The 19 Verified Places To Find And Mine For Opal In Montana In 2024

By Dr. Keith Jackson - Geology PhD

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The 19 Verified Places To Find And Mine For Opal In Montana In 2024

By Dr. Keith Jackson - Geology PhD


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?

A stunning piece of black opal showing flashes of vibrant rainbow hues
Black opal photo provided by and available for purchase at WorldMineralsStore

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.

How We Found The Best Opal Locations in Montana
When it comes to choosing the best options for finding Montana opal there are plenty of things we consider. Many of the best locations are closely guarded secrets which can make it really difficult for more casual rock hunters to find success. 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 rock 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!

The Best Places To Find Opal in Montana

A cut and polished opal with vibrant flashes of green, orange, purple, and blue
Cut and polished opal photo provided by Absolute Opals & Gems

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:

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.

Mount Blackmore

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.

Rock pick being used

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:

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.


Scenic view on top of an incredible land formation in Glendive

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.

Hyalite Reservoir

A picturesque view of the Hyalite Reservoir with the Elephant Mountains in the background

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.

Pryor Mountains

A view of the amazing rock formations at the epic Pryor Mountains

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

One of the peaks in Pattee Canyon

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

A colorful opal cabochon
Opal cabochon photo provided by N2 Inc.

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

County Location
Beaverhead Camp Creek regional gravel surfaces
Beaverhead Frying Pan Basin
Fergus Whiteware Clay occurrence
Gallatin Three Forks Placer
Jefferson W. Wilson Mine
Jefferson Golden Curry Mine
Lewis and Clark Dutro Mine
Madison Red Bluff
Wibaux St. Philips

Common Opal-Hunting Questions

A beautiful cut and polished opal boulder with flashes of pink, orange and blue hues and strikes of occasional purple and green
Opal boulder photo provided by Absolute Opals & Gems

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

Building and front store area of Montana Gems

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:

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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