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New Mexico Rockhounding Location Guide & Map

New Mexico Rockhounding Location Guide & Map

New Mexico is one of the best states in the U.S. for rockhounding, both for its large quantity of rockhounding sites and the wide variety of rocks and minerals available to be collected. The state’s vast open grasslands and deserts are largely covered by public lands which are open for public use – including rockhounding – which make it an attractive destination for amateur geologists. While there are no shortages of sites or minerals to collect, caution should be taken when venturing into the sparsely populated and difficult to access wilderness in which they reside.

The best rockhounding sites in New Mexico are in the state’s many National Forests and wilderness areas, including mining dumps, stream gravels, and rocky surfaces. Public lands like Rockhound State Park and Jemez National Recreation Area are popular locations where rockhounding is encouraged.

This article will dive deeper into the many great rockhounding sites across the state, but I’d like to highlight a few standouts here. The top 10 rockhounding sites in New Mexico:

State Symbols
State MineralTurquoise
State Rock
State GemstoneTurquoise
State FossilCoelophysis
New Mexico: Source
Turquoise
Turquoise

New Mexico boasts a wide variety of rocks and minerals which rockhounds from all over the world come to collect for themselves. The most famous of these is turquoise, which as the state’s gemstone has become nearly synonymous with the American Southwest. Other minerals which are fairly unique to the state include ‘Apache tears’ and ‘Pecos diamonds’ which are actually double-terminated quartz crystals.

The most commonly found minerals in New Mexico are:

  • Agate
  • Jasper
  • Chalcedony
  • Fluorite
  • Petrified wood
  • Chalcopyrite
  • Quartz crystals
  • Pyrite
  • Turquoise

Through quite a bit of research and cross-referencing of available literature, I have compiled this list of some prospective locations in New Mexico 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.

Rockhounding Sites in New Mexico

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

For ease of reference, I’ll break up the state into the four regions shown on the map below. Each region will have its own list of rockhounding locations with an accompanying map.

Public Health Regions

Albuquerque & Northwestern New Mexico Rockhounding Sites

As with the rest of the state, Northwestern New Mexico contains a wealth of rockhounding sites with a wide variety of rocks and minerals. The best places to rockhound near Albuquerque are the Rio Puerco Valley, the area surrounding Los Lunas, and Laguna. Other great rockhounding sites in the area include Pedernal Park, Abiquiu Lake, and localities in Carson National Forest. Many types of rocks and minerals can be found around Albuquerque including agate, jasper, opalized and petrified wood, fluorite, and turquoise.

LocationRocks & Minerals
Rio Puerco Valley, area gravels, washes, etc.Agate, Chalcedony, Jasper, Opalized wood, Agatized wood
Albuquerque, WNW in area sand dunesAgatized wood
Pajarito Mesa, area hills and arroyosAgatized wood, Agate, Jasper
Isleta Pueblo, area surfaces, draws, washes, etc.Opal, Opalized wood, Agatized wood
Tijeras Canyon, area minesFluorite
Zuni Mountains, area surfacesAgate, Chalcedony, Jasper, Petrified wood
Thoreau, area minesAmber
Coyote, area minesAzurite, Malachite
Harding Pegmatite MineApatite (blue), Bityite, Eurcyptite, Lepidolite (purple), Muscovite (rose), Quartz crystals, Spodumene, Tourmaline (green)
Ghost Ranch, area N of Abiquiu LakeAgate
Abiquiu Lake, S sideAgate
Pedernal Park, area to NAgate, Chalcedony, Chert, Jasper
La Madera MineMica (book)
La Madera, area hillsides to NECalcite crystals, Limonite crystals, Geodes
Las Tablas, mines to SWTourmaline
Sunnyside Mine, SW of PetacaAquamarine, Beryl
Petaca, mine dump 1 mi. W on S side of roadFeldspar (pink), Mica (book), Quartz
La Madera, area 1/2 mi. SEDumortierite, Specularite, Chert (gem-quality)
Youngsville, area gravels and drawsAgate (gem-quality)
Sante Fe National Forest, areaAgate, Apache tears, Jasper, Obsidian
Cuba, area minesCopper minerals, Chrysocolla
Nacimieto Mountains, area draws and washesAgate, Azurite, Chalcedony, Chrysocolla, Malachite
Jemez National Recreation Area, area near Battleship RockObsidian, Opalized wood (in tuffs)
NW San Juan County, in Ojo Alamo formation exposuresChart, Garnet, Jasper, Quartzite, Petrified wood
Blanco Trading Post, SW on sides of Rte. 57Chalcedony
Bisti Wilderness, broad areaAgatized dinosaur bones, Carbonized wood, Silicified mudballs
Turquoise Hill and surrounding areaAgate, Chalcedony, Chert, Jasper
Mount Chalchihuitl, area slopes and drawsAgate, Chalcedony, Petrified wood, Turquoise
San Pedro Mountains, area minesChalcopyrite, Chalcocite
Estancia Dry Lake, large areaEpsomite, Glauberite
Belen to Los Lunas, area gravels and washesAgate (gem-quality)
Grants, mines over a large areaMany radioactive minerals
Laguna, area surfacesAgate, Jasper
Los Lunas, area to SWAgate (red, banded), Apache tears, Agatized wood, Obsidian

Sante Fe & Northeastern New Mexico Rockhounding Sites

Compared to the rest of the state Northeastern New Mexico is relatively lacking in rockhounding sites, but there are still many worthwhile locations to investigate. The best places to rockhound near Sante Fe include several mining dumps along the Pecos River, the area north of Las Vegas, and several outcrops and sites to the southwest of Picuris Peak. Several rocks and minerals can be found including agate, amber, chalcopyrite, apatite,

LocationRocks & Minerals
Moreno Creek, areaChalcopyrite, Gold, Pyrite, Pyrrhotite
Ute Creek, areaChalcopyrite, Gold, Pyrite, Pyrrhotite
Mexican Gulch, areaAgate, Apatite
Point of RocksSearlesite, Villiaumite (fluorescent), other rare minerals
Sugarite Mine & coal fieldsAmber
Las Vegas, area to NPetrified wood
Pecos, mining dump near Willow Creek campgroundActinolite, Garnet, Lepidolite, Mica, Bornite, Pyrite, Tourmaline
Rociada, area minesChalcocite, Copper minerals, Molybdenite
Harding Pegmatite outcropsApatite, Bityite, Eucryptite
Picuris, area gravelsStaurolites
Pilar, both sides of Hwy to VelardeGarnet, Staurolites
Union County, area in very NEPetrified wood, Agate (rose color)

Southwestern New Mexico Rockhounding Sites

Southwestern New Mexico is one of the most prolific areas for rockhounding in the entire United States. The many mines and expansive desert landscapes provide countless prospective rockhounding sites and a diverse spread of rocks and minerals to be found. The best places to rockhounding in Southwestern New Mexico include many localities in Gila National Forest, Rockhound State Park, Kilbourne Hole, and the countless old mining dumps that dot the landscape. A wide variety of rocks and minerals can be found including fluorite, agate, Apache tears, and obsidian.

LocationRocks & Minerals
Glenwood & Pleasanton, area minesFluorite, topaz (colorless)
Lee Russell & Kerr Canyons, area surfacesAgate
Elk Horn ParkAgate (gem-quality)
Plains of San Agustin, volcanic tuff exposuresAgate (moss agate), Jasper
Luna, 2 mi. W on ridgeGeodes (amethyst geodes)
San Francisco River, N of Hwy 180Agate (gem banded agate)
Leggett Peak, N of Hwy 180Agate, Amethyst, Quartz crystal clusters
Luna, area (many localities)Agate, Chalcedony, Jasper, Quartz crystals
Mogollon, area surfaces and minesAgate, Chalcedony, Jasper, Fluorite
Quemado, area (many localities)Agate, Chalcedony, Jasper, Agatized wood
Horse Camp Canyon, areaAgatized wood
Hatch, to NE in Caballo MtsAgate, Chalcedony, Jasper, Quartz crystals
Hatch, many area minesGoethite, Fluorite, Quartz crystals
Kilbourne Hole, in and around craterAugite, Peridot crystals (gem-quality)
Las Cruces, area to SObsidian
Organ, area minesBrochantite, Cerargyrite, Cerussite, Chalcopyrite, Molybdenite, Chrysocolla, Onyx, Rock crystal
Burro Peak, area minesAzurite, Chalcocite, Chalcopyrite, Ceragyrite, Chrysocolla, Fluorite, Galena, Malachite, Pyrite, Onyx
Mimbres Mountains, W slopesAgate, Chalcedony, Chert, Chrysocolla, Jasper, Fluorite, Rock crystal
Meerschaum area surfacesChert (various colors)
Fort Bayard, area surfacesOpal (common, fire)
Georgetown, area minesArgentite, Descloizite
Granite Gap, area minesArgentite, Cerussite, Cuprite, Sphalerite
Hachita, area minesCerussite, Silver, Stilbite, Wolframite
Apache Mine, near HachitaCalcite, Chrysocolla, Malachite, Turquoise
Mule Creek, to W near state borderApache Tears
Black Mountain, W slopes and drawsAlbite, Amethyst, Biotite, Sanidine, Sphene
Sapillo Creek, stream gravelsGeodes (banded agate geodes), Carnelian
Alum Mountain, area surfacesGeodes (banded agate geodes), Carnelian
Redrock, gulch 6 mi. NERicolite (gem-quality banded serpentine)
Santa Rita, area mine dumpsCopper minerals, Cuprite, Molybdenite
Gold Hill, mining dumpsArgentite, Pyrargyrite, Silver (native), Sphalerite
Golden Eagle & Handcar MinesTetradymite
Playas LakeFluorite
Big Hatchet Mountains, area surfacesAgate, Opal (moss)
Pyramid Peak, area mines to NWFluorite
Shakespeare Ghost Town, area 1 mi. to WAzurite, Bornite, Galena, Linarite
Pyramid Mountains, areaAgate, Chalcedony, Jasper
Columbus, area 4 mi. WOnyx
Tres Hermanas Mts, area minesDumortierite, Hydrozincite, Pyrolusite, Quartz crystals, Smithsonite, Willemite
Deming, area draws, washes, surfaces, etc.Agate, Chalcedony, Chert, Jasper
Deming, area minesCalcite, Fluorite,
Massacre Mountain, broad areaCarnelian, Jasper (deep red)
Big Diggins Mine (fee)Agate (high quality, seam agate, sagenitic)
Rockhound State ParkAgate (sagenitic), Chalcedony (blue), Jasper
Cookes Peak, area minesAnglesite, Cerussite, Galena,
Cookes Peak area, low hills and drawsAgate, Carnelian, Chalcedony, Jasper, Fluorite
Jarilla Mountains, hilly area to SWGarnet
Jarilla Mountains, area minesChalcocite, Chalcopyrite, Chrysocolla, Galena, Gypsum, Jarosite, Limonite, Malachite, Turquoise
Bent, area streams and gravelsOnyx (Mexican onyx)
Mud Springs Mountains, NE flanksAgate, Opalized wood, Silicified wood, Petrified Palm
Caballo Mountains, area minesAzurite, Chalcocite, Chalcopyrite, Fluorite, Malachite
Cutter, area E side of roadJasper (gem-quality)
Derry, area washes and drawsChert (colorful)
Elephant Butte, area to W along roadAgate, Chert, Chalcedony, Jasper
Mockingbird Gap, W sideJasper (dendritic)
Hillsboro, below cliff to W of townRhyolite (flowering)
Kingston, area 1 mi. to the NQuartz crystals(double terminated), Quartz clusters
Fra Cristobal Range, W sideAgate, Jasper
Jornada Valley, area 13 mi. E of Truth or ConsequencesAgate, Chalcedony, Elixirite, Jasper, Petrified Wood
Oscura Mountains, area mines, Blanchard Rock Shop (fee)Chrysocolla, Chalcocite, Atacamite, Azurite, Barite, Celestite, Cerussite, Dolomite crystals, Galena, Limonite, Malachite, Quartz crystals
Grandview Canyon, area minesFluorite, Copper minerals
Kelly Ghost Town, area minesSmithsonite (blue-green), Zinc minerals, Fossils
Silver Hill, SW sideGarnet
Red Rock Spring, large areaAgatized picture wood, Petrified cycad, Petrified Palm
Strawberry Peak, E sideSatin Spar

Southeastern New Mexico Rockhounding Sites

Southeastern New Mexico is a fantastic area for rockhounding. This is the place to go for the famous ‘Pecos diamonds,’ which are actually very attractive double-terminated quartz crystals. Rockhounds can also hope to find other mineral specimens including aragonite, onyx, jasper, and even some gold. The best rockhounding sites in Southeastern New Mexico are along the Pecos River, especially the areas near Roswell, Artesia, and south of Fort Sumner along US 60.

LocationRocks & Minerals
Lake Arthur, 16 mi. E, areaAragonite crystals
Roswell, both sides of Pecos RiverQuartz crystals
Fort Sumner, S along both sides of Pecos RiverQuartz cystals (clear, rose, red, smoky), ‘Pecos diamonds’
Fort Sumner, 28 mi. W along US 60, area‘Pecos diamonds’ (Quartz crystals)
Artesia, hills near Pecos River‘Pecos diamonds’ (Quartz crystals)
Whites City, limestones outside park boundariesOnyx
Ancho, area surfaces & washesJasper
White Oaks, area mines & depositsGold, Huebnerite, Onyx

Where to Find Turquoise in New Mexico

Turquoise is one of the first things that most people think of when it comes to New Mexico. This beautiful mineral is widely used in jewelry and has become an integral part of the Southwest’s aesthetic. Naturally, us rockhounds want to know where we can find our own. It’s not likely to be easy to find and collect a large quantity of gem-quality turquoise yourself, but there are certainly many locations where you can go with the hopes of finding your own turquoise specimens.

The best places to find turquoise in New Mexico are:

These mining districts each contain many mines, both active and abandoned, and care should be taken to ensure you have permission to search and collect wherever you go. For more information about turquoise in New Mexico I would recommend reading this short article from the New Mexico Bureau of Mines and Mineral Resources which contains background and some details on each of the mining districts I listed above.

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

New Mexico 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 starting with the New Mexico Department of Wildlife’s public land maps.

Private Land Resources

As with most states, each county in New Mexico will have records of who owns each piece of property. Unfortunately for rockhounds, the law in most states prohibits them from publishing their names or contact information online. You can usually get the landowner’s name and address by visiting the county records office. In New Mexico, I would recommend starting with the County Assessor’s office.

Sources & Further Reading

The locations and information contained in this article are primarily derived from academic papers, online resources, and other outside sources. If you would like to read some of the source material for yourself I have listed them below. The majority of these locations are my interpretation of Robert Beste’s A Location Guide for Rock Hounds in the United States. Other sources include: