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North Carolina Rockhounding Location Guide & Map

North Carolina Rockhounding Location Guide & Map

North Carolina is, without question, one of the premier rockhounding destinations in the entire world. The rocks, minerals, and gemstones produced here are virtually unrivaled by anywhere else in the United States. Once the site of an early gold rush, North Carolina quickly become even more famous for the incredibly abundant and diverse gems and minerals found in the Blue Ridge and Great Smoky Mountains.

The astonishing diversity and variety of rocks and minerals found in North Carolina are, of course, a result of its complex geological history. The oldest rocks of the state were repeatedly metamorphosed by igneous intrusions, leaving behind large swaths of schists and gneisses as well as innumerable pegmatite veins.

These rocks are the source of North Carolina’s many beautiful minerals including emerald, amethyst, beryl, and garnet. They have long been mined for commercial and recreational purposes and are home to hundreds of current rockhounding destinations.

The best places to rockhound in North Carolina are the gemstone mines in the central and western parts of the state, particularly around the town of Franklin. You can also find collectible rocks and minerals in stream gravels all across the state, especially near the mountains and Piedmont region.

State Symbols
State MineralGold
State RockGranite
State GemstoneEmerald
State FossilMegalodon
Source

Rough Emerald
Rough Emerald

This article will dive deeper into the many great rockhounding sites across the state (along with maps), but I’d like to highlight a few standouts here. Here are 10 of the best rockhounding sites for rocks and minerals in North Carolina:

Rocks and Minerals Found in North Carolina

Hundreds of species of minerals have been found in North Carolina, along with almost any type of rock you can think of. Much of the reason that North Carolins is such a famous and popular rockhounding destination is the sheer number of collectible gemstones and minerals that can be found here in relative abundance.

Several minerals have even been first discovered in North Carolina, including Hiddenite which was named after a well known miner at the time of its discovery. Regardless of what type of rock or mineral you’re hoping to find, there is a great chance that it can be found within North Carolina’s borders.

The most commonly found and collected rocks and minerals in North Carolina are:

  • Amethyst
  • Quartz
  • Emerald
  • Rutile
  • Garnet
  • Beryl
  • Aquamarine
  • Dunite
  • Kyanite
  • Unakite
  • Corundum
  • Staurolite
  • Serpentine
Kyanite
Kyanite

Rockhounding Sites in North Carolina

Through quite a bit of research and cross-referencing of available literature, I have compiled this list of some prospective locations in North Carolina which I would recommend to people looking to do some rockhounding. These are mostly comprised of beaches, old mining prospects, washes, 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. Joining up with a local rockhounding club for a group trip can often get you access to otherwise off-limits locations like privately owned mines and quarries. There are many rockhounding clubs in North Carolina so you can most likely find one you like nearby.

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.

Western North Carolina Rockhounding Sites

You can find some of the very best rockhounding in the world in the western region of North Carolina. This heavily mineralized area is riddled with hundreds of old mines, and while I have listed dozens of potential rockhounding locations here I haven’t even begun to scratch the surface of the places you can search.

There are many mines in the area that are open to the public where, for a small fee, you can dig and pan for your own rocks and raw gemstones. This is the perfect environment for a family outing or someone who is just getting interested in rockhounding. It’s a safe, controlled environment where you’re virtually guaranteed of finding a few pieces worth keeping.

For more rugged and ‘authentic’ rockhounding excursions in western North Carolina, you can try checking out any of the dozens of locations listed below. Shinning Rock Ledge is a well-known location for nice rose quartz specimens. Make sure to get permission from the nearby forest ranger station before you go.

Franklin, North Carolina is considered by many to be the ‘Gem Capital of the World.’ You can find a great mineral museum here, plus a great many fantastic rockhounding sites in a relatively small area. Similarly, Mitchell County (along with most other counties in this part of the state) is dotted with countless old mines and prospects – far too many to list here. Most of the mines of interest are privately owned and will require permission and/or a fee to collect.

Beyond the many mines of the area, you can also find worthwhile material in many of the local streams and rivers. Specimens of minerals like quartz, emerald, corundum, garnet, and beryl weather out of pegmatites and end up deposited in gravels and bars.

