Montana isn’t called the Treasure State for nothing. It’s the leading producer of natural treasures like gold, silver, and copper throughout the U.S. It’s also a paradise for anyone who loves rocks and minerals.
Among the treasures you can find here are Montana opals. They catch the light in such a way that they shimmer with all the colors of the rainbow. However, finding opals in Montana isn’t as easy as just taking a stroll and picking them off the ground.
These precious stones are quite elusive and require some know-how and effort to locate. If you don’t know where to look, we’re here to guide you to the verified places where you can find Montana opals, such as Mount Blackmore, Glendive, Hyalite Reservoir, Pryor Mountains, and Pattee Canyon.
Whether you’re a seasoned opal hunter or just starting out, knowing where to look can make all the difference!
What Is Montana Opal Anyway?
Opal is a favorite among rock collectors and for good reasons. When you move an opal around, it flashes different colors because of its amazing play of colors. This property makes it easier to identify opal when it’s out in the field.
This happens because it’s made of tiny silica spheres that break up light, creating a dazzling color show. It’s like a natural kaleidoscope!
The value of an opal depends on a few things, with its colors and how they shine and change being the most important of them. People have loved this gem for a long time, and they use it mainly in jewelry. Some artists also use opal for other decorative items because of its beauty.
If you’re wondering where opals naturally exist, they can be found in a few places around the world, with Australia being the biggest source. The U.S., Mexico, Brazil, and some African countries also have opals, each with different colors and patterns.
The Best Places To Find Opal in Montana
As a haven of natural treasures, it’s not surprising that Montana has many great gem mine sites. But if you’re looking for opals here, below are our most recommended verified places for your exploration:
Mount Blackmore, located in the beautiful Gallatin Range, is a fantastic spot. Standing tall at over 10,000 feet, it’s a prominent feature in the landscape. Its rugged terrain, with its steep slopes and rocky outcrops, makes it an exciting challenge for hikers and geologists.
The Gallatin Range, where Mount Blackmore is, is known for its ancient rocks, some dating back over a billion years. The area is rich in various minerals and rocks, including beautiful opals. The terrain around Mount Blackmore is a mix of dense forests and open meadows, with streams and wildlife adding to its natural beauty.
To get to Mount Blackmore, you’ll start from the popular trailhead at Hyalite Reservoir, south of Bozeman. The trail to the top is about 10 miles round trip and is considered moderately difficult.
Don’t forget to review Montana’s local collecting guidelines before heading out here.
Where we found opal in Mount Blackmore
You can find both common opal and hyalite opal near the summit of Mount Blackmore.
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.
Located in eastern Montana, Glendive is near the beautiful Yellowstone River and the amazing badlands of Makoshika State Park. It’s famous for its striking landscapes, with rolling hills, rugged cliffs, and unique rock formations that look like they’re from another planet.
The geology of Glendive is super interesting. Aside from having opals, this region is also a goldmine for dinosaur fossils and other ancient treasures. The badlands are made of layers of sedimentary rock, which hold secrets from millions of years ago.
Glendive is located off Interstate 94, making it easily accessible by car if you want to visit. The town itself is charming, with a friendly community and all the amenities you might need for your opal-hunting adventure.
Where we found opal in Glendive
To find Montana opals, you can explore all area surfaces, draws, and washes in Glendive.
Nestled in the Gallatin Mountains, just south of Bozeman, Hyalite Reservoir is a real treat with its breathtaking scenery (just look at its photo!). It’s surrounded by thick forests and towering peaks, creating a picture-perfect backdrop for outdoor adventures.
It’s known for its diverse range of minerals and rocks, including hyalite opals. This place isn’t just about rocks, though. It’s also popular for hiking, fishing, and camping. Its trails take you through lush forests and offer amazing views of the water and the mountains. In the winter, it’s a wonderland for snowshoeing and ice climbing.
If you want to go here, it’s about a 30-minute drive from Bozeman. You just head south on 19th Avenue, which turns into Hyalite Canyon Road. This road takes you straight to the reservoir.
