Our 29 Favorite Sites To Find Obsidian In California in 2023

By Dr. Keith Jackson - Geology PhD

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Our 29 Favorite Sites To Find Obsidian In California in 2023

By Dr. Keith Jackson - Geology PhD


Obsidian is an incredible natural gemstone that showcases a mesmerizing display of colors from deep blacks to vibrant blues and greens. Its smooth, glass-like texture adds to its allure, making it a highly sought-after material for jewelry and decorative items.

Beyond its aesthetic appeal, Obsidian possesses metaphysical qualities, often associated with protection, grounding, and spiritual healing. Its rich cultural significance can be traced back to ancient civilizations, where it was revered for its beauty and used for various purposes.

However, uncovering Obsidian in California can be challenging without proper guidance. Our state’s vast landscapes make it difficult for amateur enthusiasts to identify its locations.

So to help you out, we’re offering our expertise and assistance through this comprehensive guide to finding Obsidian in California. Let’s get started!

What is California Obsidian?

Stunning glassy black raw Obsidian held out by a hand
Obsidian photo provided by and available for purchase at kimzasadny

Obsidian is a unique and fascinating volcanic glass that forms when molten lava rapidly cools without sufficient time for crystal growth. It’s composed primarily of silica, which gives it its distinctive glassy texture and appearance.

This gemstone is known for its lustrous, smooth surface and is prized for its beauty and versatility. Knowing how much Obsidian is worth will tell you just how valued this gemstone is.

California’s rich volcanic history means that Obsidian can be found in several locations. Most common of these are the eastern Sierra Nevada range, the northern California coast, the Cascade Range, and the southernmost part of our state near the Mexican border.

Finding Snowflake Obsidian in California

Snowflake Obsidian is characterized by its contrasting black color and white, snowflake-like patterns. These patterns give it a distinct appearance and make it a popular choice for jewelry and decorative items. Metaphysically, it’s believed to aid in personal transformation, balance, and releasing negative energies.

If you’re wondering whether you can find Snowflake Obsidian in California, the answers is a gleaming yes! And if you’re up to know more places where you can find this gem, checkout our complete guide to where and how you can find Obsidian.

How We Know About Great Locations For Obsidian in California
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 California

A bunch of shiny, black Obsidian specimens

California is endowed with great gem mining sites, but not all of them contain Obsidian as well. So we scoured our state to find the spots that you can visit and explore if you’re after this gem, and here are our most favorite ones:

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.

Obsidian Butte

A view of Salton Buttes, where Obsidian Butte is a part of

Obsidian Butte is tucked away in the southeastern part of our state, near the Salton Sea. It’s surrounded by vast desert plains, with the Chocolate Mountains in the distance. Its terrain can be a bit challenging but not impossible to treck, with it sandy patches and rocky outcrops.

Once you reach Obsidian Butte, you’ll be greeted by a mesmerizing sight. The butte itself is made up of layers of volcanic rock, including Obsidian. You’ll find the glossy black stone scattered all over the place, glimmering under the sun.

Getting here might take a bit of a journey, but trust us when we say it’s worth it. It sits in a remote area with a rugged landscape, so make sure to bring your sturdy boots and a sense of adventure. Also, familiarize yourself with California’s collecting guidelines before heading out here.

Where we found obsidian in the Obsidian Butte

You can find fascinating specimens of Obsidian in the lithophysae in the quarry of Obsidian Butte.

Clear Lake

Stunning aerial wide view of the Clear Lake and its surrounding landscapes and mountains

As the largest freshwater lake in California, Clear Lake is a real gem nestled in the heart of nature. It’s surrounded by the rolling hills and lush greenery of Lake County. Its terrain is a mix of rugged shoreline and peaceful waters, making it a paradise for both outdoor enthusiasts and nature lovers.

In terms of geology, it sits in the ancient volcanic region known as the Clear Lake Volcanic Field. The lake itself fills the basin of a former volcano, and the surrounding area is dotted with unique volcanic features, including hot springs and geothermal vents. All these are perfect conditions for Obsidian formation.

What’s even better is that getting here is a piece of cake, with easy access from major highways and a smooth ride all the way.

Where we found obsidian in the Clear Lake

You can find Obsidian by exploring the different nooks and crannies of Clear Lake, including the Lower Clear Lake area.

Glass Mountain

Close-up look at the trail at Glass Mountains showing pieces of Obsidian

To put it in simple terms, Glass Mountain is a real stunner! This hidden gem is tucked away in a remote area, surrounded by picturesque landscapes that will leave you in awe when you visit.

Glass Mountain sits amidst a rugged and diverse terrain. Towering peaks, deep valleys, and vast stretches of wilderness make up its surroundings. The mountain itself, as the name suggests, is known for its abundant deposits of glassy Obsidian. Its slopes are covered in black Obsidian fragments, creating a sight like no other.

With its beauty comes a bit of challenge reaching it. Glass Mountain is only accessible by winding mountain roads and unpaved paths. To get here, make sure you’re well-prepared with a reliable vehicle for some rugged and uneven terrain.

Where we found obsidian in the Glass Mountain

You can find banded, black, blue, gold, green, rainbow, red, and silver Obsidian by exploring the different areas of Glass Mountain.

