The 13 Verified Spots To Find Obsidian In New Mexico In 2023

By Dr. Keith Jackson - Geology PhD

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The 13 Verified Spots To Find Obsidian In New Mexico In 2023

By Dr. Keith Jackson - Geology PhD


Obsidian is prized for its exceptional qualities and breathtaking beauty. If you don’t have the appropriate knowledge, it can be difficult to find these in New Mexico. The state’s mountainous terrain hides this naturally occurring volcanic glass, which is rare and difficult to find.

But don’t worry! We’ve researched and created a treasure trove of information to help you find obsidian in New Mexico. From the beautiful Valles Caldera to the impressive Bandera Volcano, there are unique places all over the state where you can locate these stunning gems.

With our helpful guide, you’ll have no trouble navigating the maze of hiking trails and old lava flows. So, prepare for an exciting adventure with rewards as incredible as the journey!

What is New Mexico Obsidian?

A beautiful black obsidian with a unique curved and smooth surface
Obsidian photo provided by and available for purchase at CrystalCavernDesigns

Obsidian is a fascinating natural glass type made when hot lava cools quickly. It’s primarily volcanic glass that doesn’t have any crystals in it. The melted rock from a volcano eruption cools when it’s exposed to air or water and forms obsidian.

Obsidian’s unique way of forming is a big part of what makes it valuable. Because it cools so quickly, the atoms inside the lava don’t have enough time to form a crystal lattice. Because of this, obsidian doesn’t have the usual structure of minerals.

It instead has a smooth, glassy, texture. The fast cooling stops mineral crystals from growing, which gives obsidian its distinctive look.

As you find these alluring minerals along your journey, you will want to know the price and value of obsidians.

Finding snowflake obsidian in New Mexico

Yes, snowflake obsidian can be found in New Mexico. Snowflake obsidian is a specific variety with white or grayish spheroidal inclusions, resembling snowflakes scattered throughout its black base.

Once you’ve seen all the incredible places in our state, you can look at our detailed guide on where to find obsidian, which also covers places in other states.

How We Know About Great Locations For Obsidian in New Mexico
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 

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.

The Best Spots To Find Obsidian in New Mexico

A stunning obsidian with white spots and unique 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 a lot of exciting places where you can find gems in New Mexico, only a few of them are suitable for finding obsidian.

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.

Dona Ana Mountain

A picturesque view of the Dona Ana Mountain ranges where obsidians can be found

The Dona Ana Mountain stands tall and proud, calling out to adventurers and rock lovers. Outside Las Cruces, this rough range is a hidden gem for people who want to find obsidian. With its long history of volcanoes, this mountain has a lot of obsidian that lies on its surface.

Millions of years ago, this area was where volcanoes were very active, and molten lava flowed and spewed from the ground. When the lava hit the air, it cooled quickly and turned into beautiful obsidian. The Dona Ana Mountains are like a time capsule because it keeps the evidence of this volcanic show.

Ensure you know the most up-to-date rules for collecting in New Mexico before taking your obsidians home.

Where we found obsidian at Dona Ana Mountains

Within the Dona Ana Mountains of New Mexico, there are several areas where you can find obsidians waiting to be discovered. One such location is Baylor Pass, a popular trail that winds through the mountains.

Another good spot is Tortugas Mountain, also known as “A” Mountain, due to the large “A” painted on its side. This volcanic peak holds the potential for uncovering obsidian treasures, particularly in areas where erosion and weathering have exposed the underlying rocks.

Jemez Mountain

A stunning scenic view over the Jemez Mountain with a river bend at the bottom

The Jemez Mountain range has a long history of volcanic activity. If you like to look for rocks or are just drawn to obsidian, the Jemez Mountains are the perfect place to go on adventures.

Many kinds of obsidian are waiting to be found in the Jemez Mountains. Rock lovers have abundant choices, from the classic jet-black obsidian that sparkles like a starless night sky to the beautiful Mahogany obsidian with its rich brown colors.

Walking through the mountain’s winding trails, you’ll find yourself surrounded by beautiful views and bare rock formations, making it easy to find these interesting obsidian pieces.

Where we found obsidian at Jemez Mountain

The Valles Caldera National Preserve at Jemez Mountain is a true gem for obsidian enthusiasts. This volcanic caldera holds a wealth of obsidian deposits, with various types and colors awaiting discovery.

As you explore the preserve’s trails and volcanic formations, keep a keen eye out for the gleaming obsidian treasures beneath the surface.

Rio Puerco

The Rio Puerco stretch along the side of mountains

Rio Puerco winds its way through a beautiful area, revealing a secret to those who are brave and love obsidian. This beautiful river and the area around it are full of obsidian treasures. This is the place to go if you’re ready for an obsidian-hunting adventure like no other!

With its winding path, the Rio Puerco has acted as a natural collector, leaving these beautiful obsidians along its banks and gravel bars.

Where we found obsidian in Rio Puerco

As you explore the river’s course, watch for exposed cliffs, ancient lava flows, and gravel deposits where obsidian may be waiting to be unearthed.

