How to Find Crystals: Beginner’s Guide to Rockhounding Success

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Have you ever wondered how to find crystals, those mesmerizing pieces of Earth’s natural beauty? The short answer is: you can discover them in a variety of places, from pay-to-dig sites to your own backyard. But the real excitement lies in the journey to uncover these hidden gems.

Dive into this article, where we’ll guide you through the best methods and locations to find captivating crystals, along with essential tips on collecting and caring for your newfound treasures.

Crystal Types, Features, and Top Regions in the US to Find Them

Crystal NameFeaturesTop 10 Regions in the US to Be Found
QuartzA clear or white crystal that can also be pink or smoky grayArkansas, California, Colorado, Maine, New York, North Carolina, South Dakota, Utah, Vermont, Wisconsin
AmethystA purple crystal that is often found in geodes or clustersArizona, Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Wisconsin
Rose QuartzA pink crystal that is usually translucent and can be found in large formationsSouth Dakota, California, Colorado
CitrineA yellow or orange crystal that is often found in clusters or geodesArkansas, Colorado, Georgia, North Carolina
CalciteA clear or white crystal that is often found in sedimentary rocksNew York, Indiana, Iowa (see mountains of Iowa), Tennessee, Utah
SeleniteA clear or white crystal that is often found in large formationsNew Mexico, Utah, Oklahoma, California
TourmalineA crystal that comes in various colors, including black, green, pink, and blueCalifornia, Maine, New Hampshire
TopazA yellow or blue crystal that is often found in granite or pegmatite rocksColorado, Utah, Maine
GarnetA red or brown crystal that is often found in metamorphic rocksNew York, Idaho, Montana
ApatiteA green or blue crystal that is often found in igneous rocksMaine, New York, North Carolina, Colorado
This table provides information on different types of crystals, their features, and the top regions in the US to find them.

Pay-to-Dig Sites

These are locations where you pay a fee to access and collect crystals. Ideal for beginners, they offer a fun, guided experience. Bring basic tools, a container, and safety gear. Expect to find various minerals and enjoy a rewarding day of treasure hunting.

What You Can Find

At pay-to-dig sites, visitors can find a variety of crystals, gemstones, and minerals such as quartz, amethyst, garnet, and tourmaline.

The experience

The experience at pay-to-dig sites is often beginner-friendly and enjoyable, as these locations usually provide a comfortable and safe environment for crystal hunting. You can expect clear instructions and guidance from staff, who will inform you about the best techniques and spots to dig.

Many sites also offer additional amenities such as restrooms, picnic areas, and even guided tours. The thrill of discovery is enhanced by the knowledge that you’re searching in a location known for its rich mineral deposits.

10 Best Pay-to-Dig Sites in the US

1. Crater of Diamonds State Park, AR

Location: Murfreesboro, Arkansas
What to find: Diamonds, quartz, jasper
Why go there: The only public diamond mine in the world, offering a unique opportunity to dig for diamonds.

2. Wegner Quartz Crystal Mines, AR

Location: Mount Ida, Arkansas
What to find: Quartz crystals, amethyst
Why go there: A premier destination for crystal enthusiasts, with abundant, high-quality quartz crystals.

3. Gem Mountain, NC

Location: Spruce Pine, North Carolina
What to find: Aquamarine, quartz, emerald
Why go there: A family-friendly destination where you can mine for a variety of gemstones in a scenic location.

4. Rainbow Ridge Opal Mine, NV

Location: Virgin Valley, Nevada
What to find: Precious opals, fire opals
Why go there: Known for its stunning, colorful opals and the chance to find rare, valuable specimens.

5. Emerald Hollow Mine, NC

Location: Hiddenite, North Carolina
What to find: Emeralds, sapphires, garnet
Why go there: The only emerald mine in the US open to the public, offering the chance to find rare gems.

6. Cherokee Ruby & Sapphire Mine, NC

Location: Franklin, North Carolina
What to find: Rubies, sapphires, garnets
Why go there: A popular destination for mining rubies and sapphires in a beautiful, forested setting.

7. Himalaya Tourmaline Mine, CA

Location: Santa Ysabel, California
What to find: Tourmaline, lepidolite, quartz
Why go there: A historic mine with rich deposits of tourmaline and other fascinating minerals.

8. Royal Peacock Opal Mine, NV

Location: Virgin Valley, Nevada
What to find: Black fire opals, precious opals
Why go there: Home to the famous black fire opals, this mine offers a unique and rewarding experience.

9. Morefield Gem Mine, VA

Location: Amelia, Virginia
What to find: Amazonite, topaz, garnet
Why go there: A diverse array of gemstones, including the rare and beautiful amazonite, awaits eager collectors.

10. Oceanview Mine, CA

Location: Pala, California
What to find: Tourmaline, kunzite, morganite
Why go there: A chance to dig for beautiful, high-quality gemstones in a picturesque location.


Local Rock Shops

These stores specialize in selling crystals, minerals, and fossils. Visiting them offers convenience, expertise, and a curated selection. Bring a list of desired specimens and a budget. Expect a relaxed shopping experience and knowledgeable staff to assist you.

What You Can Find

Local rock shops offer a wide selection of crystals, minerals, and fossils sourced from various locations, making them a convenient place to find unique specimens.

The experience

Visiting a local rock shop is a more relaxed and leisurely experience compared to outdoor digging. Surrounded by a wide variety of crystals and minerals, you can take your time browsing through the selections, asking questions, and learning from knowledgeable staff.

Many rock shops also offer classes and workshops on topics such as crystal identification, cutting, and polishing. This experience is perfect for those who prefer a controlled environment and appreciate the expertise and curation that local rock shops provide.

Mine Tailings

Mine tailings are waste materials left behind after mining operations. They can still contain valuable crystals. Bring digging tools, gloves, and safety goggles. Expect a dusty, physically demanding experience but with the potential for rewarding finds

[check also our post about the impact of mining on rivers]

What You Can Find

Mine tailings can contain crystals and minerals such as quartz, pyrite, and calcite that were discarded during the mining process.

The experience

The experience of searching for crystals in mine tailings can be physically demanding but also very rewarding. You’ll need to navigate piles of discarded rocks and debris, often in dusty and exposed conditions. As you sift through the tailings, you’ll develop a keen eye for spotting valuable minerals among the waste.

This experience is ideal for adventurous rockhounds who don’t mind getting their hands dirty and are willing to put in the effort to uncover hidden treasures.

In addition to the physical demands of searching mine tailings, the experience also provides a glimpse into the history and industrial legacy of the mining operations. As you explore the area, you may come across old equipment, structures, or even historical artifacts.

This adds an element of intrigue and a sense of connection to the miners who once worked tirelessly to extract valuable minerals from the earth.

Creek & River Beds

Crystals can be found in waterways, especially in areas with volcanic activity or hydrothermal processes. Bring screens, pans, and waterproof footwear. Expect to explore waterways, sift through sediment, and enjoy the great outdoors while hunting for gems.

What You Can Find

Creeks and river beds can host a variety of crystals and minerals, including quartz, agate, jasper, and gold, especially in areas with a history of volcanic activity or hydrothermal processes.

The experience

Hunting for crystals in creek and river beds offers a refreshing and exciting outdoor adventure. You’ll need to navigate the waterways, often wading through shallow waters or hiking along banks, all while keeping an eye out for potential crystal finds.

The soothing sounds of flowing water and the beauty of the natural landscape make this a serene and enjoyable experience. This type of crystal hunting is ideal for nature lovers and those who enjoy exploring different environments.

As I made my way through the creeks and river beds, I felt a deep connection with nature and an appreciation for its hidden gems. The excitement of finding a beautiful crystal nestled among the stones was amplified by the sound of the water flowing around me.

I found that the process of searching in such a tranquil setting allowed me to relax and truly enjoy the experience, making it a perfect way to spend a sunny day outdoors.

Click the link if you’re wondering if it’s legal to collect stones and crystals from riverbeds.

Garnet How to Find Crystals: Beginner's Guide to Rockhounding Success

Abandoned Quarries

These are former mining sites that may still hold valuable minerals. Bring a rock hammer, sturdy footwear, and safety gear. Expect rugged terrain, climbing over rocks, and the excitement of discovering hidden crystal pockets.

What You Can Find

Abandoned quarries may contain minerals such as calcite, fluorite, and barite, as well as various types of quartz and fossils.

The experience

Exploring abandoned quarries in search of crystals can be a thrilling and challenging experience. The terrain is often rugged and requires climbing over rocks and navigating uneven ground. You’ll need to carefully inspect the quarry walls and piles of debris, looking for signs of crystal formations or exposed mineral veins.

The experience is perfect for those seeking adventure and excitement, as the thrill of discovery is heightened by the knowledge that you’re exploring a site once known for its valuable resources.

The Top 5 Abandoned Quarries in the US for Finding Crystals

1. Ruggles Mine, NH

Location: Grafton, New Hampshire
What to find: Mica, beryl, quartz, and other minerals
Why go there: Once a significant source of mica, Ruggles Mine is now a popular spot for rockhounds to search for a variety of minerals in a unique, historic setting.

2. Sterling Hill Mining Museum, NJ

Location: Ogdensburg, New Jersey
What to find: Fluorescent minerals, such as willemite and calcite
Why go there: Known for its world-class fluorescent mineral deposits, Sterling Hill offers guided tours and the opportunity to collect unique, glow-in-the-dark specimens.

3. Ace of Diamonds Mine, NY

Location: Middleville, New York
What to find: Herkimer diamonds (quartz crystals)
Why go there: A famous destination for Herkimer diamond hunting, this quarry offers visitors the chance to discover high-quality quartz crystals in an authentic mining environment.

4. Graves Mountain, GA

Location: Lincoln County, Georgia
What to find: Rutile, kyanite, lazulite, and other minerals
Why go there: With its diverse mineral deposits and stunning blue quartz, Graves Mountain is an exciting and challenging site for mineral enthusiasts to explore.

5. Hansonburg Fluorite Mines, NM

Location: Bingham, New Mexico
What to find: Fluorite, barite, galena
Why go there: Famous for its blue and green fluorite crystals, Hansonburg is an ideal destination for collectors seeking unique and colorful specimens.

Road Cuts

Road cuts are exposed rock faces alongside roads that can reveal crystals and minerals. Bring a rock hammer, chisel, and safety gear. Expect to inspect exposed rock and lose material, taking precautions to avoid traffic hazards.

What You Can Find

Road cuts can expose crystals and minerals such as garnet, tourmaline, and beryl, depending on the local geology.

The experience

The experience of searching for crystals in road cuts can be both exciting and potentially hazardous. You’ll need to carefully inspect the exposed rock faces along roadsides, be mindful of traffic and take precautions to ensure your safety.

As you search for minerals among the rock layers, you’ll develop a better understanding of the geological forces that shape the landscape. This type of crystal hunting is ideal for those who are cautious, patient, and enjoy investigating geological features.

Public Land vs Private Land

Public lands offer open access to explore crystals, while private lands require permission. Both can yield exciting findings. Bring digging tools, containers, and a respectful attitude. Expect to follow rules and guidelines to protect the environment and respect property rights.

What You Can Find

On public land, you may find various crystals and minerals, such as quartz, garnet, and tourmaline, depending on the geological features of the area. On private land, the range of crystals and minerals may be more specific to the owner’s collection or the land’s unique geological characteristics.

The experience

The experience of searching for crystals on public and private lands can vary greatly. On public lands, you’ll need to adhere to rules and regulations, such as obtaining permits or staying within designated areas. Private land, on the other hand, requires permission from the landowner, which may come with its own set of guidelines.

The thrill of discovery can be equally rewarding on both types of land, and the experience will teach you the importance of respecting property rights and environmental conservation.


Crystal Pockets in the Soil and Laying on the Ground

Crystals can be found in pockets within the soil or on the ground’s surface. Bring digging tools, a magnifying glass, and a keen eye. Expect a thrilling treasure hunt as you search for hidden gems.

What You Can Find

Crystal pockets in the soil and on the ground can contain a variety of crystals and minerals, such as quartz, agate, and jasper.

The experience

Searching for crystal pockets in the soil and on the ground can be an exhilarating treasure hunt. You’ll need to keep your eyes peeled for signs of crystals peeking out from the earth or glistening among rocks and debris. As you dig into the soil or sift through loose material, the anticipation of unearthing hidden gems will keep you motivated and engaged.

How Do You Recognize or Find Crystal Pockets?

Recognizing and finding crystal pockets in the soil and laying on the ground requires patience, a keen eye, and knowledge of the geology of the area. Here are some tips to help you locate these crystal-rich spots:

  1. Research the area: Familiarize yourself with the types of crystals and minerals native to the region you’re exploring, as well as the geological formations where they’re most likely to be found.
  2. Look for signs: Keep an eye out for visual cues, such as exposed rocks with mineral veins or shiny flecks, which may indicate the presence of crystals nearby.
  3. Examine the soil: In areas with loose or eroded soil, look for fragments or whole crystals that have become dislodged from their original pockets and are now laying on the surface.
  4. Probe the ground: Gently probing the soil with a small shovel or pick can help you locate pockets hidden just beneath the surface. As you dig, watch for changes in soil color or texture that may indicate the presence of minerals.
  5. Sift through the debris: In rocky areas, sift through loose material or piles of stones, as crystals may have been dislodged from their pockets over time.
  6. Follow watercourses: Creeks, rivers, and other watercourses can help to expose and transport crystals, so pay close attention to the soil and rocks along the water’s edge.

Remember, finding crystal pockets takes time and practice. The more you explore and learn about the geology and mineralogy of an area, the better you’ll become at recognizing and locating these hidden treasures.

Find Crystals in Your Backyard

Depending on your location, you may find crystals in your own backyard. Bring digging tools, a trowel, and a sense of adventure. Expect a fun, educational activity for the whole family while exploring the geological features of your property.

What You Can Find

Depending on your location and local geology, you may find crystals such as quartz, amethyst, or even agate in your backyard.

The experience

Searching for crystals in your backyard can be a fun and educational activity for the whole family. It involves scanning the ground, digging, and learning about the minerals that may be present in your area.

How to Plan for Digging through Your Backyard

Before you begin searching for crystals in your backyard, spend time researching the geology of your area and the types of minerals commonly found there. Obtain necessary tools such as a shovel, hand lens, gloves, and a container for your finds.

Plan your search by identifying spots with exposed soil, rocks, or loose gravel, and be prepared to dig shallow holes or sift through the debris.

Remember to practice patience and perseverance, as crystal hunting in your backyard can be both challenging and rewarding.

Is it good for Crystals where I live?

The southeastern region of the United States, particularly states like Arkansas, Georgia, and North Carolina, is known for being rich in a variety of crystals and minerals. In these areas, the geological conditions make it more likely for homeowners to find crystals in their backyards.

However, it’s important to note that crystal discoveries can still occur in other regions, depending on local geology and mineral deposits.

One way to find out if your region is good for crystals is to research the local geology and mineralogy. You can look up geological maps and resources online, or consult with a local geologist or rockhounding club for more information.

The Top 11 Supplies You Will Need to Find Crystals

  1. Rock Hammer: A sturdy rock hammer is essential for breaking open rocks and accessing crystal pockets. It can range from $20 to $60, depending on the quality and brand.
  2. Chisel and Pry Bar: These tools are useful for prying open rock formations and extracting crystals. A decent chisel can cost $10 to $30, while a pry bar can be around $15 to $50.
  3. Shovel and Trowel: A shovel and trowel help in digging and moving soil to uncover hidden crystals. A quality shovel can cost between $15 to $40, and a trowel can be around $5 to $20.
  4. Sieve: A sieve is helpful for sifting through soil and gravel to find smaller crystals. It can be purchased for approximately $10 to $30, depending on the size and material.
  5. Hand Lens: A hand lens or magnifying glass allows for close examination of potential finds. It typically costs between $5 and $25, depending on the magnification and quality.
  6. Gloves: Durable gloves protect your hands from sharp rocks and dirty surfaces. A pair of good gloves can range from $10 to $30.
  7. Bucket or Bag: A sturdy container like a bucket or a durable bag is necessary for carrying your finds. You can expect to spend between $5 and $20 for a quality container.
  8. Safety Goggles: Safety goggles protect your eyes from debris when using tools like hammers and chisels. They can be purchased for around $5 to $20.
  9. First Aid Kit: A basic first aid kit is essential for treating minor injuries while in the field. It can be bought for approximately $10 to $30.
  10. Hat and Sunscreen: A wide-brimmed hat and sunscreen will protect you from the sun while searching for crystals. A good hat can cost between $10 and $50, and sunscreen can range from $5 to $20, depending on the brand and SPF.
  11. Field Guide or Mineral Identification Book: A field guide or mineral identification book is an invaluable resource for recognizing and learning about the crystals and minerals you encounter. It can help you determine the value and significance of your findings. These books typically range from $10 to $40, depending on the depth of information and quality of illustrations.

Investing in the right tools and supplies can enhance your crystal hunting experience and improve your chances of discovering valuable specimens.


Embarking on a crystal-hunting adventure is truly a rewarding endeavor. The search process immerses you in nature, fosters a deeper understanding of geology, and nurtures your curiosity. Unearthing stunning treasures leaves you with a profound sense of accomplishment and wonder.

The memories and beautiful specimens you collect will serve as lasting reminders of the thrilling journey that crystal hunting offers. Don’t miss out on this enticing and enriching experience.


Where crystals are found?

Crystals can be found in a range of environments and regions globally, such as in mines, caves, and geothermal regions, as well as in rocks formed from magma or lava. The US, Brazil, India, and South Africa are some of the top countries where crystals can be found.

How do you tell if a rock is a crystal?

To determine if a rock is a crystal, look for its distinct geometric shape or structure, as well as transparency or translucency, and check if it formed naturally. Some common crystal shapes include cubes, pyramids, and hexagonal prisms.

How do you check for crystals?

To check for crystals, visually inspect them or use a magnifying glass or mineral testing kit to determine properties like hardness or specific gravity. You can also perform a streak test, which involves rubbing the crystal against a rough surface to see the color of the powder left behind.

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Author: Richard
Meet Richard Buettner, the esteemed editor of GeoAffairs, armed with a Master's degree in Geography and sharing his valuable insights through 25 years of dedicated experience in the field.

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