People who live in California might be lucky enough to find opals, which are a very beautiful type of stone. Not like other rocks, these gems sparkle with a variety of colors when the light hits them just right.
Opals in California are mostly found in the hard deserts in the northern parts of the state. They don’t have as many colors as other opals, but they have their own special beauty. The colors are more pastel, and the background is milky white and glows with a fire inside.
You can find these hidden gems with the help of our article. If you want to find your own piece of opal in California, we’ll tell you where to look and all the information you’ll need.
Continue reading our guide if you’re ready to start your search for opals. It could lead you to not only a gem but also an exciting story you can hold in your hand!
What Is California Opal Anyway?
Opals are cool gems that look like they have a rainbow inside them. Other than being transparent, they’re not like other rocks because they have a bunch of tiny silica spheres inside that scatter light and show off all the colors.
In a different light, and when you move the opal, these colors move around and change. Opals are made over time when water moves through the ground and picks up silica from rock.
The water high in silica then gets into cracks and spaces in rocks. When the water disappears, the silica stays behind and hardens into opal.
Opals can be found all over the world. An opal’s value may change based on where it was found. They can also be found in places where hot springs have been.
You can find out how to identify opals more quickly in this article.
The Best Places To Find Opal in California
Let’s talk about where in the state you can find opal the best. Several areas are available to find gems in California, but only a few are good for opal. Many people don’t know about these places, but they’re beautiful!
Rock hunters who want to find opals will love the Benton Range. This area, tucked away in the eastern part of the state near the border with Nevada, is not your typical desert.
The unique rocks that you can find there make it stand out. Over millions of years, volcanoes exploded and left behind ash that hardened into tuff, a soft rock. This tuff is great for making opals because it has many tiny holes that water rich in silica can fill and turn into these sparkling rocks.
You can find “common opal” in the Benton Range. This type of opal may not have the famous “opal flash,” but it can have beautiful colors.
You might also have a better chance of finding something because it’s not as busy as other places where people go to look for opals. Plus, as you look for opals, you’ll be able to enjoy beautiful views of mountains and the sky.
The hunt for these gems will be as fun as the gifts you might find and bring home!
Read the most up-to-date rules on collecting before you bring anything back from California.
Where we found opal at Benton Range
When you search for opals in the Benton Range, you may come across pieces just sitting there. The opals can come to the surface because the ground is cracked and can bring them up to the surface.
The tools every geode hunter will need
When you're out looking for geodes having the right tools for the job is very important. 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 geode 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 geode-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:
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.
For finding opals, California’s Chocolate Mountains are like a secret store. This range includes the state’s southeast and is famous for its rough, rocky scenery.
It’s fantastic that these mountains are made of different rocks blasted together over time. People looking for wealth will be thrilled to find that there is a chance of finding opals in this mix of rocks.
Because this spot isn’t as well known for opal finding as others, it isn’t as crowded. This could make it easier for you to find your specimen.
Furthermore, the trip doesn’t end with opals; the Chocolate Mountains are also full of interesting plants and animals that were around during the Gold Rush. If you like a challenge and getting out into nature, this could be your next big opal experience.
Where we found opal at the Chocolate Mountain
You can find opals around the vicinity of Chocolate Mountains.
The Opal Mountains are hidden in the Mojave Desert. They are a great place to look for opals because not many people know about them.
This part of the desert isn’t like any other—it’s like a big puzzle made of volcanic rock pieces that could hide riches. A very long time ago, lava turned into rhyolite, which is a type of rock that looks like fire.
The water with silica in it dissolves and then seeps into the cracks in this rhyolite, which is where opals can form. This silica changed into the beautiful opals we see today over time.
You can find common opals here. They have a pretty, waxy glow, but they don’t play with color like some other opals do. Some people like to mine there, but not as many people do.
As you walk through the Opal Mountains, the Mojave Desert’s peaceful beauty makes the search for these gems an adventure in and of itself.
Where we found opal at Opal Mountain
You can explore the rocky terrain of the mountain to try your luck at finding opals here.
It’s not just the tall, rusty red cliffs and interesting rock shapes that make Red Rock Canyon State Park in California cool. Rock hunters are also very excited about this place because it’s where they can find opals.
This park is where the southernmost tip of the Sierra Nevada Mountains meets the El Paso Range. It has a past that includes rivers and volcanoes from long ago. The rocks that can hold opals were formed by volcanoes and rivers.
This makes the area interesting for people who like opals. The opals in Red Rock Canyon aren’t the flashy kind you might think of when you hear the word “opal.”
Instead, they’re the common type, which means they have a nice glow but not the rainbow colors you might imagine. It’s still fun to find them, though.
The park was once under the ocean, and the opals were formed when water filled in cracks in the rock with silica-rich water. Everyone is welcome to hike and explore Red Rock Canyon.
You can find these secret gems and enjoy some pretty amazing views while you’re there. Just make sure you know the rules about rock collecting before you go looking!
Where we found opal at Red Rock Canyon
The park’s rich geology does include layers of sedimentary rock, where you can find differrent opal specimens.
The Russian River is famous for the way its waters cut through beautiful scenery, making it a great place for people who love being outside. You can swim or paddleboard there, but it’s also a cool place for rock lovers.
Rivers like the Russian help bring stones and minerals from deep in the ground to the surface and move them around. Opals are sometimes one of these stones and minerals.
It’s not the same kind of opal that you see in jewelry stores; these are called “common opals.” Opals are very valuable, so these stones may not have the bright flashes of color that precious ones do. However, they can still look pretty cool with their soft glow.
It’s important to know the rules if you want to find an opal along the Russian River. This means finding out what the rules are in your area about gathering stones. You might be able to look anywhere, but in some places you might be limited to protect the environment.
Where we found opal at the Russian River
Because the water can carry these stones a long way, you might find them by the river or in the gravel beds. These secret gems are brought to the surface by a natural belt.
Other Great Places To Find California Opal
The next thing we’ll talk about is the other places on our list. They are put together below by county.
Our recommendations by county
|Calaveras||Valley Springs area, Hogan Reservoir|
|Calaveras||Valley Springs area, Hooten Ranch|
|Calaveras||Valley Springs area, Snyder Ranch|
|Calaveras||Green Mountain Mine|
|Calaveras||Rough Diamond Mine|
|Glenn||Black Diamond Mine|
|Inyo||Fish Springs area, San Carlos Mine|
|Inyo||Tecopa area, Noonday Mine|
|Kern||Mojave area, El Paso Mountains|
|Kern||Last Chance Canyon|
|Lake||Lakeport area, Clear Lake|
|Lassen||Long Valley Quarries|
|Los Angeles||Antelope Valley|
|Los Angeles||Agoura Hills|
|Los Angeles||Kagel Canyon|
|Los Angeles||Tick Canyon|
|Los Angeles||Palos Verdes Beach Cliffs|
|Los Angeles||Rolling Hills|
|Monterey||Santa Lucia Mountains|
|Plumas||Clio area, Laura Quartz Mine|
|San Bernardino||Cady Mountains|
|San Bernardino||Bristol Mountains|
|San Bernardino||Bristol Mountains|
|San Bernardino||Afton Canyon|
|San Bernardino||Black Mountains|
|San Bernardino||Lead Pipe Springs|
|San Bernardino||Black Canyon|
|San Bernardino||Saddleback Mountain|
|San Diego||Tourmaline Queen Mountain|
|San Luis Obispo||Shell Beach|
|Shasta||Burney Spring Mountain|
|Shasta||Lassen Volcanic National Park|
|Sonoma||Mount Pisgah Vineyard|
Common Opal-Hunting Questions
People often ask the following questions when they want to know where to find opal in California:
Is it illegal to collect opal in California?
In California, collecting opals or other minerals is not against the law, but it’s controlled, and you have to follow certain rules to do it properly.
You should check the current rules and laws for the place you want to collect opals or any other minerals in California before you go gathering them.
Rules can change, and some places may not be open to collecting for many reasons, such as protecting the environment. Always manage responsibly by following the “leave no trace” rules. This will help the earth as little as possible.
The Best Places To Buy Opal In California
Some people don’t like going outside to look for opal because they have to work hard and get dirty. If you don’t want to do that, this list is for you.
These are some of our favorite places in the area to find and buy opal:
- Chapman’s Gem & Minerals Shop – 66 Metropolitan Rd, Fortuna, CA 95540, United States
- Gems of the West – 41223B Big Bear Blvd, Big Bear Lake, CA 92315, United States
- Geology Rocks! – 835 Main St, Chico, CA 95928, United States
- The Rock Shop – 5115 Quinn Rd, Vacaville, CA 95688, United States
- Stories in Stones – 1249 S Main St, Angels Camp, CA 95222, United States