The 14 Proven Places To Find Obsidian In Nevada In 2023

By Dr. Keith Jackson - Geology PhD

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The 14 Proven Places To Find Obsidian In Nevada In 2023

By Dr. Keith Jackson - Geology PhD


Rockhounds enjoy Nevada’s landscapes like it’s one big treasure hunt. But here’s the thing – finding obsidian in Nevada isn’t as easy as picking up pebbles from a riverbed. The state is massive, and knowing where to look is the real trick!

You might spend days wandering around the desert and mountains without prior knowledge. So, homework and a keen eye can go a long way. Finding a piece of obsidian feels like unearthing a hidden gem – and it is!

Many locations in Nevada are full of obsidians. You might find your prized piece of volcanic history with some luck and tenacity. Always remember, the journey is half the fun!

What is Nevada Obsidian?

Obsidian photo provided by and available for purchase at CurlyCandle

Nevada obsidians include black, mahogany, snowflake, and rainbow. The majority of these stones are found in regions where there has been volcanic activity. Obsidians are found near lava flows and obsidian deposits in the northern Nevada desert.

Obsidian is abundant in the Virgin Valley and areas bordering the Black Rock Desert. This excellent stone was formed in the ideal geological environment.

Finding snowflake obsidian in Nevada

Snowflake obsidian can be found in Nevada. It’s primarily black and comprises tiny grouped crystals of the quartz mineral “cristobalite”.

Snowflake obsidian’s unique pattern is formed during its cooling process, where rapid cooling and slower cooling allow crystal growth. This combination gives it its appearance.

How We Know About Great Locations For Obsidian in Nevada
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 Nevada

A huge raw chunk of obsidian with an irregular shape

For rock explorers, searching for obsidian is exciting. But, finding these valuable stones can be challenging. Those unfamiliar with the area may get lost where obsidians are found in rocky environments.

Despite the state having many exciting places where you can mine gems in Nevada, only a few spots are excellent for discovering obsidian specimens.

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.

Battle Mountain

A scenic view of the Battle Mountain which mirrors on the pretty lake

Battle Mountain in Nevada is not just a cool name; it’s a rockhound’s paradise! Obsidian crystals have been formed here because of the lava flows and active volcanoes. Because of the thin soil and moderate climate, you can find exposed obsidians in the area.

Explore Battle Mountain’s open spaces while the sun is blazing down with gentle winds keeping you cool. You can find glimmering obsidians on the ground while you search. The thrill of the hunt and the joy of the discovery make for an exciting adventure!

Before bringing your treasures home, remember the most recent Nevada collecting regulations.

Where we found obsidian at Battle Mountain

Obsidians form close to volcanic activity, and you may find them around Battle Mountain.

Death Valley

A majestic view of Death Valley where obsidians can be found

Despite its scary name, Death Valley is a playground for rockhounds. This place is enormous and packed full of geological wonders. And you know what’s part of that geological mix? That’s right – obsidian!

But remember, while you’re on this exciting obsidian hunt, you’ve got to play by the rules. Some parts of Death Valley might be off-limits for rock collecting. Even so, Death Valley offers a unique opportunity for obsidian hunting with careful planning, attitude, and curiosity.

Where we found obsidian at Death Valley

Explore the perimeter of Death Valley for obsidian deposits.

Fish Lake Valley

A gorgeous lake with mountains in the background

Next stop on our tour of Nevada’s obsidian hotspots: Fish Lake Valley! The area is a like a scene from a great adventure film with stunning mountain backgrounds. But what makes it even more exciting for us is the obsidians found here.

Obsidians are present in Fish Lake Valley because it’s close to areas of volcanic activity. Search along the valley for that sparkle in the sun. When you spot a piece of obsidian, that moment is priceless!

Where we found obsidian in Fish Lake Valley

The hills and plains of Fish Lake Valley contain obsidian deposits.

Lost Creek Canyon

The hiking trail along Lost Creek Canyon with information posts and direction guide

Get ready to explore Lost Creek Canyon in Nevada, a place that sounds as adventurous as it is! This spot is a hidden gem – literally. It’s a fantastic place to go hunting for obsidian. Why? The volcanic activity from long ago makes it a prime spot for this shiny, black volcanic glass.

You can find obsidians sitting on the ground while strolling along the canyon. It’s the adventure that would make a great story to share with your friends!

