Many places in Southern California offer excellent opportunities to discover new treasures.
Here are our favorite spots to hunt rocks, crystals, and fossils that you should check out if you are visiting the area.
Rockhounding Southern California (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 Mojave Desert
A friend recommended the Mojave Desert when asked about the best places to go rockhounding when visiting.
The Mojave Desert is home to the most precious rockhounding sites in California.
We found rare rocks, fossils, and minerals in the desert.
The Mojave Desert is located in Southern California near Los Angeles, so it’s easy to get there quickly.
Basaltic Rocks at Cady Mountains
The Cady Mountains are located next to Barstow and have incredible basalt formations that attract rockhounding enthusiasts worldwide.
According to local rangers, rockhounding is permitted at the site.
But we had to obtain a permit from the Bureau of Land Management.
Alvord Mountains is located in Randsburg.
The area has some of the best rockhounding sites you’ll find near LA and outside of Alaska.
So it’s no surprise that rock hunters come from all over to take advantage of these opportunities for discovery.
The rockhounding site has a good collection of chalcedony, agate, petrified wood, chrysocolla, and malachite specimens.
We learned that the area is a former gold mine.
But we didn’t find any gold traces.
Coso Volcanic Field
The Coso Volcanic Field is home to ancient volcanoes that produced rare rocks and minerals for rockhounding enthusiasts.
The site has interesting volcanic formations, lava tubes, caves, and geological features popular with people interested in geology.
The site hosts rock and minerals events where you can meet rockhounding experts, learn trade tricks, and make some new friends.
You can also purchase precious rocks and minerals from expert dealers at fair prices.
Afton Canyon, which locals call The Grand Canyon of the Mojave, is the best place to prospect for gems and minerals near Los Angeles, California.
The site has a good collection of quartz crystals, among other rocks and minerals.
Plus, it’s easily accessible, and the parking area is close to where you can start your search.
We collected agates, jaspers, and petrified wood specimens at this popular rockhounding site not too far from civilization.
Lake Cachuma is located near Santa Barbara.
And it offers opportunities to discover exciting rocks and minerals for all kinds of rockhounding enthusiasts.
We found some quartz specimens with beautiful inclusions and pyrite cubes scattered on the ground during our visit to Lake Cachuma’s south shore trail.
Santa Ynez River
Santa Ynez River is the inflow source of Lake Cachuma.
It’s one of our favorite places to visit when we want to discover something new and exciting about rocks, minerals, crystals, gems, fossils, and more.
The river is dry most of the year, making it easy to collect beautiful quartz specimens that reflect stunning rainbow colors. We started by searching the gravels near the river bed, but we found much more than that.
Pinnacles National Park
Pinnacles National Park is home to the Balconies Caves, filled with crystals, geodes, and fossils.
Visitors can hike through these caves on their own or take a tour led by park rangers.
The best time of year for this activity is October because Pinnacles experiences its most moderate weather, making it the best time of year for rockhounding in this area.
Palo Verde Mountains
The Palo Verde Mountains are well known for the Hauser Geode Beds.
The site is open primarily for visitors to dig and hunt for geodes.
Access to the site is easy, making it an excellent location for beginners.
We dug some amazing geodes filled with clear quartz crystals.
Crystal Cove State Park
One of the most beautiful locations to collect crystals and fossils in Southern California is Crystal Cove State Park.
Visitors can hunt along both the upper and lower canyon trails.
At the park, we headed up to the ridge, where there were plenty of quartz rocks.
We dug some large crystals and discovered some fossil strata.
Sierra Pelona Mountains
The Sierra Pelona Mountains is home to the most diverse geology in California, making it one of the best places for rockhounding.
Visitors can find everything from agate, quartz, jasper, rhyolite, opal, and petrified wood.
The best time of year to visit this location is during the winter because there are few visitors in the park.
This reduces our competition for hot rocks.
We found some beautiful opal pieces on top of a ridge near one of the campgrounds.
California State Gem Mine
Gem Mine is a rockhounder’s paradise.
The mine has an extraordinary variety of gemstones and crystallized minerals, such as quartz specimens, amethyst geodes, agates, jaspers and more.
It’s open to the public, and it’s a perfect place for both families and serious rock collectors.
Rock Hound State Park
We found almost everything we could ask for in this one-stop spot: an abundance of beautiful rocks, crystal clear mining pools, engaging geology lessons, and abundant wildlife.
Some minerals we discovered include thundereggs, geodes, onyx, and gray perlite.
The rockhounding site is also famed for other common rocks and minerals, such as the Apache tears and crystalline rhyolite.
