The 16 Amazing Sites To Find Obsidian In Arizona In 2024

By Dr. Keith Jackson - Geology PhD

| Updated

The 16 Amazing Sites To Find Obsidian In Arizona In 2024

By Dr. Keith Jackson - Geology PhD

Updated

Finding obsidian in Arizona can be quite a challenge if you don’t have the proper guidance. This volcanic glass is a real gem, but it’s not like stumbling upon a shiny penny on a sidewalk. It’s more like searching for a hidden treasure in a vast desert.

We’ve done some serious research and discovered many fantastic options to boost your chances of success. Trust us; you’ll be admiring the jaw-dropping beauty of obsidian before you know it!

What is Arizona Obsidian?

A pretty tiny obsidian stone with unique red streaks
Obsidian photo provided by and available for purchase at CrystalsGemsMinerals

Let’s take a moment to appreciate the incredible magnificence of obsidians. These natural wonders are like little miracles from Earth.

Obsidian is a naturally occurring volcanic glass that forms when lava cools rapidly with minimal crystal growth. It’s created during volcanic eruptions when hot molten lava is expelled from the volcano and rapidly cools upon contact with the air or water.

These volcanic gems come in all fabulous shades, from intense blacks and rich browns to vivid blues and greens. Their glassy texture and razor-sharp edges make them look like something out of a fantasy world. They catch the light most beautifully, almost as if they had their glow.

You can use this article to find out how much obsidian is worth if you use our guide to find these specimens.

Finding snowflake obsidian in Arizona

Yes, snowflake obsidian can be found in Arizona. The state is known for its diverse geology and volcanic activity, making it a suitable environment for forming different types of obsidian, including snowflake obsidian.

After seeing all the great places in our state, you can look at our in-depth guide on where to find obsidians, which also covers impressive places in other states.

How We Know About Great Locations For Obsidian in Arizona
Finding great places for obsidian hunting is no easy task. Many of the best places are closely guarded secrets that you won’t know about unless you have a friend that has been there. Fortunately, you do know someone!

The key factors in our recommendations are:

  • The deep experience and understanding of our team about the area
  • Recommendations from local groups and clubs
  • How easy it is to get the a particular location
  • Safety and potential hazards when collecting
  • Weighing private and public locations
  • The ability for both experienced and novice agate enthusiasts to find great samples

With these factors in mind we’ve been able to put together a fantastic list that just about anyone can use!

Rock pick being used

The tools every obsidian hunter will need

When you're out looking for obsidian having the right tools for the job is really going to make or break your success. 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 obsidian hunters 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 obsidian-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 Best Spots To Find Obsidian in Arizona

A stunning obsidian crystal with a rough surface

People who like to look for rocks will enjoy finding obsidian. But these valuable stones can be hard to find. People who don’t know the area well may get lost in rocky places where obsidian is found.

Even though there are several great places to mine for gems in Arizona, there are only a handful of good spots where obsidians are present.

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

Chiricahua Mountains

Majestic Chiricahua Mountains where obsidians can be located

The Chiricahua Mountains offer more than just stunning views. The rugged terrain and diverse geological features make it an ideal environment for different types of obsidian to form. From classic black obsidian to mesmerizing snowflake obsidian with its delicate white patterns, you never know what you might discover!

So, why are the Chiricahua Mountains a prime spot to look for obsidian? It’s all about their volcanic history. Back in the day, these mountains were home to some seriously fiery volcanic action. As the molten lava cooled and solidified, it transformed into beautiful obsidian.

Read up on the latest rules for collecting in Arizona before you take your newly found treasures home.

Where we found obsidian at Chiricahua Mountains

While exploring the Chiricahua Mountains, it’s always a good idea to watch for exposed volcanic rocks, as obsidian can be found among them. Look for areas with rocky outcrops, especially those displaying signs of past volcanic activity.

Rustler Park

Rustler Park surrounded by green trees and green grass

Rustler Park is a charming meadow surrounded by towering mountains. It’s also a rockhound paradise, especially when you’re hunting for obsidians. The Chiricahua Mountains, where Rustler Park is located, have a volcanic past.

Get ready to explore, enjoy the stunning surroundings, and uncover some epic obsidian specimens. The key to finding obsidians in Rustler Park is to be observant and open to the natural beauty surrounding you.

Where we found obsidian at Rustler Park

One notable spot to search for obsidians is along Rustler Park’s hiking trails. These trails wind their way through the Chiricahua Mountains, offering you a chance to stumble upon these mesmerizing volcanic glass treasures.

Take your time to explore the park’s nooks and crannies, and you’ll likely be rewarded with discovering these intriguing volcanic glass formations.

San Francisco Peaks

A picturesque view of the San Francisco Peaks with snowy tops and a lake at the bottom

San Francisco Peaks is a fantastic place that not only has beautiful natural scenery but is also an excellent place for obsidian lovers. Just north of Flagstaff, these beautiful peaks have a fascinating geological history, making them a great place to look for obsidian.

This area was once rocked by volcanic eruptions that sent molten lava into the air. As the lava quickly cooled, it became obsidian, crystallizing into shiny black treasures spread over the landscape.

Because of this, the San Francisco Peaks are a real gem for people who want to find obsidian.

Where we found obsidian at the San Francisco Peaks

Exploring these peaks means venturing into diverse terrains, from dense forests to alpine meadows, providing ample opportunities for discovery. Look for exposed rocky surfaces and areas with signs of ancient volcanic activity, such as lava flows and cones. These are the hotspots where obsidians tend to reveal themselves.

