Santa Barbara County in California has a plethora of hotspots for rockhounding.
It has everything from crystals and stones, to ancient fossils, to petrified wood.
In fact, the entire county of Santa Barbara is a potential rockhounding location, thanks to its unique geographic location.
But, there are some specific spots that can lead you to some really cool finds.
Here are some of the best locations to go for some serious rock hunting.
Rockhounding Santa Barbara County, California (Let’s Go)
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Gaviota Beach is a state park located in Santa Barbara county.
Because this is located near the ocean, there stunning rock formations everywhere you look. Mother Nature has hewn many different sculptures in the layered sedimentary rock.
Around the area, the most common findings are of fossils that were formed during the creation of the El Capitan-Gaviota shelf.
You can find fossils of calcareous plankton from the Miocene time, along with different plants and other ancient clues.
Fossilized bones of whales and other marine animals are also relatively common in this area.
Stones and crystals are also easily found in this area.
Blue and white agate and different colors of quartz are plentiful.
Deedeeite is a stone that isn’t super well-known, but it is another stone that has been known to make appearances.
It is an igneous siliceous rock with agate, chalcedony, white quartz, and marcasite running through it.
As you can imagine, it is quite a beautiful stone.
Luckily, this is a wide area with lots of free and metered parking.
It’s in Santa Barbara county, about a half hour drive out of the city of Santa Barbara.
Just remember to bring some sandals and a bathing suit if you want to take a swim in the gorgeous ocean!
The Town of Orcutt
Orcutt in Santa Barbara County is a major attraction for rockhounds, considering its unique and stunning geology.
It lies at the collision point of the Pacific and American plates, which produces an incredible range of different rocks and crystals.
Seafoam colored jade is a stone that you can find in the cliffs.
Red jasper is plentiful along the pebbled beaches, along with pink rhodonite, silver pyrite, and all different colors of jasper.
Quartz is not as easily accessed, but many people have still found it sparkling in the cliffs or on the sand.
Onyx, agate, soapstone, gold, and selenite are all formed in this sea area.
The land is richest in chert, which the Chumash Nation used for arrowheads and other weapons and tools.
This town is a gorgeous hour and fifteen minute drive north of Santa Barbara.
It’s in the city of Santa Maria, but it still lies within Santa Barbara County lines, so it’s pretty easy to get to.
Buses can also be taken to get to Santa Maria, if you’re staying in the city of Santa Barbara.
Parking is ample, and it’s a beautiful town with many restaurants and shopping areas.
Santa Ynez Mountains
Although Santa Barbara is known for its gorgeous beaches, there is also a beautiful mountain range on the County’s east side.
The Santa Ynez mountains overlook the ocean, and there is a large lake in the Santa Ynez valley.
It has a wide geologic range, thanks to the billions of years of erosion.
In addition to sandstone and chert, a rainbow of quartz can be found.
Agate and jasper litter the ground near the lake, along with some very interesting fossils.
This town is an easy drive from the city of Santa Barbara with plenty of parking, or you can take one of the many buses provided by Santa Barbara.
The foothills of the mountains border the city of Santa Barbara, but it’s about a 40 minute drive to the lake.
It has many easily-accessible hiking trails and lake beaches that can lead you to some great rock hunting experiences.
Goleta is another town in Santa Barbara County north of the city of Santa Barbara.
It is famous for its butterfly migration every year.
Its beaches contain many different stones and crystals, including a variety of quartz, agate, and jasper.
Petrified wood and fossils are also common finds, as the area is surrounded by forest.
On the beach in the winter, the sand washes away to uncover a floor of rocks, stones, and crystals underneath; after a storm, it’s especially apparent, and you can find different quartz, agate, and jasper.
Petrified bones are everywhere, and, if you’re lucky, you might find a fossil of a diatom embedded in chert.
It is a beautiful 15 minute drive along the coast to get there, or you can take a Santa Barbara bus.
The City of Santa Barbara
In addition to all of the surrounding beaches and mountains, Santa Barbara itself is known as a hotspot for Ice Age fossils.
Ancient bivalves such as clams, oysters, and mollusks are found in all of the beaches, mountains, and wildlife spots within Santa Barbara.
The Santa Barbara Formation contains one of the largest and best preserved marine Ice Age fossils from the Pleistocene Era on the west coast of the United States.
The Coldwater Clam Quarry lies just before the Santa Ynez mountains, where fossils of bivalves, starfish, marine bones, and shark teeth are plentiful, and you can occasionally find imprints of prehistoric fish.
Most of these fossils are carbonized in sandstone.
Parking around the city of Santa Barbara is easy, but it’s a popular vacation destination, so you want to make sure to find parking earlier in the day.
Most parking is metered, but there are some areas where parking is free.
Or, you can leave your car in your hotel parking lot and get a bus pass to take the Santa Barbara bus to many convenient locations.
Santa Barbara is probably best known for its stunning beaches and historic missions.
Its mountains are popular for their spectacular views, and the cute little towns surrounding it are a popular vacation destination.
But, what most people don’t know is how historic and ancient the land is, and, with a little work, you can find some really amazing rocks, crystals, and fossils.
California Rockhounding Resources
If you like to have a physical book in hand (like when there’s no cell service), here’s a few popular options:
Rockhounding California: A Guide To The State’s Best Rockhounding Sites
Gem Trails of Southern California
Gem Trails of Northern California
Smithsonian Rocks and Minerals Identification Guide
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There are plenty of other great locations to go sightseeing and rock hounding, but these are some of the more notable areas that have come up over the years with solid information as to what can be found in the area.
In closing, be mindful and respectful of private property while out rock hounding and before taking any samples with you from the area. Happy hunting!
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