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Colorado Rockhounding Location Guide & Map

Colorado Rockhounding Location Guide & Map

Colorado is one of the best states in the U.S. for rockhounds, largely due to its incredible mountain ranges and complex geology. It also holds a special place in my heart as I grew up spending summers in Crested Butte. The state has thousands upon thousands of old mines and prospective rockhounding locations. Almost anywhere you turn in Colorado there will be something worth finding because collectible rocks and minerals are well distributed throughout the entire state.

Of course, with the mountainous terrain comes the complications of weather and accessibility. The best time to rockhound in Colorado will be between Spring and Fall when the weather is warm enough and the ground isn’t covered in snow. Many promising locations are difficult to access without a capable vehicle. The eastern part of the state is generally more accessible and, despite its lack of mountains, produces many rock and mineral specimens as float transported by rivers and streams.

The best places to rockhound in Colorado include the areas around Denver, Colorado Springs, Fort Collins, and Gunnison, as well as Chaffee, Mesa, and Mineral Counties. A wide variety of rocks and minerals can be found including rhodonite, amethyst, sphalerite, agate, garnet, fluorite, and fossils.

State Symbols
State MineralRhodochrosite
State RockYule Marble
State GemstoneAquamarine
State FossilStegosaurus
Colorado: Source

Rhodochrosite

Through quite a bit of research and cross-referencing of available literature, I have compiled this list of some prospective locations in Colorado which I would recommend to people looking to do some rockhounding. These are mostly comprised of old mining prospects, streams, and historically known rock and mineral collecting sites. For additional reading, I’d highly recommend these books you can find on Amazon:

Please remember that rock collecting locations are constantly changing. Specimens may become depleted from other collectors, the location may have been built on or altered, locality information in literature may be inaccurate, and property ownership may have changed hands. Though there are many locations listed here, this list is far from exhaustive. A location’s listing here is not a guarantee of accuracy. Be safe, never go underground, and make sure to get permission from the landowner to search for and collect specimens.

If you’re planning on heading to the field, make sure you have all the gear you’ll need! To get started, you can check out my recommended gear page which contains my full reviews for every Geologist’s favorite rock hammer and the best hiking backpack I’ve ever owned.

Colorado Rockhounding Locations

NOTE: All the locations listed in these tables are clickable, and will take you to the location on Google Maps.

Chaffee County

Chaffee County is home to many old mining prospects, making it a prime destination for rockhounds. Old mines and the surrounding hills and stream beds contain a countless variety of rocks and minerals including sapphire, garnets, topaz, fluorite, quartz crystals, epidote, and tourmaline. As always, take care never to go underground when searching.

LocationRocks & Minerals
Sugarloaf & Ruby MtsRhyolite, Perlite, Apache tears (‘black rubies’), Spessartine, Topaz (yellow), Feldspar, Quartz crystals
Summit of Mt. Antero (7 mile hike)Apatite, Aquamarine, Beryl, Bismutite, Calcite, Fluorite (white, green, purple), Pyrite, Smoky Quartz crystals, etc.
Chalk Creek gravels, areaSapphire
Sedalia Copper Mine (Turret Creek area)Actinolite, Almandine, Azurite, Beryle, Chrysocolla, Epidote, Kyanite, Pyrite, Quartz crystals, Tourmaline, etc.
Calumet Iron MineAmphibole, Chalcopyrite, Corundum, Epidote, Pyrite, Muscovite, Quartz crystals, Sagenitic Quartz, Sapphire, etc.

Denver

The area around Denver, particularly west into Jefferson County, is a fantastic destination for rockhounds. The best places to search include local mineral prospects, pegmatite exposures, and local creek beds. Minerals found in the area include fluorite, quartz, calcite, zeolite, and aquamarine.

LocationRocks & Minerals
W of Sugarloaf Peak, Wigwam CreekAmazonite, Fluorite (purple), Quartz crystals (clear, smoky)
Exposures 1/4 mi. W of Rte. 74Fluorite, Gold, Silver, Chalcocite, Sphalerite, Willemite
N & S Table Mts, many area mines & quarriesApophyllite, Aragonite, Calcite, Halloysite, Zeolite crystals, Stilbite, Zeolites
NW flanks of Centennial Cone, in pegmatitesAquamarine, Bertrandite, Beryl, Smoky Quartz crystals
Pegmatites in road cutsAllanite, Astrophyllite, Epidote, Garnets, Hyalite Opal, Hornblende, Magnetite, Sphene, etc.

Gunnison

Gunnison and the surrounding area have long been noted for their rock and mineral specimens. Local mining prospects, stream beds, pegmatite veins provide a vast array of minerals for collectors including lapis lazuli, garnets, marble, tourmaline, and even some gold and copper.

LocationRocks & Minerals
Area on W of Italian Mt.Lapis Lazuli, Garnet
12 mi. up Cement Creek Rd.Albite, Ankerite, Chlorite, Diopside, Epidote, Garnet, Lazurite, Magnetite, Stilbite, Talc, etc.
Along Hwy between Marble and Carbondale‘Colorado Yule’ Marble, as float
Quartz Creek Pegmatites area, Opportunity MineAlbite, Beryl, Lepidolite, Mica, Tourmaline, Monazite
Gunnison ‘Gold Belt’ Mines, areaGold, Copper minerals

Fort Collins

The Fort Collins area has some very interesting rockhounding locations, particularly the areas of the aptly named Specimen and Crystal mountains. Specimens of calcite, agate, quartz, topaz, diamond, gold, and more can be found in the mountains and mining prospects surrounding Fort Collins.

LocationRocks & Minerals
Specimen Mt, W and S slopesAllophane, Calcite, Agate, Quartz, Topaz
Crystal Mt area pegmatites, esp. E sideBeryl, Bismutite, Fluorapatite, Muscovite, Autunite, Bertrandite,
Diamond Peak, areaDiamond
Howes Gulch area minesChalcopyrite, Gold, Pyrite, Copper
Wisdom Ranch prospectBeryl, Chrysoberyl, Garnet, Graphic Granite

Colorado Springs

Colorado Springs is one of the best areas in Colorado for rockhounds. The many area pegmatites, old mining dumps, and area streams contain fantastic specimens of minerals such as agate, fluorite, zircon, and fluorite. The St. Peter’s Dome district in particular is famously for its quality mineral specimens.

LocationRocks & Minerals
Austin Bluffs, areaAgate, Carnelian, Chalcedony, Jasper
Sentinel Rock and Specimen RockAmazonite, Fluorite (green), Goethite, Hematite, Quartz crystals
Mine dump .3 mi. W of Gold Camp Rd & High DriveZircon crystals
S of Cook Mt., areaAmazonite, Smoky Quartz, Topaz
Below road of Eureka Tunnel, W side of streamZircon (gem), Fluorite

Mesa County

While the variety of minerals is not as large as other parts of Colorado, Mesa County is one of the best places in the U.S. to search for dinosaur bones. There are are many areas which are known to contain petrified dinosaur bones and gastroliths, as well as opalized wood and agate.

LocationRocks & Minerals
Black Ridge fossil bedsPetrified dinosaur bone, Gastroliths
Colorado River valley & side canyons W of Grand JunctionAgate, Chalcedony, Jasper, Opal, Petrified wood, Dinosaur bones
Goodman Point, areaPetrified dinosaur bones
Dinosaur Hill areaPetrified dinosaur bones, Gastroliths
Glade Park, areaOpalized Wood, Agate

Mineral County

Mineral County is certainly deserving of its name, and has long been a destination for hopeful rockhounds. The Willow Creek district north of Creede is particularly famous for its prolific amethyst, but the area is largely privately owned and picked over by now. Still, there are many locations in Mineral County where one can hope to find amethyst, agates, geodes, moonstone, and plenty of other minerals.

LocationRocks & Minerals
Willow Creek, many mines (mostly private now, get permission)Amethyst crystals, Chalcedony, Sphalerite, Silver minerals. Agate
Willow Creek W fork stream bedTurquoise
Last Chance Mine (fee)Jasper, Galena, Copper, Turquoise, Rhodonite, Sowbelly agate
Wolf Creek stream bed, areaAmethyst geodes, Agate, Chalcedony, Jasper, Moonstone, Quartz crystals,
Wolf Creek Pass, 6 mi. W of summit, areaAgate, Jasper, Chalcedony, Moonstone

Tip: Check out my Complete Rock Tumbling Guide to make your rocks and gemstones really shine!

Colorado Rockhounding Laws & Regulations

One of the most common questions rockhounds have is whether or not they are allowed to collect at a certain location. It is the responsibility of each rockhound to obtain permission from a landowner to search and/or collect on a piece of property.

The ownership and status of land can and does change frequently, making it impossible to document accurate information on this page. However, I have compiled a list of resources here so that you may investigate and obtain permission for any locations (found here or elsewhere) for yourself.

Public Land Resources

I have written entire articles which cover the rockhounding laws and regulations for nearly every type of public land you can think of. I encourage you to check them out if you are curious about the legalities of rock and mineral collecting.

To determine what type of public land a particular location is on, I would recommend the Colorado State Land Board’s Map Tools which keeps accurate maps of every kind of public land in the state.

Private Land Resources

As with most states, each county in Colorado will have records of who owns each piece of property. Unfortunately for rockhounds, the law prohibits them from publishing their names or contact information online. You can get the landowner’s name and address by visiting the county records office. This site contains a detailed process for accessing as much information as possible through these means.