Black Mountain Wilderness
This is one of California’s largest and most remote volcanic fields.
It’s an excellent place for hikers to seek out volcanic bombs and rocks.
Here, we found obsidian (volcanic glass), pumice, and black perlite, among other common rocks and minerals.
There are no developed trails in this area.
So you should be prepared with proper equipment before attempting the long hikes and rock mining through the rough terrain.
Tick Canyon Mine Dump
Just an hour north of Los Angeles, Tick Canyon Mine Dump is the perfect place to visit for an afternoon of rockhounding.
The dump features various rocks and minerals, including quartz crystals, geodes, jasper gemstones and more.
The mine dump offers an abundance of rocks and minerals within one square mile, giving visitors the chance to pick up fine examples of their favorite treasures.
It’s also open year-round, so we visit the site any time we can.
Adelanto Mine Dumps
Not far from the San Bernardino National Forest, Adelanto Mine Dumps is a great place to visit for rockhounding in southern California.
In addition to finding rocks and minerals, we also found some beautiful petrified wood pieces at this site.
We found numerous geodes and crystals and some beautiful onyx stones and petrified wood pieces here at the site.
Rockhounding enthusiasts love Chambless because it has many interesting sites to discover rocks, crystals, and fossils.
It didn’t take us long to collect trilobites; an ancient fossil used millions of years ago.
The only problem is that we couldn’t find any intact samples.
And we had to be careful when hitting and splitting shales to expose trilobites.
We also found many quartz specimens and beautiful minerals that we kept as souvenirs.
One of the most popular rockhounding sites in southern California is the Calico Mountains.
But it gets crowded on weekends.
We had to wait for an hour until we found a parking spot.
Most of the rocks hide under boulders and in crannies.
The good news is that you can find lots of crystals and minerals without much hassle.
Gold, hedenbergite, jaspers, quartz, and chert specimens are in abundance.
Although some of Ant Hill’s best rock hunting areas have closed down, it remains one of the top destinations for rockhounding in southern California.
You can find many exciting crystals there, including amethyst, garnet, quartz, and chalcedony.
We collected a few shark fossils by sampling previous diggings, and we found a new area where we could collect large rocks.
My friends still believe that fossils are more abundant at Ant Hill than in most other places in California.
Located in the San Bernardino Mountains, Chief Mountain is another great place to rockhound.
Visitors who are interested in rockhounding while learning about Native American history will undoubtedly enjoy this site.
We paid a small fee to book a reservation.
However, at no extra charge, we kept everything we found, including lepidolite, tourmaline, morganite, and quartz crystals.
Other treasures at Chief Mountain include feldspar crystals and aquamarine.
Southern California’s Wiley’s Well is a great place to find rocks, crystals, and fossils.
The area is home to an outstanding collection of colorful quartz crystals, chalcedony, jasper, and rhyolite.
We found many quartz geodes that we split at home for beautiful gemstones.
The only challenge was that we had no site map, so we got lost in the desert sun without any water or sustenance.
Santa Monica Bay Shoreline Park
The Santa Monica Bay Shoreline Park is one of the most popular places to rockhound in Los Angeles.
The site has different types of rocks and minerals, so you might find valuable samples there.
We went on a sunny day without sunscreen or water bottles, but we were lucky because it was easy to collect crystals near the boulders by the shore.
Little San Bernardino Mountains
The Little San Bernardino Mountains are located near the town of Big Bear in Southern California.
There is no fee for collecting rocks, crystals, and fossils at this site.
We spent hours searching for beautiful quartz specimens that we used to decorate our home.
However, it was difficult to find stones with perfect cuts or without cracks.
We also encountered many locals who tried to sell us their stones.
Pinnacles National Park
The Pinnacles is another great place we love visiting when rockhounding in California.
The park offers a variety of minerals and gemstones, such as quartz, jasper, opalite, azurite and more.
With no crowds, even during the weekends, we enjoyed the serenity of the park while hunting for rocks and other treasures.
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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The list of places to go rockhounding is endless, but these are some of our favorite destinations.
We hope you enjoy your time there and find unique rocks, crystals, and fossils.
You might also like the following articles if you are interested in Rockhounding California:
- Rockhounding Near Los Angeles
- Rockhounding Options Near Sacramento
- Rock Hunting Near Palm Springs
- Get Started Hunting California Jade
- Rockhounding San Diego
- Rockhounding Calaveras County, CA
- Rockhounding Lake County, CA
- Rockhounding Merced County, CA
- Rockhounding Ventura County, CA
- Rockhounding Santa Cruz County
- Rockhounding San Bernadino County, CA