Rockhounding fanatics love Montana, which is also known as the “Treasure State,” and the Butte area is dubbed “the Richest Hill on Earth.”
People are still flocking to the state for rocks, minerals, and gemstones from sapphire to Gold used to make precious jewelry across the country.
Here are 12 places for rockhounding near Glacier National Park where it is legal to remove whatever you find.
Where To Go Rockhounding Near Glacier National Park
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.
Ruby River Reservoir – Calcite, Opalite, and Garnets
By screening the gravel along the reservoir’s shores, some people have also discovered gem-quality almandine garnets.
The field around Indian Creek in Sheridan has white and banded calcite masses.
In the Ruby Valley, you will go garnet hunting on your own.
Garnets can be used in three different locations.
One is on the banks of Ruby Reservoir, and the other two are tourist attractions where visitors can purchase gravel and get it screened for garnets.
Steven Cox, the owner of Red Rock Mine, is extremely helpful and teaches you how to search for garnets.
In the summer, water from the reservoir is added, revealing long stretches of beach where alluvial garnet-bearing sand, gravel, and cobble deposits can be found.
The garnets were discovered in schists in the Greenhorn Mountains, which are east of the Ruby River.
The garnets were transported into the Ruby River drainage by creeks flowing west from this mountain range, where they were deposited in high terraces that now shape the reservoir’s banks.
The garnets are constantly exposed and concentrated in bands along the shore due to seasonal runoff and wave action from the reservoir.
The East Bank is accessible by road from the impoundment’s upstream end. To get there, travel south on state Route 287 to Alder, then make the turn to head south on state Route 357 (Upper Ruby Road).
You’ll pass Ruby Dam on your way to the far end of the reservoir, where a gravel road leads down to the lakeshore, followed by a dirt road.
Park and walk down to the beach, searching for garnets among the cobbles that form bands where the lighter silt and sand have been removed by wave erosion. The garnets are primarily small, but every now and then, you’ll come across a larger one.
Later in the summer, when the water level in the reservoir begins to drop, revealing more of the beach, is the perfect time to explore.
What To Bring
Crystal Park – Quartz
Another of Montana’s increasingly famous rockhounding spots also happens to be among its most beautiful and a great stop for rockhounding near Glacier National Park.
Crystal Park, south of Wise River on the Pioneer Scenic Byway, is an inspiring dig site that’s accessible to the public with amethyst, smoky, and dazzling transparent quartz scepters in a variety of shapes.
The area is usually open from Memorial through Labor Day, and there is a $5 entrance fee per car. Don’t leave your shovel and screen behind.
This is an exceptional recreation region elevated at 7,800 feet and is only accessible during the day and charges a fee per vehicle.
Three picnic areas with tables and grills, information signs, restrooms, and a paved path that has benches as well as an observatory are available. The facilities have been planned to be user-friendly.
This site is all of 220 acres covered in decomposed granite and is set aside by the Forest Service for the famous sport of rockhounding is littered with quartz crystals.
Clear, gloomy, white, gray, or purple crystals are spread across Crystal Park. They can be as tiny as two inches or as large as several inches.
Minerals inside the quartz produce gray, purple, and other colors.
Smoky crystals are gray, while amethyst crystals are purple and highly coveted.
At Crystal Park, single crystals are the most popular. The majority of the crystals are only valuable as collector’s items.
Tunneling is prohibited in Crystal Park, according to the rules. The rules are printed on signs and available in brochures at the site.
Other restrictions include the use of only hand tools and a five-day season limit per person for digging.
Calvert Hill Mine – Garnets, Epidote and More
Epidote, aquamarine, and garnets are found in the Calvert Hills region west of Wise River.
To get there, journey approximately six miles west of Wise River along Highway 43. This will take you to the campground located on the southern section of the Dickey Bridge, which in turn will bring you to the town.
The mining area is nearly eight miles down a gravel road from there. The gemstones and minerals can be discovered in both the mine dump and country-rock.
This was once a tungsten mine that is no longer in use. There are many gorgeous rocks in its tailing and within the vicinity of its ponds that are straightforward to locate.
Using insect repellent and bringing your digging equipment, tumbler, and drinking water is recommended. This is inconvenient for people with mobility problems.
Call Montana Tech at 406-496-4395 for more information.
Delmoe Lake – Amethyst and Smoky Quartz
If a trip to Butte makes you want to explore, head east of town to the Delmoe Lake region. Porphyry deposits in this area include smoky quartz and amethyst.
Travel north from Butte to Bernice for a somewhat different experience.
If you only have a few hours to spare, the area above the Homestake Pass exit, toward the east of Butte, and north of the exit along the Delmoe Lake road is recommended. It’s about an hour’s drive west of Bozeman.
On both sides of the lane, just south of what is exhibited on most topo maps as “Papa’s house,” you’ll come upon heaps of feldspar heavy peg residue if you keep an eye out.
There is a motor vehicle track that veers to the east just before you reach the meadow along the stream, as well as a second, less navigable track that splits to the south after around a quarter mile up the track.
Even if you think you should drive at first, don’t try it. You’ll come across a zone full of gemstones that may be worthwhile.
Black tourmaline, smoky quartz crystals, and vast quantities of cleavelandite can all be found there. Dig in the areas that were previously dug up until it appears to be absolutely cleaned out.
Don’t dig under trees because it tarnishes the sport’s prestige and is extremely dangerous.
Before you get to that area, there’s a group of pegs intersected by the road about the five-mile mark from I-90; they’re all dugout, but there aren’t many places as close to the road as this.
That is suitable for people who may not be as flexible physically.
