Located in California’s Eastern Sierra, Mono County offers a rich landscape for rockhounds and adventurers alike.
The region’s Mammoth Lakes boasts many rockhounding sites, including ghost towns and craters.
Get ready for the rockhounding adventure of a lifetime.
Rockhounding Mono County, California
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.
One of the most famous rockhounding sites in Mono County is Bodie Ghost town.
You will love the extensive history and unique minerals.
This site offers a wide variety of minerals and crystals, like Jasper, Agate, and Geodes.
If you’re lucky, you might even find some gold. In order to identify these materials, you may want to bring a rockhounding guide.
Jasper will typically appear in either a red or yellow color, and often have multicolored streaks running throughout the rock.
It is commonly found next to water.
In contrast, geodes will be more earth-toned on the outside, with the many-colored crystals found inside the rock.
To find geodes, look for round rocks with bumpy surfaces.
Agate will appear primarily in red, pink, or brown with unique rounded layers of different shades running along the inside.
Before you can begin rockhounding, you will need to travel to the site. To get to Bodie from Mono City, turn left onto E Mono Lake Dr. After a mile, you will use CA-167 W to get to US 395 N. Drive for about 12 miles and then turn right onto CA-270 E.
13 miles later, the road will become Bodie Rd. Bodie is a State Historic Park due to its gold mining history, so it has restricted access.
Adults pay $8.00 per person to visit while children are $5.00 each.
Nothing at the direct site can be collected, but you are free to rockhound outside the borders of the park.
When planning your trip, make sure you extensively study the boundaries to avoid collecting any illegal materials within the ghost town.
Many rockhounds choose to tour the town before traveling outside to start collecting minerals.
Make sure you follow all of the state restrictions and come fully prepared with rockhounding supplies, water, and appropriate clothing.
The California Department of Parks and Recreation is a great resource for any questions you may have.
Casa Diablo Mountain:
Another great site near Mammoth Lakes is Casa Diablo Mountain.
This area is great for hiking, rock climbing, and rockhounding.
You can find some unique minerals at this site, including red and black obsidian, chalcedony, and agate.
To identify these stones, you will need to look out for the unique colors and the rock shapes.
The red and black obsidian will typically be smooth and glassy, in either color.
The chalcedony will be slightly waxy and could be translucent or tinted blue.
Agate will appear as previously mentioned.
Obsidian crystals will likely be easy to rockhound.
You can frequently find them loose in piles around the area.
Chalcedony may also be found in a similar state, especially around water.
To get to this site from Mono City, take E Mono Lake Dr. to US 395 S. After approximately 38 miles, turn left onto Benton Crossing Rd. You will drive on this road for 17 miles, before turning right onto Casa Diablo Mine Rd.
About five miles later, you will turn left onto Forest Rd. Follow this road for about three miles before arriving at the destination.
This site does require a bit of walking after driving to the trail.
The road will end about one mile from the peak, requiring travel on foot.
Make sure you are prepared to hike up an incline.
Bring water or drinks like Gatorade for hydration.
The obsidian will be sharp, so you will need to prepare clothing and collecting tools that provide adequate safety.
Depending on the season and the condition of the site, it may be difficult to walk on top of or near the rocks.
High-quality hiking books are definitely worth the cost, especially if you plan on frequent rockhounding.
This site is a volcanic dome near the Mammoth Lakes region.
It has a long history of providing materials for tools to the local Native American tribes.
Its name comes directly from the crystals found there, a remnant of its explosive past.
An important thing for you to note about this site is its unstable nature.
The minerals themselves make the ground dangerous and difficult to walk across without stumbling.
You will need high-quality hiking shoes, and possibly a walking stick as well.
The rocks at this site are primarily large boulders, so you will need a hammer, chisel, and rock picks.
Remember: obsidian is the sharpest natural material known to man.
Bring thick gloves, as well as protective clothing that is resistant to tearing.
You will also need a durable bag for collecting that will not be impacted by the sharp edges of the obsidian.
To get to this site from Mono City, turn left onto CA-167 W onto US 395 S. After traveling for approximately 22 miles, turn right onto Obsidian Dome Rd and follow it until you reach the site’s parking lot.
There are two parking locations at the base of the dome.
Due to the hazardous nature of this rockhounding site, it is not a recommended location for families or amateur rockhounds.
The area does not have a lot of tree cover, so you should bring a sufficient amount of water for hydration, along with sunscreen.
Be prepared for an adventurous and successful dig at this famous rockhounding site.
Before You Go:
These rockhounding sites are in northeast California.
The climate fluctuates between about 39 degrees and 87 degrees Fahrenheit.
It tends to be slightly colder than the rest of the state, so you may need to wear more clothing, depending on the season.
The best time to visit these sites is mid-spring or early fall when the weather is comfortable but not hot enough to cause heatstroke or other complications.
Several of these rockhounding locations are known for their obsidian collecting.
If you are planning to collect obsidian, make sure you have protective gear for yourself.
This includes thick clothes, protective gloves, and goggles.
Your collection bag will also need to be fairly durable to avoid tearing from the sharp edges.
Many rockhounds recommend wearing hiking boots that cover the ankle and lower leg fully, before visiting the Obsidian dome site.
This rockhounding location is not recommended for children or those who are inexperienced in the hobby.
The Mammoth Lakes region is home to a wide variety of crystals and rocks.
One of the benefits of this region is its easy access.
There are designated parking structures for most of the sites, and highway roads lead directly to them.
Bodie is a unique site because it is a State Historical Park. When you visit Bodie, make sure that any collecting you do is outside of the park itself to avoid illegal collecting.
The most important part of rockhounding is following all state and local laws. Some useful tools are topographical maps and compasses.
You may not be able to get GPS services at these sites, so prepare to navigate the old-fashioned way.
Remember to always prepare extensively ahead of time and stay safe while collecting. Good luck rockhounds!
California Rockhounding Resources
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We are getting ready to go rockhounding near Palm Springs, we’ll let you know how it goes! Where are you headed next?
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