Where we found opal in the Hyalite Reservoir
You can find hyalite opals if you search in the high ridges and peaks of the Hyalite Reservoir.
Located in the south-central part of our state, near the border with Wyoming, Pryor Mountains offer some of the most unique and varied landscapes. They rise dramatically from the surrounding plains, creating a striking contrast.
This area is not only beautiful but also full of geological wonders. They’re known for their ancient rock formations that are rich in rocks and minerals, including opals, and even fossils.
The terrain in the Pryor Mountains is diverse. You’ll find deep canyons, high plateaus, and rugged cliffs. The area is also known for its wild horses, which you might spot while exploring. For hikers and nature lovers, the Pryor Mountains are a paradise with trails that offer breathtaking views and a chance to explore untouched natural beauty.
The closest major town here is Billings. From there, you can take Highway 310 towards Lovell, and then turn onto one of the several roads that lead into the mountains, like Pryor Mountain Road.
Where we found opal in the Pryor Mountains
You can search through the areas around weathered basalt flows and ash beds to find opals. You also have a high chance of uncovering this gem in the sedimentary layers between volcanic deposits.
Pattee Canyon is located near Missoula, in the western part of our state. It’s part of the Lolo National Forest and is known for its stunning natural beauty.
With its dense forests, meandering streams, and wildflower-covered meadows, this canyon offers a picturesque setting for a day of adventure.
This area has a mix of sedimentary, metamorphic, and igneous rocks, making it a worthwhile location if you want to find different rocks and minerals, including opals. Its terrain is comprised of gentle slopes as well as steeper areas. It’s also a peaceful place for nature walks, bird watching, and of course, rock hunting.
To go here, from Missoula, you can take South Higgins Avenue, which turns into Pattee Canyon Drive. This road leads directly into the canyon.
Where we found opal in the Pattee Canyon
You can find opals along the hiking trails and near stream beds in Pattee Canyon, especially in areas with exposed bedrock. The eroded slopes and cliffs of the canyon are also good spots to search through.
Other Great Places To Find Montana Opal
Aside from our top recommendations, below are other verified places where you can find opals in Montana. We’ve arranged them by county for your convenience:
Our recommendations by county
|Camp Creek regional gravel surfaces
|Frying Pan Basin
|Whiteware Clay occurrence
|Three Forks Placer
|W. Wilson Mine
|Golden Curry Mine
|Lewis and Clark
Common Opal-Hunting Questions
Part of your preparation for your opal hunting is to know the answer to the most common question asked by those who came here before you to collect opals.
Is it illegal to collect opal in Montana?
Collecting opal in Montana, as with any rock or mineral collecting, is subject to specific regulations and laws to ensure environmental protection and respect for property rights.
On public lands, such as national forests or Bureau of Land Management (BLM) areas, small-scale collecting for personal use is usually allowed, but there are limits on the amount you can collect and how you collect it. For instance, using heavy equipment or explosives is generally prohibited.
On private lands, you must obtain permission from the landowner before collecting opals. It’s important to research and follow the specific rules of the area you’re in, as regulations can vary depending on the location and management agency. For more information, consult with Montana’s U.S. Forest Service (USFS).
The Best Places To Buy Opal In Montana
As we said above, finding opal is not a walk in the park. You need to have ample time, energy, and patience to uncover them. If you can’t commit to full-on hunting, you can still find and take home Montana opals by visiting our local shops.
Here are some of our favorites:
- Craggy J Natural Arts – 7513 Montana Hwy 35, Bigfork, MT 59911
- Earth’s Treasures – 25 N Willson Ave # B, Bozeman, MT 59715
- Montana Gems of Philipsburg – 204 W Broadway St, Philipsburg, MT 59858
- Treasure Outpost Rock Shop – 3555 US-93, Kalispell, MT 59901
- Windy Way Rock Shop – 5237 US-89 #13, Livingston, MT 59047