This location has plenty of different kinds of gemstones, but most abundant of these is the Smoky Quartz.

  • Epidote
  • Garnet (Red, Pink)
  • Malachite
  • Zoisite

The Best Time To Visit Seven Devils Mining District

Planning to visit here? We recommend you do so during the summer months. This is when the weather is typically warm and dry, making it ideal for outdoor activities including gem mining. During this time, water levels are usually low enough to make it easier to search for gems in the riverbeds.

Crystal Gold Mine – Great for kids

Children smiling as they pan for Gold and gemstones at the Crystal Gold Mine

51931 Silver Valley Road, Kellogg, ID 83837

Crystal Gold Mine was first discovered in 1885 by a prospector who quickly staked his claim to the area. After a few years of mining, he sold the mine to the Crystal Gold Mining Company. The company operated until 1941 when it was shut down due to World War II.

Since then, the mine has remained closed but has been maintained as a tourist attraction and gem mining destination. When you visit here, you can explore over 1,000 feet of underground tunnels and learn about its history as you search for precious gemstones. The mine also offers guided tours which include gem panning activities where you can sift through sand and gravel to find gems.

The Types of Gems Found In The Crystal Gold Mine

This place is great for kids since it has different kinds of gemstones, both rare and more common, that can be found in our state.

The Best Time To Visit Crystal Gold Mine

The best time to explore this place is during the summer months of June, July, and August. The weather is warm and sunny during these months, allowing for optimal gem mining conditions.

Yellowstone Gem World – Great for kids

A woman shows the gemstones she found after sifting through them at the Yellowstone Gem World

116 N. Bridge Street St. Anthony ID 83445

Yellowstone Gem World is a family owned and operated business that has been around for over 30 years. It was established in 1985 on the Snake River, just outside of Idaho Falls. This place offers a unique gem mining experience where you can search for gemstones in their own private mining sluice.

You can also purchase gemstones from the store or have custom jewelry made from your finds. The store also offers lapidary services, including cutting and polishing gems, as well as goldsmithing and jewelry repair services. Aside from offering a chance to gem mines, this place also serves as an educational resource by offering classes on geology, mineralogy, and lapidary arts to the public.

The Types of Gems Found In The Yellowstone Gem World

There are different kinds of gemstones here, specifically the following:

  • Amethyst
  • Aquamarine
  • Celestite
  • Garnet
  • Jade
  • Jasper
  • Moonstone
  • Quartz
  • Ruby
  • Sunstone 

If you’re having a hard time telling some of the more common gems apart, you can use the different guides we’ve put together:

The Best Time To Visit Yellowstone Gem World

If you want to visit here, the best time would be during the summer months of June, July and August. The weather is generally warm and dry during these months, making it ideal for gem mining.

Other Great Options For Real Gem Mining in Idaho

A beautiful, purple Fluorite against a light gray background

If you’ve already been to our favorite places but are looking to still explore our state, you’re in luck because we have plenty more other great places to share with you. Below are our suggested areas where you can look for different kinds of other gemstones that our state is luckily rich in, too.

The Top Public Gem Mining Locations in Idaho

A bunch of dark red Zircons attached to a rock

For families who are looking for more family-friend locations where they can expose their kids to the fun and excitement that gem hunting offers, here are some of our best recommendations that the entire family can enjoy.

Idaho Gem Mining Laws And Regulations

Idaho does not have any specific recreational gem mining laws or regulations. However, the Idaho Department of Lands (IDL) regulates activities on public lands that may impact surface resources. The IDL also has regulations regarding the extraction of certain gems and minerals from public lands. These include obtaining permits and paying royalties to the state for mineral extraction. Additionally, you may need to obtain permission from private landowners before prospecting on their land.

The Idaho Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) also regulates activities that could potentially affect water quality or air quality, including those related to recreational gem mining operations.

For more information on the state’s gem mining laws and regulations, visit the Idaho Department of Lands and Department of Environmental Quality’s link above.

Additional Places To Mine For Gems 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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