Other pegs are strewn around Papa’s property, some of which can be seen from the driveway. They’re also heavily dugout, but you never know; you could find a spot that was overlooked.
Boulder River – Barite Crystals
Some good looking cubic crystals of barite could be yours if you venture about five miles west of the Whitehouse campground along the Boulder River. Head for the the Bernice exit off I-15 between Basin and Butte.
The drive is about five miles to the campground. For information, call Montana Tech at 406-496-4395.
Gallatin Petrified Forest – Petrified Wood & Montana Agate
Around Montana, petrified wood can still be located in the nearby mountains and rivers.
It can be both crystallized and agatized.
You’ll find it in a variety of colors.
Heading out to the Gallatin Petrified Forest for a day, which is located south of Livingston, will yield some amazing discoveries.
Since this is a National Forest property, a permit is required to obtain a sample. Still, it is FREE and accessible in the Bozeman ranger stations region as well as in Gardiner.
There is an interpretive path that’s about half a mile in length that’s also available for free, which highlights petrified wood stumps.
Montana Agates are a stunning transparent stone with warm reds, browns, and burnt orange interwoven with white.
The majority of Montana agate is located in the eastern part of the state.
Madison Blue Agate, which is not as prevalent as most other Agates, is usually discovered near the Madison River in Bozeman and ranges in color from cloudy milk-white to transparent deep blue.
The most prominent color is deep blue, which is truly stunning.
Anaconda – Epidote, and Scheelite
Rockhounding is a legal leisure activity on public land managed by the Bureau of Land Management, according to the Anaconda Chamber of Commerce.
Agates and stones, as well as other rock hound products, can be obtained in fair amounts for hobby use. On BLM lands, the petrified wood collection is limited to 25 pounds and one piece each day, for a total of 250 pounds each year.
Rockhounds have long been drawn to the region around Anaconda. Cable Mountain, which lies to the Northeast section of Georgetown Lake, has ancient scheelite and epidote tailings. West of the lake, you’ll discover quartzite and argillite.
Lima – Fossils
Other than proper layers and your tools, navigating Lima is pretty easy. Fossil fans will be ecstatic to know that they’ll have a field day finding all sorts of treasures.
Proof of ancient ocean floors lies west of the Continental Divide. It is noticeable in the current exhibits of lava, subdued rocks, and fossils in this isolated area which is located to the southwest region of Lima.
There isn’t a lot of information other than you are bound to find treasures there.
Sapphire Gallery, Philipsburg – Sapphire
You can mine right in the heart of downtown at the Sapphire Gallery.
Just grab a stool and begin panning or get a satchel of gravel to take with you.
The Sapphire Gallery, which was highlighted on the Travel Channel, is truly a good place to look for sapphires.
Gems weighing up to two carats and bigger are frequently discovered and turned into nice heirloom jewelry. You’ll receive a sack of rocks to screen at the shop in Philipsburg.
All year long, visitors to the gallery can go inside and “mine” for raw Montana sapphires.
Discover the joy of discovering your very own blue sapphires.
Once you’ve found one pink sapphire, you’ll yearn for more! The Sapphire Gallery’s staff will assess your treasures free of charge in the gallery and assist you in transforming them into substantial memorabilia.
Gem Mountain Sapphire Mine – Sapphire
Warm weather visitors can skim grit at Gem Mountain Sapphire Mine, located on Highway 38 approximately twenty-two miles to the west of Philipsburg.
Clean sapphire gravel from the mine is also accessible throughout the year in pails and buckets from the Gem Mountain Store in Philipsburg.
The Cooney Family runs the Gem Mountain Sapphire Mine, which is a family-owned company dedicated to entertaining treasure-hunting tourists from all over the world.
The mine is located in a place of breathtaking natural beauty that is barely viewed or seen by millions of tourists passing through on their way to Yellowstone or Glacier National Parks.
The mine has everything you’ll need to find Montana Sapphires on your own. They have a great on-site crew who can lift all the heavy weights and guide you to where you’ll find plenty of Montana sapphires.
Spokane Bar Sapphire Mine – Sapphire
In the vicinity of Helena, you’ll come upon the Spokane Bar Sapphire Mine, which provides safe fun when mining for exquisite Montana sapphires.
Digging is allowed for a small fee, and you don’t have to worry about tools because it is all accessible at the Gold Fever Rock Shop there.
Sand from the terraces of the Missouri River can be screened here. The Spokane Gravel Bar geologic system is a layer of unsolidified sediments accumulated by an ancient flood.
Near Helena, Montana, the site is near Hauser Lake on the Missouri River.
The location got its name from the Spokane Hills, which are made up of Spokane shale, and was found by geologists exploring the Missouri River region in the early twentieth century.
The current level of the river is lower than fifty meters below that of the ancient riverbed. On either side of the river, four primary sand terraces can be seen.
Bannack State Park – Gold
Gold panning is both informative and entertaining for both children and adults. Visitors will pan for gold in huge tubs filled with Grasshopper Creek water in the hopes of making a big find.
This famous recreation occurs on the weekends throughout the warm summer season from 3:00 to 4:30 p.m.
The soil, and every tool required, including pans, are all provided by the park officials. Bring your excitement and the intention of keeping everything you discover in your pan.
NOTE: Rockhounding and gold panning activities are only allowed in the park’s water tubs. Mining and panning are not allowed anywhere else in the Bannack State Park.
Rockhounding near Glacier National Park can be exciting, but note that hiking trails in this region will occasionally take you straight up to abandoned open mine shafts which stretch for many miles.
Only take children to secure places and have a wonderful rockhounding time!
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