Traverse Creek Rockhounding (California) Tips (For First Time Visitors)

Traverse Creek, located in California, is a treasure trove of rocks, crystals, and other minerals for rock and mineral collectors.

Nevertheless, there are several important points to consider before proceeding.

The sections that follow will provide you with all of the knowledge you require about rockhounding in Traverse Creek to have a successful trip.

Traverse Creek Rockhounding: Tips to Make Your Trip to Traverse Creek Successful


The information provided in this article by 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.

Introduction To Traverse Creek

Traverse Creek/Stifle Claim is accessible to the general public, and it has become a popular destination for rock hounds in recent years.

Geologists, rock and mineral enthusiasts, and others interested in what can be found in the dirt frequently visit the area.

Traverse Creek is conveniently located near Georgetown, California, and is free to explore.

The large variety of geodes and minerals available is great for those looking to quickly assemble a diverse collection of stones.

You might be able to find pyrite, vesuvianite, garnet, diopside, termolite, gold, quartz, serpentine, Mica, and more.

While some people go to Traverse Creek to dig, you will also find large piles of rock near the trails to dig through and comb over if digging isn’t for you.

These pointers will ensure a pleasant experience rockhounding in Traverse Creek, California.

Finding Your First Specimens

Your first visit to Traverse Creek may or may not be successful.

Most of your first trip will be spent scouting the area, discovering potential spots to collect, hunt, dig, or hack.

On your first visit, we recommend that you keep an eye out for visible evidence of other people’s collection efforts.

Look at rock formations that appear to have been worked on.

Look for tailings piles near holes that have bits of the specimens you are looking for (like serpentine, garnet, and more).

Dig into holes that have not been filled in and see if small bits of anything of interest come out (telling you to keep digging).

You don’t have to reinvent the wheel to find cool stuff at Traverse Creek.

Bring Dirt Home For Later

Another idea is to gather a few buckets full of gravel/rock from the digging areas and carefully sift/pan through them at home.

This could be a good way to locate a small but valuable garnet.

Be Wary Of Asbestos

This area of known for serpentine.

Asbestos is in the same family.

While it is unlikely that you’d do yourself harm from surface collecting any of the rocks at Traverse Creek, it is recommended that you wear a mask if you plan to do anything that will kick up serpentine/asbestos dust to breathe.

It’s also a good idea to clean up well when you get home.

Go with the tools essential to assist you in searching for crystals and rocks.

While you may be fortunate enough to find a stunning gemstone or rock, rockhounding is rarely that straightforward.

As a result, considerable effort may be required to pry or break up big slabs of rock, exposing the unknown rocks beneath.

Here are some tools that will make collecting the rocks and crystals in Traverse Creek much easier for you.

  • Jeweler’s Loupe: This is the first tool I would recommend to anyone considering a trip to Traverse Creek for rockhounding. A hand lens, often known as a jeweler’s loupe, is an essential tool for any rock collector. The hand lens allows you to see details in crystals, fossils, and other objects that you wouldn’t be able to see with the naked eye. If you are a beginner rockhound, a hand lens with a magnification power of 10x or 20x should suffice.
  • Rock hammers: Rock hammers are helpful instruments for rockhounding. You’ll most likely come across a massive piece of rock that you’ll want to pry, shatter, or chip away at. There are rock hammers for every aspect of rockhounding.
  • Hand Rock Chisels: A hand rock chisel is an essential tool for rockhounding and one that should not be overlooked. The chisel’s tip narrows down to a straight thin edge at the end of its length. Hand chisels, as opposed to hammers, are used to break rocks along a line, resulting in straight cleavage lines. The use of hand chisels may be beneficial in avoiding the destruction of a rock specimen.
  • Safety goggles: Considering how much hammering and chipping you’ll be doing, it’s highly recommended that you get some safety goggles to protect your eyes. Even when you’re not hammering rocks, you should wear goggles to protect yourself from dust and sunshine.
  • Gloves: Ensure that your hands are well protected during rockhounding. There are a lot of sharp rocks and rock fragments out there! 
  • Sample bags/ Containers: Going rockhounding implies that you will most likely collect some rocks to bring home with you. Sample bags and containers are ideal for transporting these rocks. Remember to use a permanent marker to label the bag/container.
  • Water in a Spray Bottle: A spray bottle will help clean up stones so you can get a good look at the color without wasting your drinking water.

We also like to take buckets, garden spade, hand shovels, a kneeling pad, and other metal gardening tools to help dig and sift through rock and dirt.

Of course, you don’t need to bring all of these items to have a good rockhounding experience at Traverse Creek. 

Instead, think about how much of an adventure you want your rockhounding trip to be and what gear you’ll need to make the most of your time on the field.

Choose a weather-friendly time to visit.

It may be preferable to plan your rockhounding excursion during the fall, winter, or spring seasons rather than the summer, as the summers can be uncomfortably hot due to the lack of shade.

There are some trees in the Traverse Creek area, but most of the rock hunting/digging areas are exposed to the sun.

Many first timers complain that it was just too hot there to dig or hike on the 4-5 miles of trails.

You can look forward to cooling off in Traverse Creek, but it’s pretty shallow, so don’t expect to get a swim.

Ensure your utmost safety at all times

There could be some safety concerns in this area for a variety of reasons. You should take the following precautions to ensure reasonable comfort as well as the prevention of injuries.

  • Be on the lookout for snakes: This area can be rocky, with many twists, turns, and ledges to negotiate. Always keep an eye out for any snakes that may be present. Never put your hand into a hole or under a stone without first taking a good look around.
  • Wear comfortable protective shoes: This is essential because trails can be rocky and challenging; sturdy shoes with ankle support are recommended. Close toed shoes will also help protect you from snake bites.
  • Prevent heatstroke: Traverse Creek is mostly exposed and hot. As a result, remember to pack water, protective headgear, and sunscreen lotion.
  • Be ready for the bugs. Visitors to this area often complain about the quantity of flies (some that bite).

Make sure you collect rocks within the required limits

The laws on rockhounding in California indicate that rocks or mineral specimens collected within a unit may not be sold or used commercially for profit.

It further stipulates that one person may collect no more than 15 pounds of mineralogical material or one specimen plus 15 pounds of mineralogical material in one day in one unit.

In any event, always sure to take steps to confirm that you are on the right side of the law on your rockhounding trips.

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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