Alaska is a great place to go rockhounding.
Here are just a few suggestions that anyone who enjoys the hobby should check out.
Rockhounding Juneau (A Visitor’s Guide)
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.
About Juneau, Alaska
Juneau is rather remote and offers various tours that take rock hounders out to select areas on tours where they can dig and search for gems, minerals, rocks, and other semi-precious stones.
Some tours offer the tools and additional training on how to pan the creeks before rock hounders venture out.
Rock hounders are able to learn about the history of the area and how and where these rocks and other mineral deposits can be found.
The most convenient way to go rock hounding, and due to the permits required, it is best to do it as part of a tour.
Rockhounding Juneau On Your Own
If you are out hiking around Juneau on your own outside of a tour, the best places to look for rocks to collect are quarries, road cuts, outcrops, pay-to-dig sites, river banks, creek beds, mine tailings, beaches, and sites with freshly overturned soil.
These locations provide easy access to abundant amounts of exposed, high quality, representative rock specimens.
Popular locations to collect rocks in SE Alaska include: Kenai River, Haines, Lituya Bay, Garnet Ledge, Port Houghton, Glacier Bay (though you cannot take anything home), Saginaw Bay, Admiralty Island, Red Bluff Bay, Silver Bay, and just about any island area with a beach that goes along the water.
For visitors to Juneau who don’t have the time or ability to venture out on their own, here are some popular tour options.
Alaska Travel Adventures Gold
This company specializes in 90-minute tours.
Customers are taken to Gold Creek from the cruise ship that docks.
Customers can expect to be transported by a prospector in full gear while receiving a brief history lesson on the gold rush in the area.
Gold panning lessons are included in the tour.
Clients have the option of staying in the hollow or venturing out and trying their luck on one of the creeks.
The land type includes creeks and troughs.
Clients will be provided with the necessary tools.
The best time of year for this outing is from May 1 to September 30 each year.
The location is easy to find as the company picks up customers at the ferry dock.
No vehicles other than a regular car are required for this excursion.
Stone diggers can expect to dig and find gold first and foremost.
For customers looking for lodging, Juneau has hotels, RV parks, and campgrounds.
Other special attractions include the Alaska State Museum and natural history exhibits.
AJ Mine/Gastineau Gold Tours
This is another private tour that clients and rock hunters can enjoy.
It is very easy to find the place.
Rock hunters are picked up at the ferry docks or, alternatively, in downtown Juneau.
The company will pick up the rock hunters and transport them to the location.
No special vehicles are required for this trip.
Rock hunters are not expected to bring their own tools, as the company will provide the tools.
The best and most appropriate time of year for this tour is during the summer months, which are May 1 through September 30.
The terrain for this tour includes spoil piles and troughs.
Stone hunters can expect to find gold on this adventure.
For those who want to stay overnight or a little longer, accommodations include RV parks, campaigns and hotels in Juneau, Alaska.
Part of the tour is through dark mine tunnels.
These tunnels stay at 40 °F.
Dress warmly for this portion of the tour.
The half-hour tour gets rock hounder behind the scenes of the gold mine operations that are now defunct.
Customers can expect a short van ride that takes them up a narrow mountain pass.
This path takes a rock hounder to the Gastineau mill ruins.
Once rock hounders arrive at the mill, they are transported to the underground tunnels via a conveyor belt.
This portion of the tour requires hard hats.
Hard rock and gold samples are explained by the miners.
The operations are family operated.
The family originally moved to Juneau to revive the mine but the operation was unsuccessful and now they run a tour for eager rock hounders who want to explore the mines and find treasures.
This tour can be booked through different cruise ship tours that frequent the area.
Last Chance Mining Museum
The Last Chance Mining Museum and Historical Park offer a unique gold rush experience. Admission is $5.
This fee is payable in cash and no other forms of payment are accepted.
Note that there is no way to reach the museum by car.
The only way to reach it is a two-mile walk from the ferry docks.
There is a road available that allows you to drive up to Basin and park the vehicle there.
You will only need to walk a third of the distance if you opt to take this route.
Nearly half of this walk is up a steep hill, so it requires good footwear.
The museum features historic mining buildings nestled in a wilderness setting.
There is also a 3-D glass map, underground exhibits and a gift shop.
The best time of the year to visit the site is during the summer months.
This is the only time the site is open.
Also, the site is only open on certain days, including Monday, Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. The opening hours are from 2:00 pm to 5:00 pm.
The museum is not heated, so rock hunters should dress warmly for the occasion.
Historic Gold Mining and Panning Adventure
This option includes a shore excursion and a city tour of Juneau.
You will learn how to dig in the creek and get to keep all the gold you find on your excursion.
You will be led by a guide dressed in 19th century attire. Nineteenth Century Dress.
Here you will learn more about the history of the gold rush in the area.
The excursion includes round-trip transportation.
During the trip’s shore excursion, Rock Hounders will learn more about the history when thousands of people flocked to the area in search of gold during the Gold Rush in the late 1880s.
Rock Hounders will be taken to a remote area along Gold Creek.
Please note that a special permit is required for this.
Members of the tour group will be granted access with the company’s special permit.
Rock hunters will learn how to pan, or alternatively, they can get into waist-deep water in the trough and try to find the gold.
Rock hunters will receive an Orelove Brothers Gold Claim Certificate as proof of gold found at the site.
Alaska State Museum
Other special attractions in the area include the Alaska State Museum and natural history exhibits.
A side note
Rock hounding in Alaska is legal on large federal tracks which include national forests.
However, refuges, national parks, and monuments are not included in this list.
This list is limited to areas that are close to Juneau but it needs to be mentioned that the larger Alaska area offers many sites, creeks, and mines across the state of Alaska where rock hounders can find jade, soapstone, diamonds, gold, obsidian, garnets, fossils, agates, sea glass, and geodes.
Other types of gems include Amethyst, which is a variety of quartz, Fluorite, which is an attractive mineral, platinum nuggets, and woolly mammoth fossils.
Ideally, having a boat or a plane can make rock hounding a fun and exciting expedition not only in the Juneau region, but also in the greater Alaskin area.
Rock hounding is a very exciting hobby that many Alaskans and those visiting Alaska participate in.
Learning about the history, geology, and other aspects of this kind of activity is part of the experience and allows rock hounder to broaden their knowledge on minerals and rocks that are indigenous to the area as well as how they are formed.