The 29 Best Spots For Gem Hunting In California In 2024

By Dr. Keith Jackson - Geology PhD

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The 29 Best Spots For Gem Hunting In California In 2024

By Dr. Keith Jackson - Geology PhD


California is the perfect place to experience a fantastic gem hunting adventure. With a variety of different gem mining locations throughout the state, there is something for everyone. From the deserts of the south to the mountains of the north, you can find a wide range of minerals and gems that sparkle and shine.

Fortunately, our state boasts an abundance of places accessible to beginners and experienced gem miners alike. We’ve highlighted our top destinations where you can dig for gems, along with the proper tools and knowledge. So, keep reading to learn more about the best locations for hunting gems in the Golden State!

The state parks, mines, mountains, hills, creeks, beaches, and lakes are the ideal locations to search for gems in our state. Himalaya Tourmaline Mine, Sue-Meg State Park, Aurora Mine, Oceanview and Pala Chief Gem Mines, and Benitoite Mining Company are some of our favorite locations in the area, and we’ve covered them in great detail below.

How We Picked The Best Places For Gem Mining in California
In order to find the absolute best places in California for gem mining we had a lot of things to consider. 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 California You Can Mine

A few pieces of beautiful Morganite found while gem hunting in California

The abundance of gorgeous gemstones in this state is a major benefit. There really aren’t many other states that have the variety of locations and gemstones available. We’ve created a ton of guides to help people discover gems near them so we know a good state when we see one! It’s possible to find both rare and uncommon gems in this area with the right knowledge and a little luck.

Rare gemstones found in California

  • Amethyst
  • Beryl
  • Jadeite
  • Jasper
  • Opal
  • Turquoise

More common gemstones found here

  • Agate
  • Albite
  • Apophyllite
  • Aquamarine
  • Aragonite
  • Axinite
  • Barite
  • Benitoite
  • Bloodstone
  • Calcite
  • Carnelian
  • Chalcedony
  • Chromite
  • Cinnabar
  • Datolite
  • Diamond
  • Epidote
  • Garnet
  • Lepidolite
  • Moonstone
  • Morganite
  • Nephrite
  • Orthoclase
  • Pectolite
  • Pyrite
  • Quartzite
  • Rhodochrosite
  • Rhodonite
  • Serpentine
  • Siderite
  • Spessartine
  • Tourmaline
  • Vesuvianite

Our Favorite Places For Gem Mining in California

These are the areas that we have discovered as being the best in the state for mining gems. If you want to learn more about gem mining, you have to check out these notable locations. Additionally, we offered suggestions for spots where kids can learn and enjoy the thrill of gem hunting.

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.

Himalaya Tourmaline Mine

A woman digging for gemstones at Himalaya Tourmaline Mine

CA-76, Santa Ysabel, CA, United States, California

The Himalaya Tourmaline Mine is one of the world’s largest and most productive tourmaline mines. The mine is owned by the Himalaya Mining Company, which was established in 1974. They have been producing a variety of gemstones for more than 40 years. It produces many colors, including pink, green, blue, yellow, purple, and black tourmaline, and other gemstones.

The mine offers tours to gem hunters from all over the world who come to experience this amazing natural wonder. They can view the different types of tourmalines being mined as well as explore the site itself.

The Types Of Gemstones Found At Himalaya Tourmaline Mine

The following gemstones are typically found in this area:

  • Garnet
  • Lepidolite
  • Morganite
  • Quartz
  • Spessartine Garnet
  • Topaz
  • Tourmaline

It can be very easy to confuse some of the more common gems that are found here, so we’ve put together a few guides to telling some of them apart:

The Best Time To Visit Himalaya Tourmaline Mine

The best time to visit the Himalaya Tourmaline Mine in California is between April and October. The mine is open to gem miners seven days a week, making it the ideal time to dig for gems. The weather is usually mild and pleasant during this time, and you’ll have plenty of opportunities to explore the mine and its surroundings. Bring water, snacks, sunscreen, and other supplies for your day trip.

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 tools and kit 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 

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.

Sue-Meg State Park

A gorgeous Jadeite discovered at Sue-Gem State Park

4150 Patricks Point Dr, Trinidad, CA 95570, United States

Sue-Gem State Park is located in the Sierra Nevada. It is situated in the picturesque town of Mariposa and offers gem miners a chance to explore the area’s natural beauty. The park features a variety of activities and allows searching for precious gems and minerals.

When we visited this area, they offered us to pan for gold in the river or use sluice boxes to sift through sand and gravel to find colorful gemstones. The park’s knowledgeable staff provided us instruction on prospecting techniques, geology, and other topics related to gemstones.

The Types Of Gemstones Found At Sue-Meg State Park

This area is rich in priceless gemstones. The following are some of the hidden gems found here:

  • Agate
  • Jadeite
  • Jasper
  • Moonstone
  • Pyrite

The Best Time To Visit Sue-Meg State Park

The best time to visit Sue-Meg State Park in California is spring and fall. The summer tends to be quite hot, while the winter can be pretty cold.

Aurora Mine

A rare Cinnabar found at Aurora Mine

Idria Peak, San Benito Co., CA, United States

Aurora Mine is a unique and exciting way to explore the outdoors. Gem hunters can experience the thrill of prospecting for precious gems while learning about the history and geology of the area. The mine offers a variety of activities, including searching for gemstones and panning for gold.