Where we found obsidian at the Lost Creek Canyon

The rocky slopes of the Lost Creek Canyon often contain obsidian.

Queen Mountain

A view of the peak of the Queen Mountain where you can locate obsidians

Queen Mountain is a royal treat for obsidian hunters. Its history of volcanic activity makes it a prime spot to find this beautiful, glassy rock. While hiking up the mountain, you can occasionally find a piece of obsidian. The thrill of the hunt and the joy of discovery makes this place so exciting for rockhounds.

We always want to leave the place as lovely as we found it, so certain areas may have limits on collecting rocks. But, if done correctly, Queen Mountain can be a real kingdom of obsidian treasures!

Where we found obsidian at Queen Mountain

Obsidian is easily found in the area because of the mountain’s height and erosion process.

Other Great Places To Find Obsidian Beds in Nevada

A picturesque view of the Silver Peak in Nevada

After giving you the best spots, We’ll list more fantastic locations to find obsidian in Nevada. To make things easier, we’ve sorted them by county below.

Our recommendations by county

County Location
Clark Alunite area
Esmeralda Sump Hole
Esmeralda Silverpeak
Washoe Sparks area draws and washes

Additional areas you can find obsidian

Given the size of Nevada, we want to ensure your search is efficient. It’s crucial to look for the key and pay attention to common locations for obsidians.

Lake Shores

Lake shores are not just for the cool breezes and pretty views but for finding obsidian, too! These spots are prime real estate for obsidian, the volcanic glass we’re all after.

Over time, rocks and minerals – obsidian included – get washed down into lakes from surrounding hills and mountains. And guess where they end up? Right on the shore! It’s like Mother Nature’s own delivery service. So, when walking by the water, keep your eyes peeled for that telltale shiny black rock.

Rivers and riverbanks

Rivers and riverbanks are more than just great spots for a picnic. They’re also fantastic places to find obsidian! Rivers often carry rocks and minerals from upstream, especially after rain or snowmelt. These rocks get washed and smoothed out by the water, eventually ending up along the riverbanks.

Remember to preserve the riverbanks’ beauty while you’re on the hunt. Despite these factors, rivers and riverbanks can be gold mines for obsidian hunters!

Streams and creeks

Streams and creeks are not only a haven for frogs and fish but also excellent places to find obsidian. Obsidian is one of the rocks that run down slopes during rain and snowmelt as they travel. These rocks find their way into creeks and streams.

Over time, they get smoothed out and washed downstream. And guess where many of them end up? Right along the banks! It’s like the water is doing all the hard work for you.

Washes and ravines

Obsidian may be abundant in washes and ravines that are also home to lovely views. These rough areas can be full of the shiny volcanic glass we seek.

During rainstorms, water goes down the sides of hills and mountains. The water carries different rocks, including obsidian. The rocks are left behind as the water rushes into ravines and washes. These locations seem to be natural conveyor belts that carry obsidian to us.

Common Obsidian-Hunting Questions

A tiny pretty snowflake obsidian with nice snowflake patterns

Responding to the following frequently asked questions about obsidians in Nevada is required.

Is it illegal to collect obsidian in Nevada?

The obsidian gathering is legal in Nevada if you abide by local laws. If you’re in a public space, abide by any applicable laws. If you’re on private land, make sure you have permission.

Black rock obsidian vs. Snowflake obsidian

Let’s talk about black rock obsidian compared to snowflake obsidian. Even though they’re both obsidian, they’re not quite the same. Kind of like how ice cream and gelato are yummy frozen treats, but they have their differences.

Black rock obsidian is like the classic version of obsidian. It’s what you usually think of when you hear ‘obsidian’: a glassy, smooth rock that’s really, really black. This happens because obsidian is formed from fast-cooling lava, which doesn’t give minerals time to grow, so it’s often very dark and clear.

On the other hand, Snowflake obsidian is like black rock obsidian’s cooler cousin. It’s still black and glassy, but it also has these neat white or grayish spots sprinkled all over like snowflakes on a dark night. Those ‘snowflakes’ are crystals of a cristobalite mineral, which forms as the obsidian slowly cools down over time.

The Best Places To Buy Obsidian In Nevada

I Love Crystals rock shop in Nevada where you can find and buy various obsidian specimens

It’s not for everyone to spend the whole day searching for obsidians in the outdoors. Sometimes a home display or collecting piece is all you need. This is a list of rock stores 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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