Amboy Crater

Wide view of the entirety of the Amboy Crater

Amboy Crater is a natural wonder nestled in the Mojave Desert that’s worth every mile of the journey. It’s a cinder cone volcano that rises majestically from the desert floor. Its distinctive cone shape and perfectly symmetrical form make it a sight to behold.

The terrain surrounding Amboy Crater is an arid desert landscape with vast stretches of sand and sparse vegetation. It has the amazing panoramic views of the desert with distant mountains dotting the horizon.

This ancient volcano erupted thousands of years ago, leaving behind a unique landscape shaped by lava flows. As you hike to the top, you’ll encounter hardened lava fields. Despite this, the trail is well-marked and easily navigable, making it accessible to both seasoned and casual explorers.

Where we found obsidian in the Amboy Crater

Explore the different parts of Amboy Crater to find stunning specimens of Obsidian.

Griffith’s Royal Purple Obsidian Mine

A rough Rainbow Obsidian with prominent purple sheen

Griffith’s Royal Purple Obsidian Mine is another gem for Obsidian enthusiasts, specially those seeking the stunning beauty of Royal Purple Obsidian.

This mine is nestled in the rolling hills and lush forests of northern California. Its terrain can be a bit rugged with rocky paths and uneven ground. Once you get here, you’ll be greeted by the breathtaking beauty of the mine itself.

Griffith’s Royal Purple Obsidian Mine is renowned for its abundant deposits of Royal Purple Obsidian, a rare and mesmerizing variety known for its deep purple hues. The volcanic origins of this gemstone shine through, with vibrant colors that will make your jaw drop.

Where we found obsidian in the Griffith’s Royal Purple Obsidian Mine

Griffith’s Royal Purple Obsidian Mine abounds in Obsidian, especially the purple-colored ones, so make sure you make the most of your visit by exploring its different areas.

Other Great Places To Find Obsidian Beds in California

A close up look at a glassy black Obsidian

Aside from our favorite sites to find Obsidian in California, our state has plenty other spots that you can explore to uncover this gemstone. We’ve listed them down below by county for your easier reference to this guide.

Our recommendations by county

County Location
Imperial Yuha Basin
Imperial Cormorant Island
Inyo Little Lake
Inyo Obsidian Ridge
Inyo Lone Pine
Kern Regional surfaces of Rosamond
Kern Gem Hill
Lake Cole Creek
Modoc Gravel pits of Davis Creek
Modoc Rainbow Mine
Modoc Sugarloaf Mountain
Mono Mono Craters
San Bernardino Bagdad area
San Bernardino Pisgah Crater
Siskiyou Tamarack Flat
Siskiyou Canyon Butte
Siskiyou Medicine Lake Volcano
Sonoma Slopes of Mount Kanaktai
Tulare California Hot Springs area

Additional areas you can find obsidian

Some of our recommended spots may cover wide areas, so to narrow down your search, we recommend pay extra attention to the following areas where Obsidian is usually found:

Fresh Rock Exposures

Fresh rock exposures are absolute gold mines for Obsidian collectors. The reason for this is simple: when new rock formations are exposed due to volcanic activity, erosion, landslides, or other natural processes, they reveal fresh layers of Obsidian.

These recently exposed surfaces haven’t undergone weathering or degradation, which means that the Obsidian here is in its purest, most unaltered form. Here, you have the opportunity to find specimens with vibrant colors, exquisite patterns, and flawless textures.

Streams and Creeks

The flowing water in streams and creeks carry away rocks, including precious Obsidian. As the water rushes over the land, it gradually erodes the surrounding rocks and exposes hidden deposits of this volcanic glass. These waterways also act as nature’s own distribution system, spreading Obsidian fragments far and wide.

Lake Shores

Lake shores offer a unique opportunity to discover Obsidian in a whole new setting. As the water ebbs and flows, it gently churns and sorts the rocks, revealing Obsidian fragments. The constant movement of the water acts as a natural sieve, bringing heavier specimens closer to the shore.

Common Obsidian-Hunting Questions

Huge sample of a Snowflake Obsidian showing its white, snowflake-shaped patterns

We’re answering some of the most commonly-asked questions when it comes to finding Obsidian in California, in case you have the same queries in mind.

Is it illegal to collect obsidian in California?

Just ensure that you are following our state’s local collecting guidelines and you will have no legal concern regarding collecting Obsidian in California. Generally, these guidelines include securing necessary permits and permissions and respecting the environment and biodiversity of the area you will explore.

Black Rock Obsidian vs. Snowflake Obsidian

Black Rock Obsidian, as the name suggests, is primarily black in color. It’s a glossy, opaque volcanic glass that’s known for its sleek appearance, making it highly sought after for jewelry and decorative purposes.

On the other hand, Snowflake Obsidian showcases a striking contrast between its black base color and the white snowflake patterns that adorn its surface. These patterns are actually clusters of the mineral Cristobalite.

While both varieties share the common properties of Obsidian, the distinguishing features of their coloration and patterns make them distinct from each other.

The Best Places To Buy Obsidian In California

Building of the Miner's Gems and Minerals

If you have limited time and energy to go on a full-blown Obsidian-hunting adventure and prefer a more relaxed way of bringing home this gem, you can visit our local gem shops. Many of them have great selections of Obsidian, such as the following stores:

Additional Places To Find Obsidian In Nearby States

Check out the guides we made for the nearby states where you can find obsidians as well:

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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