We enjoyed the natural beauty of the surrounding area with hiking trails, picnic areas, and scenic views. With its rich history and abundant resources, Aurora Mine is an excellent destination for families, groups, or individuals looking for an unforgettable outdoor adventure.

The Types Of Gemstones Found At Aurora Mine

There are many rare gemstones in this location. Here are a few of the gems we’ve discovered:

  • Calcite
  • Cinnabar
  • Serpentine

The Best Time To Visit Aurora Mine

The best time to visit Aurora Mine in California is during the late spring and early summer months. From May to August, temperatures are mild, and the days are sunny. The mine is located in a remote area, so it’s essential to bring plenty of supplies, such as food, water, and warm clothing. Additionally, check with the local authorities before your visit, as there may be restrictions due to fire danger or other safety concerns.

Oceanview And Pala Chief Gem Mines – Great for kids

Kids looking for gems at Oceanview and Pala Chief Gem Mines

37304 Magee Rd, Pala, CA 92059, United States

Oceanview and Pala Chief Gem Mines are two gemstone mining sites in San Diego County. They offer gem miners an opportunity to search for various gemstones. You can purchase buckets of material to search through or rent mining equipment such as sieves and shovels to help them find their treasures. Professional gemologists are also available onsite to help identify any stones that may have been found.

The Types Of Gemstones Found At Oceanview And Pala Chief Gem Mines

This area is home to several gemstones. Here are some of the gemstones found here:

  • Amethyst
  • Aquamarine
  • Beryl
  • Chalcedony
  • Citrine
  • Garnet
  • Lepidolite
  • Morganite
  • Peridot
  • Quartz
  • Spodumene
  • Topaz
  • Tourmaline

The Best Time To Visit Oceanview And Pala Chief Gem Mines

The best time to visit Oceanview and Pala Chief Gem Mines in California is mid-May to mid-September. The weather during this period is usually warm and sunny, making it ideal for digging gems. Additionally, the summer months tend to have fewer crowds and more manageable temperatures.

Benitoite Mining Company – Great for kids

People searching for gems at Benitoite Mining Company

48242 Los Gatos Creek Rd, Coalinga, CA 93210, United States

Benitoite Mining Company is a family-owned business based in San Benito County, California. It is one of the few companies to specialize in mining the rare and precious gemstone benitoite. The company has been in operation since the early 1900s and has become known for its high-quality products and commitment to sustainability.

The company mines benitoite from a deposit near New Idria and processes it into jewelry, crystals, and other gemstone products. Benitoite Mining Company works closely with local communities to ensure that their operations are environmentally responsible and have minimal impact on the surrounding environment.

The Types Of Gemstones Found At Benitoite Mining Company

This spot is famous for its production of the rare gemstone, Benitoite. Other gemstones found here include:

  • Barite
  • Garnet
  • Quartz
  • Sapphire
  • Tourmaline

The Best Time To Visit Benitoite Mining Company

The mine is open from April through October and gem hunters should plan their trip accordingly. The weather is typically sunny and warm during these times, making it easier to access the remote mine site and enjoy the outdoors.

Other Great Options For Real Gem Mining in California

Two people found huge Jadeites while real gem mining in California

In addition to the information we’ve provided above, this state has even more fantastic locations for real gem mining. For seasoned gem hunters, these places are ideal:

  • Agate Flat – Agate, Bloodstone, Jasper
  • Alum Rock Park – Tephoroite
  • Crystal Springs Reservoir – Chromite
  • El Paso Mountains – Agate, Jasper, Opal, 
  • Escondido Canyon Park – Agate, Amethyst, Bloodstone, Jasper
  • Gem Hill – Agate, Chalcedony, Jasper, Obsidian
  • Glass Mountain – Obsidian
  • Golden Jubilee Mine – Pyrite, Quartz
  • Jade Cove Big Sur – Jade, Nephrite, Serpentine
  • Lake Havasu – Agate, Calcite, Jasper, Quartz, Turquoise
  • Little Acorn Mine – Epidote, Quartz, Smoky Quartz, Scheelite
  • Modoc National Forest – Obsidian 
  • Opal Hill Mine – Opal, Quartz
  • Riverside Chrome Mine – Chromite
  • Rouse Hill – Amazonite, Idocrase, Rose Quartz, Tourmaline
  • Tick Canyon – Agate, Bloodstone, Chalcedony
  • Tourmaline Queen Mountain – Apatite, Aquamarine, Beryl, Quartz, Rose Quartz, Tourmaline
  • Victor Mine – Albite, Lepidolite, Orthoclase
  • Ware Mine – Beryl, Lepidolite, Quartz, Topaz, Tourmaline
  • Wolf Creek – Rhodonite
  • Woods Mine – Rhodochrosite

The Top Public Gem Mining Locations in California

Kids doing public gem mining in California

There are more kid-friendly public gem mining sites in our state where kids may have fun and learn about gems. The following are noteworthy destinations.

California Gem Mining Laws And Regulations

The State of California does not have any laws that regulate gem hunting activities on public land. However, the California Department of Parks and Recreation does recommend that people who plan to collect minerals or rocks on public lands observe some guidelines.

If you are collecting material from a state park, obtain written permission from the park superintendent before collecting any material. Gem hunters can only collect a small amount of material and must not disturb cultural or historical sites. The use of heavy equipment, motorized vehicles, and explosives are not allowed while hunting for gems. Gem hunters must respect private property rights and shall not collect material from private land without permission from the landowner

For more information about California’s gem mining laws and regulations, visit the California Department of Parks and Recreation site through the 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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