Is rockhounding Zion National Park allowed?
While it is not illegal to look at rocks and pick them up in National Parks, federal law prohibits visitors from collecting or removing the rocks from the National Park itself.
This is true of all National Parks.
Federal Law Prohibiting Rockhounding Zion National Park
Geologically speaking, Zion National Park is a really amazing place to visit (even if you can’t take the rocks home with you).
The rock layers in this park have been lifted, shifted, and eroded, so you will get to see rocks and materials easily that you wouldn’t otherwise see.
It’s a dream place for rockhounders to visit.
Within Zion National Park borders, visitors are prohibited from collecting, rockhounding, and gold panning of rocks, minerals, and paleontological specimens. (36 C.F.R. § 2.1(a) and § 2.5(a)). (source)
While some exceptions to allow gold panning exist, these are not available in Zion National Park.
While some parks allows the collection of rocks and minerals for classroom educational purposes, it is not allowed in Zion.
Violations of the laws could result in criminal penalties.
Alternatives To Collecting Rocks To Take Home From Zion
If you are a serious rockhounder, and feel super bummed that you can’t bring home specimens from Zion, here are some potential solutions.
One of the ways that you could bring home specimens similar to what you’d see in Zion is to go for hikes or exploratory drives in the lands around the exterior of the national park lands.
As long as you are not within the national park managed lands, and you are also not on private land or public land where rockhounding is prohibited, you could look for specimens similar to what you’d see in Zion to bring home with you.
If you aren’t sure where to go, we recommend that you reach out to the Utah branch of the BLM that is the closest to where you are or are planning to be visiting.
Another thing you could do while in the park is to look for alternative ways to preserve your experience. For example, you could focus on photographing the specimens you find in Zion. You could take rubbings.
You could bring a book about minerals, and spend the day trying to identify the various rocks and formations that you spot while in the park lands.
Or, when you finish your day of exploring Zion, you could hit up one of the many rock/mining shops in the nearby area, such as The Orderville Mine Rock Shop.
The Orderville shop has tons of specimens of rocks and crystals of all shapes and sizes. In good weather, most of the rocks are outside sitting in carts, laid out all over the ground in piles, or on the fences.
Plus, Orderville has a big statute of a dinosaur in the middle of town (apparently the Allosaurus is the state fossil of Utah).
Limits to What You Can Collect In Utah
Outside of places where you cannot legally rockhound (like Zion National Park), Utah has a lot of public land where rockhounding is allowed. You can collect a “reasonable amount” of rocks and gemstones for recreational purposes or personal use. (source)
You can also collect petrified wood and invertebrate fossils (fossils without backbones).
But, like many states, it is not legal to college vertebrate fossils or Native American artifacts, human remains, or other items of archaeological value.
Carry With You
If you are planning a hike where there will be rocks to pick through, consider packing one of the following:
- National Audubon Society Field Guide to Rocks and Minerals (small book with pretty colored pictures to help identification)
- National Audubon Society Field Guide To North American Fossils (small book with pictures)
- Gemstone & Crystals Properties (durable fold-up guide)
- Small UV Flashlight
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