Top 20 Destinations In The US For Rockhounds and Gem Hunters

By Keith Jackson - Geologist

| Updated

Top 20 Destinations In The US For Rockhounds and Gem Hunters

By Keith Jackson - Geologist


The United States is a sprawling playground if you have a passion for unearthing rocks and minerals. With a map in one hand and a sense of curiosity in the other, you can be drawn to our diverse landscapes that hide diverse natural wonders.

From the deserts that shimmer with gems to mountains that guard the secrets of rare crystals, we’ll take you to the top vacation destinations for rockhounds and gem enthusiasts in the US. Each of these places promises a unique and new adventure!

Best US Destinations For Rockhounding

For rockhounds and gem enthusiasts, our country is a vast playground filled with diverse and fascinating destinations.

Across the deserts of the Southwest to the shores of the Great Lakes, here are the top vacation spots that offer the opportunity to discover beautiful rocks and minerals:

Crater of Diamonds State Park, Arkansas

A father and his two sons digging for diamonds at the Crater of Diamonds State Park

Crater of Diamonds State Park offers a unique adventure where you can dig for real diamonds in their original volcanic source. It’s the site of the largest diamond ever found in the US, named the Uncle Sam Diamond.

It’s the only place in the world where you can search for diamonds and keep what you find. Its landscape is a mix of rolling hills and the exposed crater of an ancient volcano.

You can walk across the diamond search area, a large, open field where you can rent tools or bring your own to sift through the soil.

Emerald Hollow Mine, North Carolina

Several visitors looking for rocks and minerals at the creek in the Emerald Hollow Mine

Emerald Hollow Mine is tucked away in a region famed for its dense forests and rolling hills, providing a scenic backdrop to the thrill of discovery.

It’s the only emerald mine in the United States open to the public for prospecting. Its terrain is varied, with natural streams and wooded paths leading to areas where you can dig for precious stones.

The soil and rocks hide not just emeralds but over 60 types of gems and minerals. In fact, it’s one of the few places in the world where hiddenite, a rare green gemstone, can be found.

Franklin, New Jersey

Fluorescent rocks and minerals displayed at the Franklin Mineral Museum in Franklin

Franklin is a small town with a big reputation among rock enthusiasts. It’s nestled among gentle hills and lush greenery, giving it a peaceful, inviting atmosphere.

Its rich geology earned it the title, “Fluorescent Mineral Capital of the World.” It’s home to over 350 types of minerals, some of which can only be found in this unique corner of the world.

The ground beneath this area is filled with minerals that glow in vibrant colors under ultraviolet light. When you visit, you can explore mines and museums that showcase these glowing treasures.

Graves Mountain, Georgia

Rugged and steep slopes of Graves Mountain being explored by visitors

Graves Mountain is famous for its rugged terrain, with steep slopes covered in trees and dirt paths that will lead you to areas rich in minerals.

The area was once a mine, so it’s packed with a variety of rocks and minerals. It’s known for its unique finds, like rutile, a mineral that can look like golden needles, and lazulite, with its deep blue hue.

Graves Mountain hosts a famous Rock Swap & Dig event, where enthusiasts gather to dig for rare and beautiful minerals.

Rainbow Ridge Opal Mine, Nevada

Vasy, open landscape of Rainbow Ridge Opal Mine with visitors digging for some finds

Rainbow Ridge Opal Mine is a hidden gem in the vast, open landscape of the desert in Nevada. This place is like stepping into another world, where the rugged terrain of the high desert meets the excitement of uncovering sparkling treasures.

The mine is famous for its precious opal deposits. These natural treasures dazzle with a whole spectrum of colors.

It has been a family-run operation for years, making it a place where you can feel the passion for rockhounding passed down through generations.

Gem Mountain Sapphire Mine, Montana

Tons of visitors sifting through the gravels found at Gem Mountain Sapphire Mine

Gem Mountain Sapphire Mine is set against the breathtaking backdrop of Montana’s wide-open skies and majestic mountains. The terrain around it is as inviting as it is picturesque, with rivers and forests that add to the adventure.

This place has been a source of sapphires for over a century, making it a historic spot for gem enthusiasts.

It gives you the chance to sift through the gravel and discover your own sapphires. The experience is hands-on, with the thrill of finding a sparkling gem among the rough stones.

Jade Cove, California

Aerial view of the amazing formation at Jade Cove

Jade Cove looks like a spot from a storybook! Located along the rugged Pacific coastline, it offers breathtaking views of the ocean and cliffs.

Its terrain is a mix of sandy beaches and rocky shores. It’s part of the Los Padres National Forest, which means it’s protected and preserved for future generations.

What makes Jade Cove stand out is its reputation for jade, a beautiful and tough gemstone that can be found along the water’s edge. This spot is particularly special because the jade here is of very high quality.

Keystone, South Dakota

Entrance to one of the most well-known mines in Keystone, the Big Thunder Gold Mine

Keystone is nestled in the heart of the Black Hills, a region in South Dakota known for its rich history and stunning landscapes. This area boasts a variety of terrains, from dense forests to rugged mountainous areas.

It’s particularly famous for its proximity to Mount Rushmore. The surrounding Black Hills are packed with minerals and gems, including gold, which initially drew explorers to the area.

In fact, it was once a booming mining town during the Gold Rush era, adding a historical layer to your rockhounding adventures.

Royal Peacock Opal Mine, Nevada

Dig site at the Royal Peacock Opal Mine with a few visitors busily digging

The Royal Peacock Opal Mine is located in the vast, open landscape of the Virgin Valley. It’s surrounded by the rugged beauty of the high desert, with wide-open skies and the quiet that only such remote areas can offer.

Its ground is rich with volcanic ash layers, where stunning opals have been formed over millions of years. Specifically, it’s known for having some of the most beautiful black fire opals in the world.

When you visit here, you’ll have the chance to find your own opals, ranging from flashes of color to full-spectrum fire opals.

Topaz Mountain, Utah

Wide view of the Topaz Mountain foregrounded with a wide area of land

Topaz Mountain is set in a rugged landscape in Utah. With its stark and stunning high desert scenery, it offers more than just breathtaking views.

Its terrain is dotted with rocky outcrops and natural cavities that hide shimmering topaz, the state gemstone of Utah. Its naturally occurring topaz is so abundant that you can find it lying on the ground or hidden in the rocks here.

After a good rain, your chances of finding topaz on the surface increase. Make sure to consider that when you go here!

Sunstone Knoll, Utah

Wide view of Sunstone Knoll under beautiful blue skies

Sunstone Knoll feels like a secret hidden in plain sight. Situated in the vast, open landscape of the Utah desert, its geography is marked by the knoll itself—a low, round hill that rises from the flat surroundings.

Its terrain is mostly open and sandy, with areas of volcanic rock that hint at the area’s explosive past.

You can find sunstone here. These glittering stones capture the essence of sunlight, sparkling in hues of orange and red. They’re formed from past volcanic activity in the area.

Herkimer Diamond Mines, New York

A father and three kids exploring the dig site at the Herkimer Diamond Mine

Herkimer Diamond Mine is a place where you can dig up your own sparkling treasures. Set in the beautiful countryside, the mine’s landscape is a mix of rocky terrain and lush greenery.

These so-called “diamonds” are actually very clear quartz crystals that are naturally faceted, shining bright like real diamonds.

Herkimer diamonds are over 500 million years old, giving you a tangible piece of history to hold in your hand. They are named after Herkimer County, where they are predominantly found.

Morefield Gem Mine, Virginia

A group of young boys digging at the Morefield Gem Mine

Located in a peaceful, wooded area, the Morefield Gem Mine offers a tranquil escape into nature where adventure awaits underfoot. The terrain around the mine is gently hilly, typical of Virginia’s lush landscape.

It’s known for its abundance of minerals, especially amazonite, a beautiful green gemstone.

It’s not just a mine; it’s like a natural underground museum! Over 80 different minerals have been identified here, making your visit a unique adventure into the wonders of nature.

Sweet Home Mine, Colorado

A stunning specimen of cherry-red rhodochrosite crystals with clear quartz
Rhodochrosite with quartz from Sweet Home Mine photo provided by Collector’s Edge Minerals – @collectorsedgeminerals

Sweet Home Mine is located in the heart of the Rocky Mountains. It’s surrounded by stunning natural scenery, with towering peaks and lush forests.

