Emerald Hollow Mine (North Carolina): 5 Insider Tips To Make The Best Of Your Trip  

If you are a rock hound or a jewelry maker, you dream of being able to pull beautiful gemstones out of the earth.

In Hiddenite, North Carolina you can make this dream come true, although it might be a little harder than you think.

In this article, we’ll take a look at the Emerald Hollow Mines, and give you our top 5 tips to make the best of your rock-hounding trip there.

Emerald Hollow Mine (North Carolina)


The information provided in this article by YesDirt.com is for informational purposes and is subject to change. Laws are updated. Accessibility guidelines and restrictions change. Be sure to confirm the land status and collection rules before you travel to an unfamiliar location or collect any material.

What Are the Emerald Hollow Mines?

The Emerald Hollow Mines is the world’s only publicly accessible emerald mine, and it’s located in Hiddenite, North Carolina.

The mine covers 69 acres, with countless different spots for rock hounding and opportunities to dig for more than 60 different minerals in the local soil, including rubies, garnets, amethyst, citrines, sapphires, and, of course, emeralds.

The mine is publicly accessible, but not free. You need to purchase a permit to dig there.

For adults, the cost is $25, for kids 4-11 it is $10, and children under 3 get in free.

The Emerald Hollow Mines also offers enriched buckets, which range from $5 to $1000.

Don’t Expect To Hit It Big Right Away

It’s easy to get excited about the more than 60 varieties of local gemstones, but if you expect to fill up a bucket with emeralds during your day at the Emerald Hollow Mines, you should lower your expectations.

The mine is indeed full of gems, but some of the richest deposits are cordoned off and off-limits to visitors.

As the world’s only publicly accessible emerald mine, Emerald Hollows has already been picked apart pretty thoroughly and you are unlikely to stumble onto an exciting find right away – although, in fairness, anything is possible in rock hounding.

The Emerald Hollow Mines is great for families who want to show kids how to sluice stones and identify them.

If you are bringing children, it is probably better to purchase an enriched bucket to ensure that you don’t leave empty-handed.

It might be frustrating for children to sluice in the creek and dig for hours without finding anything – and that’s a real possibility at the Emerald Hollow Mines.

Serious rock hounds recognize that whatever deposits still exist in the publicly available parts of the Emerald Hollow Mines will take some knowledge and some committed digging.

John, the owner of one of the largest holes in the Mines, spends a huge amount of time rock hounding in a rich deposit and uses a backhoe.

He reports that sometimes, even he goes several days without finding something.

There are gemstones out there, but if you expect to bend down and start picking up rubies and emeralds, you will be disappointed by your experience.

Come Prepared

Although the sluice area is shaded and you have the option to rent tools, you are best off bringing a few things from home:

  • Comfortable clothes you can get dirty in
  • Hiking shoes
  • Safety goggles
  • A hat and sunscreen
  • A hammer
  • A pick
  • A tin pan
  • A towel

Emerald Hollow Mines is accessible for older people and children, but anyone with mobility issues is probably better off staying at home.

To get to most areas, including the creek and the sluice area, you will need to cover uneven ground.

A day trip to the mines will also require some hiking.

Some visitors were surprised by how much distance there is between the digging sites and the sluice area.

With a total area of 69 acres, the Emerald Hollow Mines covers a lot of ground and may not be a lot of fun for those with mobility issues or limited stamina.

Search for Mica and Quartz Veins

The best deposits in the Emerald Hollow Mines are found by searching out veins of both Mica and Quartz in the rock faces.

There is a distinct chalky soil that appears in the red-brown earth, tipping you off that you’ve found a quartz vein.

If you can find a place where quartz and mica veins intersect, you’re highly likely to find gems by digging in.

These veins are common enough in the rich earth, and although they may not always yield the deposit you want, following them is by far the best way to rock hound for your gemstones in the public area of the Emerald Hollow Mines.

Use a pick to chip away at the rock and sort through what you find. Look for anything that sparkles, and keep digging.

Look Under Rocks While Creekin’

The best way to find gemstones in the creek is to look under large rocks.

The current carries stones straight into the creek bed where they are quickly found by the prospectors who pan there regularly, but some larger and more valuable stones can get caught under larger rocks on the bottom of the creek.

While you are creeking, search out areas where large rocks are within arm’s reach beneath the water.

Pulling up a couple of heavy rocks will reveal the smaller stones beneath, which you can gather together and pan for gems.

Since everyone is doing the same thing, the shallowest and easiest to reach rocks have probably been recently searched.

If you can reach down deeper, you are more likely to lift stones that haven’t been recently touched, with gems stuck underneath them.

Get Gemstones Cut At the Lapidary

One of the great things about the Emerald Hollow Mine is that it offers so many services – including an onsite Lapidary.

The friendly staff there can help you identify, appraise, cut, and set stones that you find into jewelry, which you can buy.

Owning a piece of custom jewelry that contains a gemstone you found yourself is a great way to commemorate a successful trip to the Emerald Hollow Mines.

Make the Best of Your Trip

The Emerald Hollow Mines is more of a tourist attraction for families to explore rock hounding together than it is a site for serious rock hounds looking for emeralds.

The truth is that although deposits of emeralds, rubies, sapphires, and more do exist, they just aren’t that easy to find anymore and your chances of stumbling onto the motherlode right away are pretty slim.

You’ll probably have a great time at the Emerald Hollow Mines if you are either:

  1. A tourist who wants to buy an enriched bucket of gemstones to sift through in the sluice area, go hiking through the North Carolina forest, and relax in the creek.
  2. A serious rock hound who is willing to put in several days of concerted effort to find the remaining deposits that are out there.

If you are the latter, your best bet will be to hunt for veins of quartz and mica and sift through everything you break up. It might be a lengthy process, but with more than 60 varieties of local gemstones, you never know what you might find.

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