The 23 Proven Sites To Find And Mine For Turquoise In California In 2024

By Dr. Keith Jackson - Geology PhD

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The 23 Proven Sites To Find And Mine For Turquoise In California In 2024

By Dr. Keith Jackson - Geology PhD


With its vast and varied landscape, hunting for turquoise in California offers a bit of a challenge of rarity that makes the discovery all the more rewarding. The adventure of searching for it here is as exciting as uncovering the gem itself.

If you’re wondering where to mine for turquoise in California, there are a handful of proven sites that you should know about: Chocolate Mountains, New York Mountains, Last Chance Range, Turquoise Mountains, and Slate Mountain.

As we go through each site, you’ll realize that our state is a unique playground for this precious blue-green mineral. Whether you’re a novice or an experienced rockhound, you can find California turquoise with the help of this guide!

What Is California Turquoise Anyway?

Several pieces of tumbled turquoise stones
Tumbled turquoise photo provided by and available for purchase at StonesOfHansel

Identifying turquoise is all about looking for its unique color that comes in shades of blue and green. Sometimes, it even has a web-like pattern called a matrix, which can add to its beauty.

The value of turquoise depends on its color, with bright blue being the most sought-after, and how rare it is. The presence of the matrix, its hardness, and where it comes from also play a big role in how much it’s worth.

This gem is not just for looking at; it’s super versatile! Turquoise has been used in jewelry for thousands of years, adding a pop of color to rings, necklaces, and bracelets.

It’s also a big part of many cultures, used in art and as a symbol of protection and good luck. People even used it in ancient times as currency because it was so valuable.

The best places to find turquoise are in dry, arid regions. The Southwestern USA, Iran, China, and Mexico are known for their beautiful and unique specimens.

The Types Of Turquoise Found In California

While California might not be as famous as Arizona or Nevada for its turquoise mines, it still offers a variety of turquoise types for enthusiasts and collectors, such as:

  • Bishop blue turquoise
  • Landers blue turquoise
  • Candelaria turquoise
How We Found The Best Turquoise Locations in California
When it comes to choosing the best options for finding California turquoise 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 geode 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 geode 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 Turquoise in California

Several pieces of raw turquoise stones
Turquoise stones photo provided by The Crystal Lion

You might already be aware that many gem mine sites in California bear an amazing array of rocks and minerals. However, not all of them have turquoise. In fact, only a few of them have this blue-green wonder.

So, if you want to uncover them, here are some of our top recommended proven sites to explore:

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.

Chocolate Mountains

Sunset casting on the slopes of the Chocolate Mountains

The Chocolate Mountains stretch across the southeastern part of our state, reaching into the desert areas. With steep canyons, sharp peaks, and rolling hills, going here is like stepping onto another planet.

Its name comes from the dark, brownish rocks that make the mountains look like they’re covered in chocolate from a distance. They’re famous for their rich geology, full of different minerals and gems, including turquoise.

Getting to the Chocolate Mountains can be an adventure in itself. They’re located in a remote part of the desert. The best way to get there is by driving from nearby cities like Blythe or El Centro.

While planning your trip, make sure to also review California’s local collecting guidelines and ensure your compliance with them.

Where we found turquoise in the Chocolate Mountains

You can search through the True Friend Mine and Silver Mom Mine on the east flanks of the Chocolate Mountains to find light blue to deep green California turquoise that often also have interesting patterns.

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 

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.

New York Mountains

Aerial view of the sharp peaks, deep valleys, and rocky terrains of the New York Mountains

The New York Mountains are part of the larger Mojave Desert, sitting pretty near the Nevada border. They’re made more interesting by the mix of sharp peaks, deep valleys, and lots of wide-open spaces that seem to go on forever.

This area is a bit like a secret garden, but instead of flowers, it’s filled with fascinating rocks and minerals. It’s a great spot to search for turquoise, among other treasures.

This place has a history of mining, thanks to its rich deposits of valuable minerals. Its turquoise is known for its high quality and beautiful colors. It can range from sky blue to green, often with striking patterns that make each piece unique.

If you want to pay a visit, the best way to start is from the town of Needles, California, or even from Las Vegas, Nevada, and then head into the heart of the Mojave Desert.

Where we found turquoise in the New York Mountains

We recommend searching through the Barnwell area in the New York Mountains to find turquoise.

Last Chance Range

Amazing details on the mountains of Last Chance Range

Tucked away in the eastern part of California, near Death Valley National Park, the Last Chance Range has mountains that stretch up toward the sky, with valleys and canyons that carve through the landscape.

For rock hunters, the Last Chance Range is like hitting the jackpot. This area is known for its unique geology, packed with a variety of minerals and gems, including the star of the show: turquoise.

The turquoise here is a sight to behold, with colors that can range from the brightest blues to greens, often wrapped in a beautiful matrix that adds character to each piece.

To go here, the closest big spot to start your journey is the town of Bishop. From there, you’ll head into the more remote parts of our state. It’s important to have a good map and a vehicle that can handle off-road conditions.

Where we found turquoise in the Last Chance Range

To find captivating pieces of turquoise, you can search through the part of the Last Chance range that’s almost on the Nevada line.

Turquoise Mountains

View of the Turquoise Mountains from afar

Nestled in the Mojave Desert, the Turquoise Mountains offer an adventure for anyone willing to explore. They have rugged terrains that include hills, canyons, and wide-open spaces.

True to its name, this area is known for some of the most beautiful turquoise stones in our state.

The turquoise here has a wide range of colors, from light sky blues to deep greens, often mixed with interesting patterns. Rock hunters come from all over hoping to find a piece of this natural beauty for themselves.

Interested to visit? They’re located in the eastern part of California, near the border with Nevada. The closest town is Barstow, which can be a good starting point for your journey. From there, you’ll need to drive into the desert.

Where we found turquoise in the Turquoise Mountains

Explore the various small mines, especially the Himalaya claims, at the head of Rigss Wash near Silver Lake at the Turquoise Mountains to find gorgeous turquoise pieces.

Slate Mountain

Wide view of the Slate Mountain foregrounded with a wide, open field

Slate Mountain is a bit off the beaten path. It’s part of the Sierra Nevada range, which means it’s surrounded by some of the most stunning scenery you can imagine. Picture tall trees, wide-open skies, and views that go on for miles.

The terrain here is a mix of rugged paths, forested areas, and, of course, lots of slate—a dark, fine-grained rock that gives the mountain its name. It’s also known for having a variety of minerals, including pockets of turquoise.

The turquoise that can be found here is usually nestled within the slate, creating a beautiful contrast of colors and textures.

If you’re planning to go here, it’s located in the southern part of the Sierra Nevada, near the Sequoia National Forest. The closest towns are Springville and Porterville. You’ll need to drive on some winding mountain roads, and then there’s a bit of hiking involved to reach the best spots.

Where we found turquoise in the Slate Mountain

The turquoise here is occasionally found within the slate formations that dominate the mountain’s geology, often nestled in small pockets or veins. Focus on areas where natural erosion or previous mining activities have exposed the rock layers.

Other Great Places To Find California Turquoise

A big chunk of raw turquoise in bright blue color
Raw turquoise photo provided by themineralcollective

If you’re interested in knowing more proven sites to find California turquoise, you can refer to the list arranged by county below:

Our recommendations by county

County Location
Madera Taylor Ranch
San Benito Llanada Copper Mine
San Bernardino Grove Mine
San Bernardino Solo Mining District area prospects
San Bernardino Goldstone Camp area
San Bernardino East Camp prospect in Solomons Knob
San Bernardino Apache Mine
San Bernardino Middle Camp
San Bernardino Toltec Mine
San Bernardino Iron Mountain deposit
San Bernardino Soda Mountains
San Luis Obispo Paso Robles

Common Turquoise-Hunting Questions

Flat, polished Arizona turquoise
Arizona turquoise photo provided by GEMS GALAXY

You might have a couple of questions in mind regarding turquoise hunting here, so we’ll help you out by answering one of the most common queries posed by other rockhounds before you:

Is it illegal to collect turquoise in California?

The legality of collecting turquoise in California depends on where you are and whose land you’re on. On public lands, casual collecting of small amounts for personal use is generally allowed without a permit.

However, there are specific rules to follow, such as limitations on the amount you can collect and the prohibition of using mechanical equipment without a claim or permit.

On state lands, regulations can be stricter, and collecting may not be allowed without explicit permission. Private lands require the owner’s permission. Also, note that collecting in National Parks and Monuments is strictly prohibited.

For more specific information, best consult the California Department of Parks and Recreation website.

The Best Places To Buy Turquoise In California

Another great way to be exposed to the vast natural wonders of California, especially its turquoise deposits, is to visit our trusted local rock and mineral shops. Below are some of the ones you can consider:

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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