This rugged terrain is not just for looks; it’s rich in geology, offering a home to some of the world’s most beautiful rhodochrosite crystals. These crystals are known for their striking red color, which stands out against the earthy tones of the mine.

This mine has produced some of the finest rhodochrosite specimens ever found, making it a must-visit for anyone looking for this particular wonder.

Oregon Sunstone Public Collection Area

Signage of the Oregon Sunstone Public Collection Area with a view of the stretch of the area

The Oregon Sunstone Public Collection Area offers an adventure into the vast, open landscapes of the state’s high desert. It’s known for its sunstones, which are Oregon’s official state gem.

Its geography is wide and open, with flat, sagebrush-covered terrain that stretches out under big, blue skies. It has had volcanic activity from millions of years ago, creating the perfect conditions for sunstones to form.

The sunstones found here can range in color from water-clear to yellow, pink, and red, due to the presence of copper in them.

Benitoite Gem Mine, California

Beautiful cluster of lustrous, sharo blue benitoite crystals from the Benitoite Gem Mine

The Benitoite Gem Mine is a real-life treasure hunt set in the picturesque landscapes of the California hills. It’s the world’s primary source for benitoite, California’s state gem.

With its unique blue color, benitoite shines like sapphire stars against the earthy backdrop of the mine. This gemstone is not only rare but also has a special quality: it fluoresces under UV light, glowing bright blue in the dark.

Benitoite was first discovered here in 1907, and to this day, this mine remains one of the few places on earth where you can find this stunning gem.

Yellowstone River, Montana

Picturesque aerial view of the stretch of Yellowstone River and the landscapes surrounding it

Yellowstone River is a majestic natural wonder, flowing freely through mountains, valleys, and plains. It’s a paradise for those who love the outdoors.

The river’s geography offers a diverse landscape, from the rocky terrain of the mountains to the smoother, sediment-rich areas downstream. This variety makes it an ideal spot for hunting for agates, petrified wood, and other river-worn gems.

It’s one of the last free-flowing rivers in the lower 48 states, which means it runs its course without being interrupted by major dams.

Cherokee Ruby & Sapphire Mine, North Carolina

A signage of the Cherokee Ruby and Sapphire Mine with a view of its surroundings

Cherokee Ruby & Sapphire Mine is nestled in the heart of the Smoky Mountains, offering a unique blend of natural beauty and exciting exploration opportunities. Its terrain is lush and green, with rolling hills that hide beautiful gems.

This mine allows visitors to search for rubies and sapphires in their natural setting, just as nature intended. It’s one of the few places in the world where you can find these precious stones in their native habitat.

Be informed, however, that it prohibits the use of machinery. This only makes your experience as authentic and hands-on as possible.

Dugway Geode Beds, Utah

A man about to strike at the collecting site of the Dugway Geode Beds
A man collecting geodes at the Dugway Geode Beds photo provided by Fossilera

Dugway Geode Beds, located in the vast and open desert, is famous for its abundance of geodes— round rocks filled with crystal formations inside.

Its terrain is mostly flat with rugged beauty, dotted with volcanic ash beds where the geodes are waiting to be discovered. Venturing out into this landscape feels like a real adventure, as you search for these natural wonders.

Many of the geodes you’ll find here contain beautiful quartz crystals, some even sparkle with amethyst.

Himalaya Tourmaline Mine, California

Children sifting through gravels to find different rocks and minerals, especially tourmaline, at the Himalaya Tourmaline Mine

The Himalaya Tourmaline Mine is tucked away in the beautiful landscapes of Southern California. It’s rich in history and geology, offering a rugged terrain that’s as challenging as it is rewarding for those who explore it.

Known for its colorful tourmaline, the mine is a favorite among those who appreciate these unique minerals. Its surrounding area is marked by hills and valleys that provide a scenic backdrop for your adventure.

It has produced some of the finest tourmaline specimens in the world, including rare colors that can’t be found anywhere else.

About Keith Jackson - Geologist

Keith Jackson is an avid rockhound who is constantly exploring new sites to expand his collection. He is an active Geologist with a wealth of experience and information from across the country that he loves to share with the Rock Chasing crew.

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