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.
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:
- Emerald Hollow Mine – Emerald, Garnet, Aquamarine
- Franklin – Amethyst, Kyanite, Ruby, Sapphire
- Little Pine Garnet Mine – Garnet, Quartz, Chlorite
- Corundum Hill – Corundum, Ruby, Sapphire, Olivine
- Elijah Mt. Gem Mine – Ruby, Sapphire, Emerald
- Shinning Rock Ledge – Rose Quartz
- Cherokee Ruby & Sapphire Mine – Ruby, Sapphire
- Crabtree Emerald Mine – Emerald, Apatite
- Neuse River, Raleigh – Amethyst crystals
- Crowders Mountain – Galena, Kyanite, Rutile, Topaz
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:
If you’ve already found a rock and you’re not sure what it is, I’d highly recommend that you go take a look at my rock identification guide which is filled with useful information and tools.
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.
|Location||Rocks & Minerals|
|Poplar Springs, general area||Rutile crystals, Limonite, Quartz, Spodumene|
|Ellendale, in a pegmatite near Lambert Fork||Beryl (golden, green, yellow)|
|Emerald Hollow Mine||Emerald, Aquamarine, Sapphire, Garnet, Quarts (clear, smoky) Topaz, Amethyst, Citrine, Rutile, Tourmaline|
|Hiddenite, area gravels and soils||Emerald, Quartz crystals (clear, smoky, amber)|
|Hiddenite, many old area mines||Aquamarine, Beryl, Quartz, Rutile, Emerald, Hiddenite, Calcite, Dolomite, Tourmaline (black), Garnet, etc.|
|Yadkin River, in gravels hear Hiddenite||Quartz crystals (rutilated, smoky)|
|Stony Point, general area||Chlorite, Goethite, Monazite, Quartz crystals (rutilated), Spodumene|
|White Plains, area mines||Beryl, Columbite, Quartz crystals, Rutile, Tourmaline|
|Bullhead Mountain, area mines||Garnet, Kyanite (gem-quality), Magnetite|
|New River, outcrops near Ennice||Magnetite crystals|
|Stratford, mine dumps near Elk Creek||Chalcopyrite, Cuprite, Galena, Malachite, Molybdenite, Pyrite, Silver, Sphalerite|
|Helton Creek, area near mouth||Magnetite|
|Horse Creek||Epidote, Garnet, Magnetite|
|Little Pine Garnet Mine||Garnet, Quartz, Chlorite|
|South Hardin Mica Mine||Aquamarine, Beryl crystals (golden, large), Muscovite|
|Long Shoals Creek, area near Chestnut Hill||Rock crystal (large)|
|North Fork New River, near Crumpler||Staurolite, Rock crystal|
|Walnut Knob Mine||Aquamarine|
|Piney Creek, area gravels, fields, etc.||Rock crystal (with chlorite, manganese, rutile)|
|Cranberry, area outcrops and mining dumps||Epidote (gem-quality), Garnet, Hematite, Kyanite (gem-quality), Unakite|
|Plumtree, area gravels and pits||Feldspar crystals (gem-quality), Garnet|
|Ingalls, area mines||Garnet|
|Cane Creek, in gravels||Calcite, Gold, Hematite, Limonite|
|Ivy Creek, general area||Chrysolite, Genthite, Talc, Tremolite, Asbestos|
|Reems Creek||Garnet (large crystals)|
|Mount Pisgah, general area||Chrysoprase|
|Craggy Gardens Picnic Site, area to NE||Garnet (almandine)|
|Balsam Gap Mine||Magnesite, Albite, Allanite, Beryl (green), Columbite, Corundum, Garnet, Biotite, Muscovite, Sapphire|
|Lookout Mountain||Kyanite crystals|
|Pressley Mine, near Canton (fee)||Corundum, Sapphire|
|Democrat, a mine .5 mi. to W||Chalcedony, Feldspar crystals, Garnet (gem-quality), Moonstone, Olivine crystals, Vermiculite|
|Ridgecrest, general area||Corundum (gem-quality)|
|Hall Creek and Silver Creek, in gravels||Corundum, Diamond, Garnet (pyrope), Rutile crystals, Tourmaline|
|Brown Mountain||Albite, Fluorite, Gold, Platinum|
|Linville Mountain||Actinolite, Graphite, Manaccanite, Pyrophyllite, Itacolumite|
|High Peak, area immediately to N||Garnet|
|Burkemont Mountain, Buzzard Roost Knob, Walker’s Knob – area pegmatites||Beryl (gem-quality)|
|South Mountains, area pegmatites||Aquamarine, Beryl, Feldspar, Quartz crystals|
|Davis Mountain, western slope||Anglesite, Chrysotile, Cerussite, Galena, Marmolite, Pyromorphite, Serpentine|
|Grandmother Mountain, area placers||Gold, Pyrite, Quartz|
|Collettsville, road cuts to N||Epidote, Pyrite cubes|
|Hibriten Mountain, S side||Feldspar (gem-quality)|
|Yadkin Vallye, area 2 mi. NW in mica schists||Beryl, Garnet|
|Hanging Dog Creek, area gravels||Staurolite, Tourmaline|
|Vengeance Creek, area of headwaters||Calcite, Garnet, Quartz crystals, Staurolite|
|Little Snowbird Mountains, many schist outcrops||Chloritoid, Ottrelite, Garnet, Gold, Staurolite|
|Marble, area creek gravels, pits, outcrops, etc.||Sillimanite, Staurolite|
|Hyatt Creek, general area||Garnet (almandine), Staurolite|
|Unaka, area gravels, pits, etc.||Staurolite, Agate, Epidote, Feldspar (pink), Gold (placer), Petrified wood, Quartz crystals (smoky quartz)|
|Elijah Mountain Gem Mine||Ruby, Sapphire, Emerald, Quartz crystals, Citrine, Amethyst, Garnet, Aventurine, Sodalite, Peridot, Opal, Fluorite, Aquamarine, Topaz, Tourmaline, Pyrite, Amazonite, Labradorite|
|Clay County, area S of Hwy 64||Unakite|
|Chestnut Knob, general area esp. to W||Corundum (white star)|
|Chunky Gal Mountain, area to NE||Garnet, Staurolite|
|Brasstown, area N of Hwy 64||Garnet|
|Shooting Creek, area outcrops and gravels||Geodes (hyalite opal geodes)|
|Elf, general area||Corundum, Amphibolite, Opal, Quartz crystals, Smaragdite|
|Meyer’s Chapel and entire area of Chatuge Lake, as float||Corundum|
|Casar, area 2 mi. W||Agate, Quartz crystals (rutilated),|
|Grover, in pegmatite NW of US 29E||Aquamarine|
|Kings Mountain, area gravels||Diamond|
|Foote Mine and other mines near Kings Mountain||Apatite, Beryl, Calcite, Cassiterite, Moonstone, Purpurite, Rhodochrosite, Spodumene, Tourmaline (black), Vivianite, etc.|
|Lattimore, several area mines||Quartz 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 Shelby||Quartz crystals|
|Earl, in Buffalo Creek tributary to E||Aquamarine, Garnet|
|Stice Shoal Lake Dam, area to NE||Aquamarine, Beryl, Emerald, Mica, Quartz crystals (smoky quartz), Tourmaline|
|Pressley Mine, near Canton||Albite, Amphibolite, Corundum, Damourite, Sapphite, Epidote, Garnet, Quartz, etc.|
|Roberson Ridge, SW side near Deep Gap Creek||Ankerite, Apatite, Biotite, Garnet, Muscovite, Pyrrotite, Quartz crystals, Tourmaline, etc.|
|Newfound Gap, area pegmatite||Ruby|
|Shinning Rock Ledge||Quartz (rose quartz)|
|Bat Cave, gneiss outcrops 1 mi. N||Epidote|
|Lake Summit, western shore||Agate|
|Tuckasegee, ridge to E||Beryl (golden)|
|Sapphire Lake, south shore||Sapphire|
|Cherokee Ruby and Sapphire Mine (fee)||Ruby, Sapphire|
|Hanging Dog and Persimmon Creeks||Staurolites|
|Burningtown Creek, in gravels||Sapphires (pink)|
|Franklin, many area mines and prospects||Amethyst, Bronzite, Epidote, Fibrolite, Garnet, Jasper, Kyanite, Quartz crystals (dendritic), Rhodochrosite, Ruby, Rutile, Sapphire, Sphalerite, Staurolite, etc.|
|Corundum Hill, in dunite exposures||Corundum, Ruby, Sapphire (blue, green, pink), Chromite, Olivine crystals|
|Higdon Mountain, area to S near US 64||Actinolite, Chalcedony, Chromite, Corundum, Enstatite, Magnetite, Opal, Quartz crystals, Ruby, Rutile, Sapphite, Spinel, Tourmaline, etc.|
|Cowee Creek, many area mines||Garnet, Ruby, Sapphire, Corundum, Beryl, Hornblende, Kyanite, Pyrite, Quartz, Ruby, Rutile, Sapphire, Staurolite, etc.|
|Sheep Knob Mountain||Aquamarine|
|Highlands, area gravels||Corundum, Garnet (almandine), Quartz crystals|
|Little Scaly Mountain||Asbestos, Corundum (gem-quality), Rutile crystals, Serpentine, Vermiculite|
|Otto, area gravels and many area mines||Amethyst, Garnet, Quartz crystals|
|Mason Mountain, area stream gravels||Corundum, Garnet, Hornblende, Quartz crystals|
|Lemon Gap, S on East Fork Little Creek||Allanite|
|Roaring Fork Creek, general area||Unakite|
|McDowell County, area stream gravels||Garnet (pyrope), Gold (placer)|
|South Muddy Creek, near Dyartsville||Diamond, Gold|
|Nebo, area railroad and road cuts||Quartz crystals|
|Woodlawn, area just N||Quartz crystals (phantom quartz)|
|Mitchell County, all area gravels, pits, and streams||Agate|
|Sink Hole Mine and other area mines||Beryl (blue), Apatite, Garnet, Kyanite, Thulite|
|Roan Mountain, area outcrops||Unakite, Epidote|
|Spruce Pine, area 3 mi. E||Actinolite crystals, Talc, Steatite|
|Wiseman’s View, general area||Quartz crystals, Sandstone (dendritic)|
|Crabtree Emerald Mine (Emerald Village)||Apatite, Emerald|
|Deer Park Mine near bend of North Toe River||Autunite, Feldspar crystals, Garnet, Opal (hyalite), Mica, Monazite, Thulite, etc.|
|Penland, the Bear Creek area to N||Kyanite (gem-quality)|
|Spear, area mines||Beryl, Garnet, Epidote crystals, Mica|
|Bryson City, general area to N esp. near Deep Creek Church||Allanite, Garnet, Magnetite, Moonstone, Quartz crystals, Pyrite, Feldspar, Mica, Kyanite, Staurolite|
|Pink Beds Picnic Area||Quartz crystals (smoky quartz)|
|Looking Glass Falls, general area||Garnet|
|Rosman, area N of camps||Calcite (dogtooth calcite)|
|Blowing Rock, area stream gravels and placers||Gold|
|North Toe River, in gravels||Kyanite (gem-quality), Corundum, Sapphire|
|Burnsville, many area mines||Albite, Amazonite, Apatite, Aquamarine, Autunite, Beryl, Emerald, Fluorite, Garnet, Kyanite, Muscovite, Feldspar, Rutile crystals, Quartz crystals, Sunstone, Tourmaline, etc.|
|Celo Ridge, area mining dumps||Sapphire, Feldspar, Garnet, Kyanite, Mica|
|Sandy Level Church, area mining dumps||Gold, Platinum, Diamond (rare)|
|Huckleberry Mountain, area mines||Mica, Quartz crystals|
|Hollands Creek, in gravels hear Rutherfordton||Diamond, Platinum, Quartz crystals (blue)|
|Thermal City, in Stoney Creek gravels and area mines||Garnet|
|Marlin Knob, in outcrops||Garnet, 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.
|Location||Rocks & Minerals|
|Alamance County, all surfaces as float||Serpentine|
|Burlington, area streams, fields, etc.||Quartz crystals, Quartzite (red, gem-quality), Serpentine|
|Superior Stone Company, old quarry||Copper, Iron minerals, Quartz crystals|
|Wadesboro, several mines and quartz veins to S||Gold|
|Anson County, countywide stream gravels||Gold, Calcite, Garnet, Galena, Pyrite, Siderite, Rutile, Sphalerite|
|Pee Dee River, in gravels and tributaries||Agatized wood, Chalcedony, Jasper|
|Reed Gold Mine (fee) and many old mines in Cabarrus County||Azurite, Gold, Malachite, Quartz crystals, Scheelite, Sphalerite, Siderite, Cuprite, Malachite, Barite, Galena, etc.|
|Concord, stream gravels and fields to Harrisburg||Agate, Carnelian, Chalcedony, Opal (common)|
|Caswell County, many area mines and placer gravels||Gold, Allanite, Mica, Garnet, Quartz, etc.|
|Catawba, quartz seams 4mi. to E near railroad||Gold, Cacite, Magnetite, Quartz (rose quartz)|
|Pittsboro, road cuts NW on Hwy 87||Limonite|
|Davidson County, many area mines||Chalcopyrite, Gold, Pyrite, Tetradymite, Anglesite, Calamine, Calcite, Cuprite, Galena, Malachite, Sphalerite, etc.|
|Conrad Hill Mine near Lexington||Chalcopyrite, Limonite, Malachite, Silver, Hematite|
|Tyro, area to S||Amethyst|
|Farmington, in pegmatites to NE||Autunite, Columbite|
|Bethesda, fields and gravels W of US 70||Silicified wood|
|Eno River, in gravels near Weaver||Agatized 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 town||Kyanite (gem-quality), Lazulite, Rutiel crystals|
|Clubb Mountain, area mines and exposures||Corundum, Lazulite, Kyanite (gem-quality), Damourite, Gold, Garnet, Hematite, Magnetite, Rutile crystals, Tourmaline|
|Crowder’s Mountain||Barite, 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 gravels||Topaz, Andalusite, Carnelian, Malachite|
|Bullock, area to E and SE||Pyrite|
|Bullock, area ~ 2 mi. NE in outcrops||Epidote, Labradorite, Titanite, Hornblende, Quartz crystals, Clinozoisite|
|Butner, general area||Agate, Amethyst, Jasper|
|Creedmore, large area to N between US 15 and I-85||Agate, Jasper, Chalcedony|
|Pocomoke, general area 2 mi. N||Lepidolite, Rubellite|
|Gibsonville, general area||Quartz crystals (green, asbestos inclusions), Actinolite|
|South Yadkin River, near Turnersburg||Beryl, Corundum, Tourmaline|
|Mooresville, area W of Lake Norman||Agate, Amethyst, Quartz crystals|
|Statesville, large area to S to Mooresville||Agate, Amethyst, Quartz crystals|
|Fox Mountain, general area||Rutile crystals|
|Lincoln County, countywide stream gravels||Cassiterite|
|Denver, area ~1 mi. NE||Amethyst, Quartz crystals|
|Iron Station, area NE to Denver||Amethyst|
|Caldwell, area gravels and float||Agate, Carnelian, Chalcedony|
|Charlotte, excavations and diggings||Jasper, Leopardite, Copper minerals|
|Montgomery County, many old quarries||Quartz crystals (clear, smoky, rutilated)|
|Eldorado, old area mines||Azurite, Calcite, Gold, Malachite, Pyrite, Silver, Smithsonite, Sphalerite, Hydrozincite|
|Troy, area stream gravels||Petrified wood|
|Black Ankle Mine||Gold|
|Cabin Creek & Dry Creek, near Robbins||Amethyst, 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 creek||Kyanite (gem-quality), Pyrophyllite|
|Mt. Tirzah, across road from church||Actinolite, Hematite, Limonite, Manganese, Quartz crystals|
|Moria, in road cuts to Mt. Tirzah||Pyrite crystals, Limonite cubes|
|Farmer, area W to Denton||Quartz crystals|
|Ellberle, area stream gravels||Petrified wood|
|Gold Hill, many area quarries and mines||Magnetite, 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 gravels||Agate, Carnelian, Chalcedony, Jasper, Opal (hyalite), Hematite, Amethyst|
|Big Creek, North bank near Dan River||Garnet, Moonstone, Quartz crystals (smoky, milky)|
|Burch, area 1.5 mi. E||Jasper, Quartz crystals|
|Mount Airy, area quarries and mines||Feldspar, Quartz crystals, Jasper|
|Mitchell River, in gravels near Elkin||Chalcedony (yellow), Horneblende crystals, Steatite|
|Pilot Mountain, general area||Quartz crystals (rutilated)|
|Flint Knob||Calcite, Galena, Pyrite|
|Traphill, area fields, gravels, etc.||Agate (moss agate), Jasper, Chalcedony|
|Wilkesboro, area 2 mi. S||Garnet, Serpentine, Talc|
|Yadkin County, area stream gravels||Carnelian|
|Montvale, area stream gravels||Ruby, 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.
Where to Find Geodes in North Carolina
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.
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.
- Rockhounding on Public Land: Laws and Regulations
- Can You Collect Rocks in State Parks? All 50 States Answered
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: