Utah is one of the most rugged and beautiful states in the entire country, and its epic landscapes contain a wealth of rocks and minerals that call to rockhounds around the world. Utah is virtually unmatched in the variety of gemstones and sheer number of rockhounding locations ready to be explored. From the expansive sandstone mesas in the south to the rocky mountains and Salt Flats to the north, there is an almost limitless supply of rockhounding sites awaiting the casual rock and mineral collector.
One of the best perks of rockhounding in Utah is the enormous amount of public land open to recreational use. BLM land and National Forests account for a huge percentage of the land ownership in the state, allowing casual rockhounds to collect (within reasonable limits) in many locations without a permit.
In general, the best places to rockhound in Utah are the gravels of streams, washes, and draws, as well as old mining dumps and rocky outcrops. The most popular rockhounding sites in Utah are the Dugway Geode Beds and Topaz Mountain. Almost 70% of Utah is BLM land open for recreational rockhounding.
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. The top 10 rockhounding sites in Utah:
Dugway Geode Beds – One of the most famous rockhounding locations in the entire United States, the Dugway Geode Beds are a mecca for rockhounds. Here you can find geodes in great supply, and nearby you can find other specimens such as quartz and amethyst crystals.
Topaz Dome Quarry – The aptly named Topaz Mountain is famous for its topaz specimens which, in this location, are naturally a light yellow color before being turned clear by exposure to sunlight. You can also find specimens of beryl, calcite, fluorite, hematite, and other minerals nearby.
Marysvale – The entire area surrounding Marysvale makes for a great rockhounding trip. Almost any creek, mine, or wash will have a good possibility of holding specimens of cinnabar, alunite, Calcite, chlorite, fluorite, amethyst, quartz, selenite, opal, and other minerals.
Moses Rock & Comb Ridge – The sandstone outcrops that dominate this entire area are well known for containing a beautiful variety of pyrope garnet, which are locally known as ‘Arizona Rubies’. You may also be able to find some chlorite, corundum, rutile, and spinel.
San Rafael River– The gravels and bars of the San Rafael River south of I-70 are a great place to search for quartz-family minerals like agate, jasper, and chalcedony, as well as anhydrite, carnotite, gypsum, and selenite.
Agate – The entire area surrounding this appropriately named town is a good choice for rockhounds looking for specimens of agate, chalcedony, chert, jasper, opal, and any other quartz-family minerals.
Hanksville – The entire area surrounding Hanksville is known to contain specimens of agate, jasper, and petrified wood. For the best luck, try the remote area about 3 miles west of town.
Sunstone Knoll – Yet another location whose name leaves little to the imagination, Sunstone Knoll is one of the very few places in the United States where you can reliably find sunstone specimens. This attractive variety of feldspar is highly sought after by amateur rockhounds.
Great Salt Lake – The shorelines all around the Great Salt Lake are a great place to do some rock picking. Keep your eye out for unique minerals such as aragonite, bloedite, glauberite, halite, and thenardite.
Black Rock – The area surrounding Black Rock is one of the best places in the country to find snowflake obsidian. For best results, try searching in local washes and draws where fresh material is most likely to be exposed.
Utah is home to a variety of gems and minerals that rivals any other state in the U.S. The southern region of the state is home to expansive sandstone plateaus that turn up nice specimens of quartz-family minerals such as agate, jasper, petrified wood, and septarian nodules. Most of the economic mines in the state were after copper-family minerals. Salt Lake City is even home to the world’s largest open-pit copper mine. No matter where you are in the state of Utah there is bound to be a large selection of rocks and minerals to search for somewhere nearby.
The most commonly found and collected minerals in Utah are:
Through quite a bit of research and cross-referencing of available literature, I have compiled this list of some prospective locations in Utah which I would recommend to people looking to do some rockhounding. These are mostly comprised of 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 Utah so you can choose one that works best for you. 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.
There are so many rockhounding locations in Utah that it can be overwhelming. To make things easier, I’ll break the state up into several areas and discuss the rockhounding sites and anything noteworthy in each region. For many of the locations listed here, there are actually many sites in the immediate area worth investigating. For example, I will often list a particular mining district that has several nearby mines.
Salt Lake Area Rockhounding Locations
The Salt Lake area, like much of the rest of Utah, contains an almost endless supply of rockhounding locations consisting of old mining dumps, stream gravels, draws, and washes. What sets the Salt Lake area apart is the shores of the Great Salt Lake and, of course, the Salt Flats. These areas are known to contain several mineral species that you aren’t likely to find in such abundance anywhere else in the state such as halite, gypsum, and sylvite.
The mining districts of the Wasatch mountains are perhaps the best places to go rockhounding in the Salt Lake area. The mines are almost too numerous to count but offer a large selection of rocks and minerals. Some of the more common specimens found in the area are cerussite, bornite, azurite, malachite, pyrite, and galena. As always, make sure to gain permission from any landowners or claim holders before collecting on their property.
Northeastern Utah is a great spot for rockhounding. While there are many old mining districts to explore, there are also tons of more accessible locations to search that produce plenty of collectible material. This part of the state is probably the best place to find semiprecious gemstones like agate, jasper, and petrified wood, particularly in Emery and Grand Counties.
The Uinta mountains near the northern border contain quite a few old mines which would be a great place to begin your search. The area with the most rockhounding locations to check out is south of I-70, offering specimens of many minerals including carnotite, chalcedony, agate, selenite, barite, and pyrolusite.
Western Utah is perhaps the best place in the entire state for rockhounding, thanks in large part to the world famous Dugway Geode Beds. The entire Dugway Range is a rockhounding hot spot, known not only for its geodes but fantastic specimens of many minerals including fluorite, garnet, topaz, and beryl. Topaz Dome Quarry is another famous locality that is a must-visit for any rockhound in the area.
Almost anywhere you search in western Utah you’ll have a decent chance of finding something interesting. The mountains, washes, and draws in the area are known to contain many interesting mineral species including beryl, calcite, hematite, garnet, limonite, and azurite. If you search in the right place you may even be able to find some plume agate and snowflake obsidian.
Southern Utah is a veritable playground for rockhounds, offering a wide variety of location types including old mining dumps, stream and river gravels, washes, draws, and placer deposits. The old mines in the area will contain the largest variety of minerals (and likely more exotic finds) but there are many more accessible locations where you can find nice specimens of minerals like garnet, magnetite, onyx, agate, chalcedony, and petrified wood.
One of the more interesting sites to check out is the Moses Rock and Comb Ridge area in the southeastern part of the state. Here, you can find an interesting variety of pyrope garnet that is locally known as “Arizona ruby”. For those of you looking to pan for gold, the San Juan River and Colorado River (as well as their tributaries) are worthwhile destinations for their placer sand deposits.
Agate, Jasper, Petrified dinosaur bone, Jasperized dinosaur bone
Utah 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.
As with most states, each county in Utah 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 Connecticut, I would recommend starting with the County Assessor’s office.
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: