Arizona is certainly one of the best states in the country to go rockhounding.
There are many great places, especially around the greater Flagstaff area, and a few hours drive away in any direction.
Here are just a few suggestions that anyone who enjoys the hobby should check out.
Rockhounding Near Flagstaff (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.
The Town of Cleator
Located in Yavapai County between Crown King and Sedona, this non-active mining town, or ghost town, is located adjacent to Flagstaff and approximately 70 miles from Phoenix.
The abandoned town has over 31,000 mines in and around it.
It can be found on the road between Crown King and Cordes, which at one time was Murphy’s Impossible Railroad.
It can be difficult to get to, but there are signs along the way that are helpful.
The area is known for its vast array of copper oxide minerals, like azurite, in charming shades of blue, malachite, in an opaque jewel-toned green, and chrysocolla, a turquoise to aquamarine stone, but it is also a great site for collecting schorl, the most common variety of tourmaline.
A huge portion of the schorl, in rutile form, can be found embedded in a swath of white quartz.
Its lustrous black crystals are a delight to see, especially juxtaposed against the lighter crystals.
Interestingly, it has been said that the copper oxide minerals are unlike many others in the area. They are especially colorful and plentiful on this site.
Location: Exit 259 off Interstate 17
Salt Mines: South of Camp Verde/Rodeo Flats
Camp Verde and adjacent Rodeo Flats are near the mid-sized city of Sedona.
In addition to the salt mines nearby that contain many elaborate and decorative salt crystals, you may find both calcite and aragonite pseudomorphs not far off the main road.
The calcite, with distinct blades, is creamy white in color, while the aragonite is yellowish, like gems, and resembles flowers.
Agates, fossils, and even copper minerals can be found across the vast area, so it really deserves to be fully explored.
The best part of the place is that you can examine the walls and dig for new specimens, or simply look through the sand and surface collect.
You never know what you may find.
Location: Exit 286 off Interstate 17
Dobell Ranch, Holbrook
This ranch is privately owned and located near the Petrified National Forest.
There are different fees charged for petrified wood, depending on weight, and they also charge by the gallon.
Rather than navigating the national park by yourself, try visiting this interesting ranch next door, to the immediate south, and have their welcoming staff help you find an abundance of beautiful petrified wood.
The place is family owned, and they are extremely knowledgeable when it comes to the area and the many treasures you will find readily available on the property.
The ranch also employs an experienced staff that understands the ins and outs of rockhounding.
There is a museum on the grounds, The Curio Museum, which was once the home of the former owner and current owner’s grandfather.
It is filled with mementos from his active childhood and gorgeous petrified wood and unique, rough rocks.
Some of the petrified wood on the property has been said to be millions of years old, but you probably will not collect any pieces that ancient.
That said, you can collect petrified wood anywhere on the property, but you will be given a tour first, so you can survey the area.
Be sure to bring plenty of water and a wide-brimmed hat.
Even without tools, the amount one can gather from surface collecting is amazing.
However, tools are encouraged since there is plenty more petrified wood that can be excavated if you dig a bit deeper down.
Location: 9274 Old United States Highway 180, Holbrook, AZ 86025
Environmental Educational Center, Willow Bend
From early June up until late August each year, the center offers free, supervised downtown Flagstaff geology walking tours, each lasting one hour.
These excursions are based on local Flagstaff author Marie Jackson’s book, Stone Landmarks, which is a helpful guide to the gorgeous local stones that were used in building the area, a tradition that continues to this day.
You will have the opportunity to marvel at ancient stones, such as kaibab limestone, pumiceous dacite, moenkopi sandstone, and malpais basalt, all used to create the town’s beloved downtown structures.
Don’t forget to look at the fossils laid along the Ice House’s walls.
You will learn in-depth about the gorgeous ”Arizona Red” stone that lines the Grand Canyon and other nearby formations, and spy some gorgeous rock etchings, as well.
It is truly amazing to see the stones and rocks that are typically found in the desert being used to create an urban building.
The staff and your leaders are well versed and will answer any questions you may have.
Just note that your tour dates and times may change depending on weather and other variables.
Location: 24 N San Francisco Street, Flagstaff, AZ 86001
Gray Mountain, Apache Junction area
This is a picturesque formation located approximately 39 miles north-northeast of Flagstaff near the Navajo Nation.
It is a nearly abandoned area, but it is truly flooded with so much jasper, petrified wood, and so many agates (black, green, blue, red, white, purple, yellow, pink, gray, brown, and orange) and moqui balls that dot its ground that surface collecting is more than adequate.
However, tools are useful if you want to find unique stones and minerals, since the loose rocks are mostly picked over.
It is best to pick and locate yourself some lovely treasures.
There are trading posts nearby, as well, so you should be able to buy water and something to eat, if necessary.
Just be advised that it can get quite windy there and it makes the area feel much cooler than the surrounding desert.
Take a light jacket or sweater for your own comfort.
Also, some of the trails are said to be difficult to navigate, so wear appropriate footwear and drink plenty of water.
You will see several dirt paths leading from the main road and once you follow them, you will find many of the exquisite rocks you are seeking out along the sides.
Some of the petrified wood features sparkling druzy crystals.
Such a layer of tiny quartz crystals usually crystalizes on quartz based minerals and has a sugary appearance that is amazing to see.
There is also plenty of jasper just beyond the area where the petrified wood can be found.
It comes in shades of gray, red, brown, amber, yellow, and even blue.
Just follow the long main road out to the Little Colorado River, and you will find dazzling sandstone sculptures out there as well.
Location: Coconino County, near the boundary of the Navajo Nation on US Route 89, though it is not officially a part of any town or city, but it is quite close to Apache Junction
In conclusion, there are several interesting and distinct places around greater Flagstaff and the surrounding areas where rockhounds can find a plethora of lovely stones and minerals to add to their collections at home.
You certainly won’t be disappointed when you visit these sites.