Rockhounding Northern Utah: A Beginner’s Get Started Guide

Thousands of people visit Utah to tour its beautiful rock formations, but few realize that rockhounding northern Utah is really a thing.

There are tons of great places in Northern Utah outside of the campgrounds and state parks to add to your rock collecting locales.

As we begin to explore some great places to collect rocks, fossils, and stones, bond with nature, and return with some great memories and tangible treasure, here are some great places to start.

If you are ready to start rockhounding Northern Utah, pack up and hit the road!

Disclaimer

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.

Where To Go Rockhounding in Northern Utah: Top Recommendations for Rock Hunting

As you begin to explore the different areas in Northern Utah, please be aware of areas that may be private property and either as the owner if you can enter or stay out of it and respect the owners’ privacy.

Wendover

If you are looking for agate, you can find it in the mountain range just north of Wendover. When you reach the area, you will find chips and small chunks around the area, but most of it is white.

If you look hard enough and do not give up, you can find some red, black, blue, and yellow agate, there was even some purple and red mixed agate spotted at the site.

Agate beds here are typically not marked as Wendover is not known for their rock hounding the way other areas are.

If you explore deep enough and are persistent you can find a variety of different types of stones.

Items found in this area include a Graveyard and Flame agate combo, and chalcedony agate.

Mossy red agates and botryoidal agates, which look like clusters of bubbles can also be found in the area in colors like bronze, red, purple, blue, gold, and a variety of other brilliant colors.

Getting There

Getting to Wendover can be a bumpy and dirty ride.

A high-clearance, 4-wheel drive vehicle is best, since you may be going over rocks and down into ruts making it a bumpy ride. You will also be able to get great views of the salt flats and Pilot Peak.

Directions to North of Wendover Agate Hunting Spots

Take 1-15 In Oren North for 36 miles and exit on I-80 West. Go 115 miles to exit 4 and turn right on Leppy Pass Road where you will turn left and travel 3.15 miles.

Turn right and go 1.1 miles on Silver Island Loop Road. Merge onto a larger road heading Southeast and merge onto a road due east. Go 1.07 miles, then turn right up to a small canyon.

The Great Salt Lake

The Great Salt Lake is called America’s Dead Sea.

It changes in mass according to the rain it receives and what it receives from its tributaries. It has gone from a low of 950 square miles in 1963 and expanded in 1988 to a historic high of 3,300 square miles.

Salt Lake is a haven for mineral and crystal collectors which are made from salt crystals.

Because of the algae present in the lake, crystals can be found in a variety of colors including pink.

The fall is the best time to fetch the crystals when water is at its lowest level.

The salt crystals accumulate and grow from the bottom of the lake. You will need a shovel and crowbar to loosen them.

Gypsum can also be found in the area and have a crystal-like appearance in clay beds.

They are often called dirty diamonds.

Gypsum can be collected with a rake and shovel.

They are most often found in clay soil surrounding the water and will sparkle when you see them.

They are most abundant at the northern end of Stansbury Island.

Getting There

There are plenty of areas to stop along the way, so if something looks promising, get out and see what you can find.

Some areas are paved and some are not so you probably want to have an ATV or other similar type vehicle to make the trek.

Directions

To get there, take Interstate 15 north from Salt Lake City about 59 miles to Exit 365 and head west on State Route 13/Promontory Road through the town of Corinne.

The last gas station is in Corinne, so top off your tank and take state Route 83 to the northwest. In 17.7 miles, turn left onto 7200 N Road/W Golden Spike Drive N. In 6.6 miles, turn left (south) on 22000 W Road/Golden Spike Road.

About a mile down the road is the Golden Spike National Historic Site. Brown, wooden signs will direct you to the Visitor Center, which is the last place for good cell reception and restrooms.

Devils Slide

Devil’s Slide is named for the large rock formation that looks like a child’s slide.

It is located in Morgan County in northern Utah. It is a picturesque area; the slide is 40 feet high, and each side is 25 feet apart.

The formation is made of numerous limestone layers that have compacted over time and made this unique formation. It began forming about 75 million years ago.

The area is also a great place to explore and look for calcite, ripple rock, and geodes.

They can all be found in the area. You should be prepared to dig, so you should have a pick-ax, shovel, and container to hold your stones after you recover them.

Getting There

You can drive your passenger car and park along the sides of the highway to snap photos or get out and explore the rocks and minerals found in the area.

Many enjoy hiking in the area, even if they are not avid rock hunters.

Directions

From the I-15/U.S. Highway 89 interchange in Farmington: travel north on U.S. Highway 89 for about 10.7 miles to a sign pointing out the route to Morgan and Evanston. Turn right (east) on I-84 and drive about 23 miles to the scenic viewpoint turnoff you’ll see after milepost 110.