Rockhound State Park

An area at the Rockhound State Park surrounded with cacti and other bushes and shrubs

Rockhound State Park is a haven for rock enthusiasts and treasure seekers in the heart of New Mexico. This unique park is a rockhound’s paradise, offering a delightful blend of natural beauty and ample opportunities to discover the world of obsidians in the area.

At the park, you can pick up to 15 pounds of rocks daily to enjoy your adventure and bring home souvenirs. Whether you’re an experienced collector or just curious, the park gives you a lot of chances to explore and fill your pockets with fascinating obsidians!

Where we found obsidian at the Rockhound State Park

Keep an eye out for exposed rock formations and gravel deposits while you’re walking through the park’s trails. These precious obsidian gems are often hidden in these places.

San Antonio Creek

The San Antonio Creek flowing quietly and calmly

San Antonio River is more than just a pretty place to visit. This is where nature’s treasures are hidden beneath its moving waters and along its sun-kissed shores. Any obsidian hunter will be excited to wander through this amazing place.

This river has a lot of obsidian, each with its unique appeal. You’ll find a lot of different kinds of rocks when you walk along the river’s path. The shiny blacks will remind you of the universe’s deep mysteries, making it more attractive.

Where we found obsidian at San Antonio River

Look for exposed rock formations, gravel bars, and rocky outcrops along the river’s edge. These are often hotspots for finding obsidian that the river’s gentle touch has polished.

Other Great Places To Find Obsidian Beds in New Mexico

The majestic Battleship Rock formation which contains obsidian specimens

After suggesting the best places to find obsidian, we’ll tell you where else you can find it in New Mexico. To make things easier, we put them in a list by county.

Our recommendations by county

County Location
Cibola East Grants Ridge
Luna Little Florida Mountain
Sandoval Battleship Rock

Additional areas you can find obsidian

We want to ensure your search goes well because New Mexico is big. It’s essential to look and pay attention to specific places where obsidian is often found.

Fresh rock exposures

Fresh rock exposures provide a unique opportunity for collectors to uncover pristine obsidians untouched by the passage of time. When rocks are exposed to elements like erosions, landslides, or recent volcanic activity, they show new, untouched surfaces.

The lack of weathering on fresh rock exposures also means that the obsidians found there are less likely to be worn down or broken, making them ideal for collectors seeking high-quality specimens. These new surfaces preserve obsidians in their most pristine form.

Mines and mine dumps

Mines and mine dumps are man-made excavations where valuable minerals and rocks are extracted from the Earth. In the process, they often uncover veins or pockets of obsidian hidden beneath the surface. These rich deposits make mines a prime spot for collectors, as they provide access to a concentrated source of obsidians.

Exploring mines and mine dumps allows collectors to unearth obsidians that may not be readily accessible in natural outcrops or riverbeds. The abundance and variety of obsidians in these locations make them a beautiful hunting ground for collectors.

Streams and creeks

Water influences the Earth’s landscapes, and streams and creeks are no exception. As water flows through a region, it erodes the surrounding rocks and exposes new surfaces. This natural process can reveal obsidian-rich layers or even carry them downstream.

The flow of streams and creeks often exposes hidden rock layers, including volcanic deposits that may contain big amounts of obsidian. Collectors can investigate exposed cliffs or cut banks along the waterways, where these fresh rock exposures offer a chance to find obsidian in its natural state.

Common Obsidian-Hunting Questions

An elegant snowflake obsidian crystal with numerous snowflake spots

It’s essential to answer the following questions that are often asked about obsidian in New Mexico.

Is it illegal to collect obsidian in New Mexico?

Collecting obsidian in New Mexico is generally legal, but some important considerations must be remembered. It’s essential to familiarize yourself with the specific rules and regulations and obtain necessary permits or permissions before engaging in rock collecting activities.

Black rock obsidian vs. Snowflake obsidian

The primary difference between black rock obsidian and snowflake obsidian lies in their visual appearance and the presence of unique features.

Black rock obsidian is a type of obsidian that is very dark black. It looks and feels like glass and is known for having a smooth, shiny surface. It’s made when lava from a volcano cools quickly, stopping the growth of mineral crystals and making glass instead.

Snowflake obsidian is primarily black, just like black obsidian, but it has white or grayish spherical inclusions all over its surface. These spots or snowflakes look like inclusions. They’re made of a mineral called cristobalite and make different patterns that look like snowflakes.

Collectors highly value black rock obsidian and snowflake obsidian, which can be used in various ways, such as making jewelry, decorating, and spiritual practices. Their unique qualities make them popular pieces to add to rock collections.

The Best Places To Buy Obsidian In New Mexico

Mama's Minerals rock shop in New Mexico where different kinds of obsidians can be found and bought

Not everyone wants to go outside and look for obsidian all day. Sometimes, you only need a piece to show off or add to your collections. Here’s a list of rock shops in New Mexico where you can buy obsidian crystals.

Additional Places To Find Obsidian 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 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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