Sunset Crater

A historic Sunset Crater surrounded by trees and sand

As the name suggests, Sunset Crater was made when a volcano erupted almost a thousand years ago. This terrible event sent out molten lava, which quickly cooled and turned into obsidians, those fascinating black stones that have become the focus of many people who like rocks.

When you go to Sunset Crater and look for these gems, you can connect with the Earth’s powerful forces and appreciate the unique beauty of natural volcanic phenomena.

Where we found obsidian at Sunset Crater

As you explore the rugged landscapes surrounding Sunset Crater, keep your eyes peeled for scattered deposits of obsidians. The black volcanic glass can be found amidst the dramatic volcanic rock formations and the unique landscapes shaped by past eruptions.

Tank Mountains

A scenic view of the Tank Mountains where you can find obsidian

The Tank Mountain boasts a unique charm, with its rugged peaks and stunning vistas that stretch as far as the eye can see. Walking through the mountain, you’ll see various desert plants, such as cacti, colorful wildflowers, and thorny shrubs adapted to the dry climate.

The mountain is a paradise for hikers because they have an extensive network of trails that wind through canyons, up steep ridges, and hidden oasis. It’s also a prime spot for obsidians, scattered amidst the landscape.

Not only are obsidians visually captivating, but they also hold a fascinating glimpse into the region’s volcanic past. Each obsidian tells a unique story of the powerful forces that shaped the landscape we see today.

Where we found obsidian at Tank Mountain

One of the best places to look for obsidian in Tank Mountain is on rocky surfaces out in the open. Look for outcrops, cliffs, and rocky slopes where erosion may have exposed obsidian.

Other Great Places To Find Obsidian Beds in Arizona

A calm and serene San Francisco River with lush green trees and steep cliffs

Even though we’ve listed the best places to find obsidians in Arizona above, we’ll give you more options on where to look for them in the state. To make things easier, we put them in order by country.

Our recommendations by county

County Location
Coconino Sitgreaves Mountains
Graham Black Hills
Greenlee San Francisco River
Maricopa Hat Mountain
Pinal Pinal Mountains
Yavapai Burro Creek

Additional areas you can find obsidian

We want to make sure your search goes well because Arizona is so big. It’s essential to look through specific spaces and observe places where obsidian is often found.

Roadcuts

Roadcuts are great places to look for obsidian if you want to add more to your collection. When people build or fix roads, they create these natural openings that make it possible to get to and study the rocky layers of the Earth.

As the layers are exposed, collectors can look at the different kinds of rocks, including any that might contain obsidian. Roadcuts also make it easier to see the internal structures of rocks, allowing for better identification and selection of specimens.

Railroad cuts

Collectors who look in railroad cuts can see different kinds of rocks and find places that might contain obsidian. Collectors can piece together the exciting story of how the area was made. By looking at the layers and how they fit together, you can figure out how obsidians were made and how geology has changed over time.

While exploring railroad cuts, it’s essential to prioritize safety. Remain cautious, as the exposed rocks can be unstable. Respect any regulations in place and be mindful of passing trains and other potential dangers.

Rivers and riverbanks

Rivers and riverbanks are fantastic locations for obsidian collectors searching for new specimens. These natural waterways offer unique opportunities to discover obsidians, adding to the excitement of rock collecting.

The movement of water can carry obsidian fragments downstream, depositing them along the riverbanks. These areas become hotspots for collectors, where the constant flow of water reveals various sizes and shapes of obsidians.

Streams and creeks

Streams and creeks are incredible havens for obsidian collectors searching for unique specimens to add to their collections. These flowing waterways provide an excellent opportunity to discover obsidians, making rock collecting even more thrilling.

Exploring streams and creeks is not only fun because you might find obsidian, but it’s also an excellent way to learn. By looking at the different rocks and minerals in these waterways, you can learn about the area’s geology and how obsidian fits into the natural history of the area.

Common Obsidian-Hunting Questions

A fine smooth snowflake obsidian with pretty snowflake patterns

It’s important to answer the following questions that are often asked about obsidians in Arizona

Is it illegal to collect obsidian in Arizona?

Obsidian collecting is allowed in Arizona as long as you follow the rules. You should follow the regulations when you’re in a public place. Make sure you have permission to collect when you’re on private land.

Black rock obsidian vs. Snowflake obsidian

While both types of obsidian share the common characteristic of being volcanic glass, their distinguishing features lie in their color and patterns.

Black Rock Obsidian has a glossy, glass-like black appearance, often free of visible patterns or markings. This type of obsidian forms when molten lava cools rapidly, preventing the growth of mineral crystals within it. As a result, it has a smooth and uniform texture, making it highly sought after by collectors for its sleek and elegant look.

Snowflake Obsidian is named for its unique snowflake-like patterns scattered across its dark surface. It features white or grayish spots or splotches resembling snowflakes, and small clusters of the mineral cristobalite.

While black obsidian has a consistent and solid black appearance, snowflake obsidian showcases the added visual intrigue of its snowflake patterns. These patterns create a striking contrast against the dark background of the obsidian, making snowflake obsidian a visually attractive variety.

The Best Places To Buy Obsidian In Arizona

Sedona Crystal Vortex rock shop in Arizona where you can find and buy obsidian specimens

People don’t always want to spend all day outside looking for obsidian. Sometimes, you only need a single piece to display or add to your collection. Here’s a list of rock shops in Arizona where you can buy obsidian crystals.

Additional places to find obsidian in nearby states

Check out the guides we made for the places we think you should visit once you’ve explored each of the places we listed above to find obsidian in neighboring states:

If you have any recommendations for our list please leave a comment 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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