From the southern I-15/I-80 interchange in Salt Lake city: drive 11.3 miles east on I-80 to exit 134 (Mountain Dell Recreation exit). Drive north on Utah State Highway 65 for about 27.7 miles to the town of Henefer. Turn left (west) and travel 1 mile to I-84. Turn left (west) onto I-84 and drive 2 miles to the scenic viewpoint turnoff you’ll find just after milepost 111.

Farmington Canyon Area

Farmington Canyon is located in the Wasatch Mountain range, which meanders through the state and meets with the Rocky Mountains in Colorado.

It is one of the most populated areas and has over 85% of Utah’s population living within 15 miles of the mountains.

Farmington Canyon offers a cool respite from the hot city weather.

Northern Skyline Drive is an unimproved road that clings to the top of the mountains for over 20 miles.

At the end of the road, you will come to Farmington.

The ride itself is beautiful, but the roadway is narrow, with barely two cars fitting on the mountain at the same time.

During the ride, you will see rocks made from iron, magnesium, and chlorite.

Rockhounders can find amphibolite, which may contain hornblende, actinolite, and plagioclase.

Rock hunters can also find metamorphic rock, quartz, migmatite, pegmatite, gneiss, garnet biotite, and other stones in the area.

Collectors should be prepared to be patient and not give up until they find their treasure trove.

Getting There

If you are afraid of heights or tight squeezes, this is not the trek for you.

The road up the hill is very narrow, in many places, there is barely enough room for two cars to squeeze through.

Once you start your quest, you are committed to it as there is no place to turn around in the mountain area.

Make sure that you have plenty of gas, water, food, and other necessary supplies as it is a tight drive, and you would not want to get to the top of the Canyon and find out you forgot to bring something important.

Directions

Located west of the Wasatch Mountains and Skyline Drive, Interstate 15 is the north-south roadway that takes most travelers to their destinations. 

To reach the southern part of Skyline Drive, drive north from Salt Lake City to Bountiful on I-15. Take Exit 317 onto 400 W. North and travel this road east for 3.4 miles as it becomes 400 E. North. At N. 1300 East, turn left and follow the road as it climbs up into the foothills of the Wasatch Mountains. Once you go past the houses, the road surface converts from pavement to gravel and becomes Skyline Drive. The road then switches back and heads northwest.

Guardsman Pass

Guardsman Pass is just another great spot to stop and try your luck searching for rocks and stones.

The area is known for its impressive hematite and quartz.

When the road was built the mountain area was blasted to put in the road. So, the area surrounding Guardsman Pass is full of metallic sheets of hematite.

The area is also flush with quartz crystals.

Getting There

The road is paved most of the way and contains a parking area so you can park your car and begin your adventure. It is located just below Brighton, which is another worthwhile spot to stop at.

Directions

To reach Guardsman Pass, drive State Route 224 to Deer Valley Drive, traveling east to exit on Marsac Avenue at the roundabout, and then continue up Ontario Canyon. 

The road is free to travel. Note that the pass is usually closed during the winter months due to snow. There are services and facilities in Park City, Brighton, and Midway, but none along the route. So, make sure you have plenty of gas and supplies as the ride takes around 1 hour.

Riley Canyon

Riley Canyon is known for its red-horned coral fossils.

They are known for their beauty and unique coloring.

Before you decide to take a trip to Riley Canyon be prepared for a hike.

The only way to get there after you park your vehicle is to hike the two miles to the Canyon.

The red horn coral found there also features light pink and deep red color tones and a unique cell structure.

Please note that this is private property, so please contact the owner before you begin your journey.

They typically do not mind visitors to the area as long as they are aware someone is on the property.

Also, make sure you are digging in a safe area.

In 1973, three people died while digging in the area, where there was a low overhang.

Getting There

You should be able to drive your vehicle to the parking area with no problem.

But please be prepared for the two-mile hike to get to Riley Canyon.

It can be challenging; make sure you have water and supplies with you. It is also best to take this hike with someone else, and not alone.

There are also many animals in this area, so you want to be prepared, should you stumble upon some animals that may not want to share their space with humans.

Directions

From Kamas, travel Utah Highway 150 (the Mirror Lake Road) east for 3 miles; make a right turn at the Willow Springs Trout Farm.

Follow this road to Hintze Drive and make a right turn through the metal gate. Keep to the right at the fork and travel to the digging area up the mountain. HCV or 4WD is definitely recommended. The old route into this area is now closed.

Wrap Up

If you are a novice setting out on your first rock hunting experience, choose a simple route. Better yet, go to one of the many outfitters in the area that can give you tips on what to look for, let you know about some good rock hunting areas, and prepare you to take on this adventure yourself.

Rock-hounding can be a great opportunity to be at one with nature, explore our wildlands, river beds, and canyons and find beautiful treasures along the way.

We’ve created an ultimate guide to gifts for rockhounds with helpful links directly to Amazon to make product evaluation and review easy!

Planning a trip to rockhound?

Check out our rockhounding page for other locations that you won’t want to miss, or check out some of our other state specific resources: