New Mexico is a great place for those who love the outdoors to visit.
In the article that follows, you’ll learn about where a visitor to Santa Fe could sneak away to do a little rock hunting.
Rockhounding Near Santa Fe (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.
New Mexico in general is a godsend for rock hounds and the area around Santa Fe, NM is no exception.
In fact, the area is so stock full of rocks, minerals, fossils and artifacts, many folks have moved to the area for retirement and to enjoy rock hounding and hiking year-round.
Everything from meteorites to dinosaur bones are available, easy to find, and in very good condition versus other parts of the country.
Much of this advantage has to do with the fact that Santa Fe and most of New Mexico are in what is known as the high desert.
That means the region is generally void of much vegetation, it encompasses vast areas of open land, and there are lots of waterways and creeks cutting through millions of years of soil.
That combination in particular makes the Santa Fe area particularly interesting to anyone with a keen eye for what’s on the ground and worth looking at.
In terms of unique finds and very rare items, one does need to be willing to get out into the wilderness and hike.
That said, there’s no need to go hiking very far.
The beauty of New Mexico is that there is so much inventory or items on the ground or starting to appear with weathering or disturbance, just about everyone is almost guaranteed to find something interesting on any trip anywhere in the state.
In addition, a good amount of the area around Santa Fe is either public land or open to the public for enjoyment.
So, unlike other areas, running into private land claims isn’t so much an issue.
However, Santa Fe does have a number of reservations surrounding it.
These areas are, technically, their own territories.
While visitors are welcome in most areas to stop, look and hike, many of the local reservation councils and authorities expect visitors to pay for a daily permit.
It’s a small way to bring revenue to the local community that helps support the reservations.
So, look for this aspect if rock hounding in areas that are known community reservations.
Santa Fe County – Glorieta Mountain
With the greater part of the Santa Fe region, Glorieta Mountain is an ideal spot for a lot of unique finds, particularly those from off the planet.
This particular location has lots of fragments from meteorites which showered the area at some point well in the past.
Rock hounds have found both pallasite as well as siderite meteorites with some good sleuthing, ending up with crystals that have noticeable inclusions of iron and nickel in them.
Taos County – Harding Pegmatite Mine
Also within driving distance to the north of Santa Fe, Taos County is home to the Harding Pegmatite Mine.
Be ready to drive for a few hours, but the trip is worth it.
Many rock hounds find staurolites at the location as well as other unique finds.
Getting to the mine is a bit of a challenge though.
First, you need a permit from the University of New Mexico, which can be sorted online at their website.
Second, you will need a vehicle capable of offroad driving, i.e. a 4×4.
Also, you should have a good map of the area and know your location at all times.
The mine is very close to the boundaries of the federal Rio Grande del Norte National Monument, which can get a rock hound in trouble if picking at things on federal lands.
In Town Santa Fe
Not everyone wants to go hoofing it seven days straight out in the desert.
Fortunately, there are lots of locations in Santa Fe itself to enjoy geology and collect a few personal samples as well for a price.
For those unfamiliar with New Mexico but really wanting to get out and see the sites, the Minerals store, with a pair of locations in Santa Fe, arranges tours to see multiple sites specific for rock hounds around the region, beginner and expert.
Their “Enchanted 8” tour packs up folks on a road trip that includes fossil locations, museums, actual mines and state park sites, with more than enough geology for a year’s worth of interest.
If you’re okay with being on a group tour and have a vehicle or rental car, then this is a great way to see a lot of Santa Fe and New Mexico with a guide.
The Santa Fe National Forest
To the west of Santa Fe is the Santa Fe National Forest, which is well known for extensive hiking areas, wilderness, expansive natural resources and a whole lot of rock hounding sites.
However, understanding that it is federal territory, folks need to be careful not to be arbitrarily picking up and collecting.
Federal laws generally tend to prohibit the collecting of artifacts, fossils, rocks and similar unless special exceptions are made.
And even those exceptions are limited to small amounts for consumer-only purposes.
Since rules vary from park area to park area, it’s always good when entering the National Monument to check with a local station or park ranger and confirm what the rules are active in the area.
Then, you know exactly what you can look at or not, and what can be picked up or left where it is with a photo on your smartphone instead.
Most visitors find the National Forest so amazing, they usually come back with a mobile device glutted with photos of everything they find and the local scenery.
Northeast of Santa Fe
There are multiple locations in the Northeast region, anywhere from a half hour to two hours’ drive from Santa Fe, but they are spread out more, giving a feeling of sparseness compared to other rock-hounding locations in the state.
The Pecos River continues to be a primary location, especially as the water removes soil and exposes new banks and deposits over time, as well as erosion into the river.
There are also mining dumps along the same waterway that have pulled up extensive samples one just has to dig for to find.
Many of the finds will include agate and amber as well as apatite and chalcopyrite.
Both the Moreno Creek as well as the Ute Creek are going to produce samples of chalcopyrite, pyrite as well as pyrrhotite.
And, some folks may a bit of gold here and there as well.
The Mexican Gulch zone is a primary source for agate as well as apatite, and the Point of Rocks locations has a nice collection of searlesite as well as villaumite.
The Sugarite Mine and related fields for coal mining are also in the same regional area and provide a great location for amber.
Some folks get lucky and find amber with an inclusion of a insect or two as well, which can be a real neat find.
The Pecos Willow Creek campground is next to a mining dump, and that produces a smorgasbord of rock hound varieties and finds.
In short, Santa Fe has a lot to offer for rock hounds, both in town as well as with guided trips and self-exploring adventures around the greater area.
Among most spots nationally, Santa Fe and other parts of New Mexico rank at the top for locales to find fossils, rocks and minerals which has lasted for generations.
And there is still plenty more to find for generations to come.
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