LocationRocks & Minerals
Poplar Springs, general areaRutile crystals, Limonite, Quartz, Spodumene
Ellendale, in a pegmatite near Lambert ForkBeryl (golden, green, yellow)
Emerald Hollow MineEmerald, Aquamarine, Sapphire, Garnet, Quarts (clear, smoky) Topaz, Amethyst, Citrine, Rutile, Tourmaline
Hiddenite, area gravels and soilsEmerald, Quartz crystals (clear, smoky, amber)
Hiddenite, many old area minesAquamarine, Beryl, Quartz, Rutile, Emerald, Hiddenite, Calcite, Dolomite, Tourmaline (black), Garnet, etc.
Yadkin River, in gravels hear HiddeniteQuartz crystals (rutilated, smoky)
Stony Point, general areaChlorite, Goethite, Monazite, Quartz crystals (rutilated), Spodumene
White Plains, area minesBeryl, Columbite, Quartz crystals, Rutile, Tourmaline
Bullhead Mountain, area minesGarnet, Kyanite (gem-quality), Magnetite
New River, outcrops near EnniceMagnetite crystals
Stratford, mine dumps near Elk CreekChalcopyrite, Cuprite, Galena, Malachite, Molybdenite, Pyrite, Silver, Sphalerite
Helton Creek, area near mouthMagnetite
Horse CreekEpidote, Garnet, Magnetite
Little Pine Garnet MineGarnet, Quartz, Chlorite
South Hardin Mica MineAquamarine, Beryl crystals (golden, large), Muscovite
Long Shoals Creek, area near Chestnut HillRock crystal (large)
North Fork New River, near CrumplerStaurolite, Rock crystal
Walnut Knob MineAquamarine
Piney Creek, area gravels, fields, etc.Rock crystal (with chlorite, manganese, rutile)
Cranberry, area outcrops and mining dumpsEpidote (gem-quality), Garnet, Hematite, Kyanite (gem-quality), Unakite
Plumtree, area gravels and pitsFeldspar crystals (gem-quality), Garnet
Ingalls, area minesGarnet
Cane Creek, in gravelsCalcite, Gold, Hematite, Limonite
Ivy Creek, general areaChrysolite, Genthite, Talc, Tremolite, Asbestos
Reems Creek Garnet (large crystals)
Mount Pisgah, general areaChrysoprase
Craggy Gardens Picnic Site, area to NEGarnet (almandine)
Balsam Gap MineMagnesite, Albite, Allanite, Beryl (green), Columbite, Corundum, Garnet, Biotite, Muscovite, Sapphire
Lookout MountainKyanite crystals
Pressley Mine, near Canton (fee)Corundum, Sapphire
Democrat, a mine .5 mi. to WChalcedony, Feldspar crystals, Garnet (gem-quality), Moonstone, Olivine crystals, Vermiculite
Ridgecrest, general areaCorundum (gem-quality)
Hall Creek and Silver Creek, in gravelsCorundum, Diamond, Garnet (pyrope), Rutile crystals, Tourmaline
Brown MountainAlbite, Fluorite, Gold, Platinum
Linville MountainActinolite, Graphite, Manaccanite, Pyrophyllite, Itacolumite
High Peak, area immediately to NGarnet
Burkemont Mountain, Buzzard Roost Knob, Walker’s Knob – area pegmatitesBeryl (gem-quality)
South Mountains, area pegmatitesAquamarine, Beryl, Feldspar, Quartz crystals
Davis Mountain, western slopeAnglesite, Chrysotile, Cerussite, Galena, Marmolite, Pyromorphite, Serpentine
Grandmother Mountain, area placersGold, Pyrite, Quartz
Collettsville, road cuts to NEpidote, Pyrite cubes
Hibriten Mountain, S sideFeldspar (gem-quality)
Yadkin Vallye, area 2 mi. NW in mica schistsBeryl, Garnet
Hanging Dog Creek, area gravelsStaurolite, Tourmaline
Vengeance Creek, area of headwatersCalcite, Garnet, Quartz crystals, Staurolite
Little Snowbird Mountains, many schist outcropsChloritoid, Ottrelite, Garnet, Gold, Staurolite
Marble, area creek gravels, pits, outcrops, etc.Sillimanite, Staurolite
Hyatt Creek, general areaGarnet (almandine), Staurolite
Unaka, area gravels, pits, etc.Staurolite, Agate, Epidote, Feldspar (pink), Gold (placer), Petrified wood, Quartz crystals (smoky quartz)
Elijah Mountain Gem MineRuby, Sapphire, Emerald, Quartz crystals, Citrine, Amethyst, Garnet, Aventurine, Sodalite, Peridot, Opal, Fluorite, Aquamarine, Topaz, Tourmaline, Pyrite, Amazonite, Labradorite
Clay County, area S of Hwy 64Unakite
Chestnut Knob, general area esp. to WCorundum (white star)
Chunky Gal Mountain, area to NEGarnet, Staurolite
Brasstown, area N of Hwy 64Garnet
Shooting Creek, area outcrops and gravelsGeodes (hyalite opal geodes)
Elf, general areaCorundum, Amphibolite, Opal, Quartz crystals, Smaragdite
Meyer’s Chapel and entire area of Chatuge Lake, as floatCorundum
Casar, area 2 mi. WAgate, Quartz crystals (rutilated),
Grover, in pegmatite NW of US 29EAquamarine
Kings Mountain, area gravelsDiamond
Foote Mine and other mines near Kings MountainApatite, Beryl, Calcite, Cassiterite, Moonstone, Purpurite, Rhodochrosite, Spodumene, Tourmaline (black), Vivianite, etc.
Lattimore, several area minesQuartz crystals (milky, massive), Tourmaline (black), Beryl, Feldspar
Shelby, area S along Route 18 in gravels, streams, fields, etc.Gem crystals
Broad River and tributaries, in gravels near ShelbyQuartz crystals
Earl, in Buffalo Creek tributary to EAquamarine, Garnet
Stice Shoal Lake Dam, area to NEAquamarine, Beryl, Emerald, Mica, Quartz crystals (smoky quartz), Tourmaline
Pressley Mine, near CantonAlbite, Amphibolite, Corundum, Damourite, Sapphite, Epidote, Garnet, Quartz, etc.
Roberson Ridge, SW side near Deep Gap CreekAnkerite, Apatite, Biotite, Garnet, Muscovite, Pyrrotite, Quartz crystals, Tourmaline, etc.
Newfound Gap, area pegmatiteRuby
Shinning Rock LedgeQuartz (rose quartz)
Bat Cave, gneiss outcrops 1 mi. NEpidote
Lake Summit, western shoreAgate
Tuckasegee, ridge to EBeryl (golden)
Sapphire Lake, south shoreSapphire
Cherokee Ruby and Sapphire Mine (fee)Ruby, Sapphire
Hanging Dog and Persimmon CreeksStaurolites
Burningtown Creek, in gravelsSapphires (pink)
Franklin, many area mines and prospectsAmethyst, Bronzite, Epidote, Fibrolite, Garnet, Jasper, Kyanite, Quartz crystals (dendritic), Rhodochrosite, Ruby, Rutile, Sapphire, Sphalerite, Staurolite, etc.
Corundum Hill, in dunite exposuresCorundum, Ruby, Sapphire (blue, green, pink), Chromite, Olivine crystals
Higdon Mountain, area to S near US 64Actinolite, Chalcedony, Chromite, Corundum, Enstatite, Magnetite, Opal, Quartz crystals, Ruby, Rutile, Sapphite, Spinel, Tourmaline, etc.
Cowee Creek, many area minesGarnet, Ruby, Sapphire, Corundum, Beryl, Hornblende, Kyanite, Pyrite, Quartz, Ruby, Rutile, Sapphire, Staurolite, etc.
Sheep Knob MountainAquamarine
Highlands, area gravelsCorundum, Garnet (almandine), Quartz crystals
Little Scaly MountainAsbestos, Corundum (gem-quality), Rutile crystals, Serpentine, Vermiculite
Otto, area gravels and many area minesAmethyst, Garnet, Quartz crystals
Mason Mountain, area stream gravelsCorundum, Garnet, Hornblende, Quartz crystals
Lemon Gap, S on East Fork Little CreekAllanite
Roaring Fork Creek, general areaUnakite
McDowell County, area stream gravelsGarnet (pyrope), Gold (placer)
South Muddy Creek, near DyartsvilleDiamond, Gold
Nebo, area railroad and road cutsQuartz crystals
Woodlawn, area just NQuartz crystals (phantom quartz)
Mitchell County, all area gravels, pits, and streamsAgate
Sink Hole Mine and other area minesBeryl (blue), Apatite, Garnet, Kyanite, Thulite
Roan Mountain, area outcropsUnakite, Epidote
Spruce Pine, area 3 mi. EActinolite crystals, Talc, Steatite
Wiseman’s View, general areaQuartz crystals, Sandstone (dendritic)
Crabtree Emerald Mine (Emerald Village)Apatite, Emerald
Deer Park Mine near bend of North Toe RiverAutunite, Feldspar crystals, Garnet, Opal (hyalite), Mica, Monazite, Thulite, etc.
Penland, the Bear Creek area to NKyanite (gem-quality)
Spear, area minesBeryl, Garnet, Epidote crystals, Mica
Bryson City, general area to N esp. near Deep Creek ChurchAllanite, Garnet, Magnetite, Moonstone, Quartz crystals, Pyrite, Feldspar, Mica, Kyanite, Staurolite
Pink Beds Picnic AreaQuartz crystals (smoky quartz)
Looking Glass Falls, general areaGarnet
Rosman, area N of campsCalcite (dogtooth calcite)
Blowing Rock, area stream gravels and placersGold
North Toe River, in gravelsKyanite (gem-quality), Corundum, Sapphire
Burnsville, many area minesAlbite, Amazonite, Apatite, Aquamarine, Autunite, Beryl, Emerald, Fluorite, Garnet, Kyanite, Muscovite, Feldspar, Rutile crystals, Quartz crystals, Sunstone, Tourmaline, etc.
Celo Ridge, area mining dumpsSapphire, Feldspar, Garnet, Kyanite, Mica
Sandy Level Church, area mining dumpsGold, Platinum, Diamond (rare)
Huckleberry Mountain, area minesMica, Quartz crystals
Hollands Creek, in gravels hear RutherfordtonDiamond, Platinum, Quartz crystals (blue)
Thermal City, in Stoney Creek gravels and area minesGarnet
Marlin Knob, in outcropsGarnet, Unakite

Central North Carolina Rockhounding Sites

Central North Carolina is nearly as prolific as the western part of the state when it comes to collecting rocks and minerals. Hundreds of mines are spread all across the area, having produced varieties of minerals including amethyst, quartz, garnet, mica, rutile, and tourmaline.

It is also common to find quartz-family minerals like agate, jasper, chalcedony, and petrified wood in the gravels and float of central North Carolina. These specimens have weathered out of volcanic rock and been transported down stream.

Like the western part of the state, central North Carolina has far too many interesting rockhounding locations to list here. Although I have listed dozens of the more notable sites there are simply too many to create an exhaustive list. If you’re interested in discovering even more locations than listed here I would recommend checking out some of the links and sources I have listed at the bottom of this article.

LocationRocks & Minerals
Alamance County, all surfaces as floatSerpentine
Burlington, area streams, fields, etc.Quartz crystals, Quartzite (red, gem-quality), Serpentine
Superior Stone Company, old quarryCopper, Iron minerals, Quartz crystals
Wadesboro, several mines and quartz veins to SGold
Anson County, countywide stream gravelsGold, Calcite, Garnet, Galena, Pyrite, Siderite, Rutile, Sphalerite
Pee Dee River, in gravels and tributariesAgatized wood, Chalcedony, Jasper
Reed Gold Mine (fee) and many old mines in Cabarrus CountyAzurite, Gold, Malachite, Quartz crystals, Scheelite, Sphalerite, Siderite, Cuprite, Malachite, Barite, Galena, etc.
Concord, stream gravels and fields to HarrisburgAgate, Carnelian, Chalcedony, Opal (common)
Caswell County, many area mines and placer gravelsGold, Allanite, Mica, Garnet, Quartz, etc.
Catawba, quartz seams 4mi. to E near railroadGold, Cacite, Magnetite, Quartz (rose quartz)
Pittsboro, road cuts NW on Hwy 87Limonite
Davidson County, many area minesChalcopyrite, Gold, Pyrite, Tetradymite, Anglesite, Calamine, Calcite, Cuprite, Galena, Malachite, Sphalerite, etc.
Conrad Hill Mine near LexingtonChalcopyrite, Limonite, Malachite, Silver, Hematite
Tyro, area to SAmethyst
Farmington, in pegmatites to NEAutunite, Columbite
Bethesda, fields and gravels W of US 70Silicified wood
Eno River, in gravels near WeaverAgatized wood
Kernersville, area fields, gravels, etc.Chrysolite, Bronzite, Tourmaline
Winston-Salem, area quarries, pits, etc.Halloysite, Hematite, Magnetite, Garnet
Alexis, area ~2 mi. E of townKyanite (gem-quality), Lazulite, Rutiel crystals
Clubb Mountain, area mines and exposuresCorundum, Lazulite, Kyanite (gem-quality), Damourite, Gold, Garnet, Hematite, Magnetite, Rutile crystals, Tourmaline
Crowder’s MountainBarite, Chalcopyrite, Corundum, Galena (gold-bearing), Gold, Garnet, Hematite, Limonite, Magnetite, Kyanite (blue, gem-quality), Rutile crystals, Topaz, Tourmaline, etc.
Beaverdam Creek, in pegmatite at confluence with Little Beaverdam Cr.Cassiterite
Granville County, all area mining dumps, exposures, stream gravelsTopaz, Andalusite, Carnelian, Malachite
Bullock, area to E and SEPyrite
Bullock, area ~ 2 mi. NE in outcropsEpidote, Labradorite, Titanite, Hornblende, Quartz crystals, Clinozoisite
Butner, general areaAgate, Amethyst, Jasper
Creedmore, large area to N between US 15 and I-85Agate, Jasper, Chalcedony
Pocomoke, general area 2 mi. NLepidolite, Rubellite
Gibsonville, general areaQuartz crystals (green, asbestos inclusions), Actinolite
South Yadkin River, near TurnersburgBeryl, Corundum, Tourmaline
Mooresville, area W of Lake NormanAgate, Amethyst, Quartz crystals
Statesville, large area to S to MooresvilleAgate, Amethyst, Quartz crystals
Fox Mountain, general areaRutile crystals
Lincoln County, countywide stream gravelsCassiterite
Denver, area ~1 mi. NEAmethyst, Quartz crystals
Iron Station, area NE to DenverAmethyst
Caldwell, area gravels and floatAgate, Carnelian, Chalcedony
Charlotte, excavations and diggingsJasper, Leopardite, Copper minerals
Montgomery County, many old quarriesQuartz crystals (clear, smoky, rutilated)
Eldorado, old area minesAzurite, Calcite, Gold, Malachite, Pyrite, Silver, Smithsonite, Sphalerite, Hydrozincite
Troy, area stream gravelsPetrified wood
Black Ankle MineGold
Cabin Creek & Dry Creek, near RobbinsAmethyst, quartz crystals
Chapel Hill, area surfaces, gravels, creeks, etc.Agate (moss agate ), Petrified wood
Hillsborough, area gravels, streams, etc.Agate (moss agate), Quartz crystals (sagenitic)
Hager’s Mountain, in quartz vein E of creekKyanite (gem-quality), Pyrophyllite
Mt. Tirzah, across road from churchActinolite, Hematite, Limonite, Manganese, Quartz crystals
Moria, in road cuts to Mt. TirzahPyrite crystals, Limonite cubes
Farmer, area W to DentonQuartz crystals
Ellberle, area stream gravelsPetrified wood
Gold Hill, many area quarries and minesMagnetite, Manganese, Garnet, Amethyst, Sunstone, Gold
Mount Ulla, area fields, streams, pits, etc.Amethyst, Quartz crystals
Salisbury, area fields, gravels, exposures, etc.Amethyst, Tourmaline (pink, green)
Danbury, area stream gravelsAgate, Carnelian, Chalcedony, Jasper, Opal (hyalite), Hematite, Amethyst
Big Creek, North bank near Dan RiverGarnet, Moonstone, Quartz crystals (smoky, milky)
Burch, area 1.5 mi. EJasper, Quartz crystals
Mount Airy, area quarries and minesFeldspar, Quartz crystals, Jasper
Mitchell River, in gravels near ElkinChalcedony (yellow), Horneblende crystals, Steatite
Pilot Mountain, general areaQuartz crystals (rutilated)
Flint KnobCalcite, Galena, Pyrite
Traphill, area fields, gravels, etc.Agate (moss agate), Jasper, Chalcedony
Wilkesboro, area 2 mi. SGarnet, Serpentine, Talc
Yadkin County, area stream gravelsCarnelian
Montvale, area stream gravelsRuby, Sapphire

Eastern North Carolina Rockhounding Sites

Compared to the rest of the state, eastern North Carolina is relatively lacking when it comes to both the number of locations and the variety of rocks and minerals that can be found here. Most of the collectible material comes in the form of quartz-family minerals like agate, chalcedony, jasper, opal, and quartz crystals.

These relatively hard minerals have weathered out of rock up in the mountains and gradually been transported downstream. They survive this process far better than softer minerals and thus are among the most common finds in the coastal plain. The best rockhounding sites in western North Carolina are in the bars of rivers and streams where you can find agates, petrified wood, and other quartz minerals in gravels.

Not included in this list of rockhounding sites are places where you can find shark teeth. The best places to search for shark teeth in North Carolina are the beaches of the Atlantic Coast, particularly Topsail beach which has long been a popular shark tooth hunting destination. Fossilized Megalon teeth have reportedly been found on some beaches at low tide, especially after a storm.

LocationRocks & Minerals
Cumberland County, countywide stream gravels, pits, etc.Agate, Chalcedony, Chert, Jasper, Opal (common), Agatized wood
Cape Fear River and tributaries, in gravelsAgate, Chalcedony, Chert, Jasper, Opal (common), Agatized wood
Halifax County, all area gravels and streamsPetrified wood
Medoc Mountain State ParkChalcopyrite, Molybdenite, Pyrite, Sericite
Nash & Franklin Counties, many area minesGold
Nutbrush Creek, near BullocksvilleGem-quality minerals, Quartz crystals
Henderson Point, area outcrops near state lineQuartz crystals, Rutile crystals, Sillimanite
Townsville, area surrounding town, esp. to WQuartz crystals
Williamsboro, area to NWQuartz crystals
Hilliardston, area W of town in placersGold, Diamond
Louisburg, area gravels, fields, etc.Amethyst
Island Creek, area mines E to Little Island CreekApatite, Chalcopyrite, Fluorite, Galena, Opal (hyalite), Quartz crystals, Rhodochrosite, Scheelite, Sphalerite, Tetrahedrite
Neuse River, near Wilder’s Grove, RaleighAmethyst (large)
Raleigh, area to W near US 64Amethyst
Inez, area to S near county borderAmethyst, Beryl, Lepidolite, Quartz crystals (smoky quartz), Staurolite

Where to Find Geodes in North Carolina

Geode
Geode

Geodes are some of the most popular rocks sought by rockhounds all over the world, and North Carolina is no exception. Unfortunately, the geologic setting that has produced so many interesting rocks and minerals is not conducive to the creation of geodes.

The only location in North Carolina where you can find reportedly find geodes is Shooting Creek along U.S. 64, east of Hayesville. These geodes are often lined with hyalite opal. Surprisingly, as great as North Carolina is for rock collecting, there are no other known geode hunting sites.

Tip: Not sure if the rock you’ve found is a geode? Check out my article about how to identify a geode.

If you’re from North Carolina and you’re looking for geodes, your best chances will be to visit a neighboring state like Tennessee where you can find them in several localities. You can also order geodes online for relatively cheap from Amazon.

Where to Find Crystals and Gemstones in North Carolina

There is nothing quite like uncovering a quartz crystal with a perfect termination or finding a beautiful agate that has been waiting in a river bank for you to come along and take it home. Gemstones are some of the most enjoyable specimens that rockhounds can find, but it’s not always easy to know where to look.

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

Thankfully, North Carolina is perhaps the single best place to go crystal and gem hunting in the entire world. It’s certainly near the top of the list of rockhounding destinations in the United States. The terrain of western and central North Carolina is among the most heavily mineralized areas found anywhere on earth, particularly the mountainous Blue Ridge and Piedmont regions.

Aquamarine
Aquamarine

Gem and crystal hunting is so prolific in North Carolina that it’s difficult to highlight just a few areas. In most counties (especially in the central and western part of the state) there are countless mines which have historically produced high-quality gemstones of minerals like amethyst, beryl, garnet, aquamarine, emerald, and many more.

In general, the best places to find gems and crystals in North Carolina are the many active mines which are open to the public for digging. You can also find crystals in rocky outcrops, the tailings of old mines, and in the gravels of streams all across the state – particularly near the town of Franklin.

The vast majority of these gems and crystals have formed as a result of igneous intrusions into older rock, creating pegmatite veins and leaving much of the state covered in metamorphic rocks like schist and gneiss. This igneous and metamorphic activity resulted in an astonishing variety and abundance of gemstone minerals including beryl, garnet, amethyst, and topaz.

Mitchell, Cleveland, Yancey, and Alexander Counties encompass some of the best gemstone and crystal hunting locations in the entire U.S. The mines, outcrops, and stream gravels in this area all produce high-quality gemstones.

North Carolina 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 for every location 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 North Carolina Department of Natural and Cultural Resources maps.

Private Land Resources

As with most states, each county in North Carolina will have records of who owns each piece of property. You can also usually get the landowner’s name and address by visiting the county records office. I would probably start by contacting the assessor in whatever county you’re interested in and getting whatever contact information you can for the landowner.

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: