Types of Rocks In Lake Tahoe: 7 Common Collectible Rocks You Can Find

Lake Tahoe draws crystal lovers and rock hounds alike, hunting for the perfect stones to add to their burgeoning collections. 

In this article, we’ll cover the wide variety of specimens a rock lover will enjoy hunting for.

Types of Rocks In Lake Tahoe

The geological variety found in Lake Tahoe resulted from the combination of volcanic, tectonic, and glacial activity that created the lake and formed the surrounding Sierra Nevada and Carson mountain ranges.

The types of rocks in Lake Tahoe range from its ubiquitous Jurassic and Cretaceous period granite to Miocene latite and trachyte with striations of feldspar, along with Early Miocene rhyolite tuffs, Pliocene basalt, lahar, and Eocene or Pre-Miocene gravel.

Igneous Rocks

Among the various types of rocks in Lake Tahoe, black-and-white-flecked granite underpins most of Lake Tahoe.

Therefore, the majority of rock samples found in the area consist of these stones.

Granite forms when silica-based magma contains at least 20 percent or more quartz and less than 20 percent ferromagnesian, making granite lighter-colored and less magnetic than other rocks.

Granite’s most common uses in memorials, tombstones, and facades fuel the current industrial extraction of granite as a building material.

Feldspar, a constituent of granite, contains aluminum and silicon, plus calcium, sodium, or potassium.

As a result, most Lake Tahoe feldspar appears as clear crystals when on its own.

Quartz, which provides the shiny flecks in granite, consists of silicon dioxide.

Quartz colors depend on impurities and can appear purple or amethyst; white or milky; black or smoky; pink or rose; and yellow or orange, known as citrine. 

Of these colors, smoky quartz appears in the Lake Tahoe area the most often.

Metamorphic Rocks

Metamorphic rocks begin their existence as sedimentary, igneous, or already-converted rocks that experience pressure and heat.

The transformation occurs when these rocks receive intense heat and pressure from vulcanism.

Consequently, they change from their sedimentary (deposited or layered) or igneous (cooled and solidified molten magma) origins to a third form known as metamorphic rock.

You know that you found the right place to indulge your inner rock hound or crystal lover when college geology clubs have already spread out to make their finds.

The Sierra Nevada College Geology Club frequents Mount Rose in the northeastern corner of the Lake Tahoe Basin, hunting for the crystals and minerals formed via metamorphosis.

Epidote, a metamorphic crystal rock commonly found in and around Lake Tahoe, looks pistachio or forest green, brown, gray, or almost black. 

Sedimentary Rocks

Most sedimentary rock in the area formed in the Paleozoic and Mesozoic eras.

This layered rock underwent its conversion in the Jurassic and Cretaceous periods.

Consequently, local rock hounds find far less sandstone and other sedimentary or composite stones in the area.

Instead, metamorphic and igneous rocks and crystals occur more often.


In addition to quartz and feldspar, granite contains mica, a shiny mineral consisting of multiple thin layers.

Granite supports significant weight and looks attractive when polished.

Consequently, in addition to its uses in buildings and bridges, granite serves as a building material suitable for countertops, floor tiles, and stair treads.

Healing Properties of Granite

According to crystal healing practitioners, solid, durable granite brings abundance, protection, strength, and balance.

For example, doorways and archways made from granite repel supernatural threats to cities, homes, and businesses.


As an extrusive igneous rock, rhyolite forms when silica-rich lava cools on the surface rather than deep underground like granite.

Unlike granite, with easily seen visible flecks of other materials throughout its matrix, rhyolite has a more uniform appearance.

Quartz crystals, glass, and opals sometimes appear in trapped gas pockets that formed during cooling. Stone Age uses of rhyolite included making arrowheads and stone tools such as scrapers.

Rhyolite can appear with bands of green, cream, brown, and yellow.

Healing Properties of Rhyolite

Crystal healing practitioners use rhyolite for emotional balance.

They also believe it can heal trauma from past lives.

In addition, practitioners use rhyolite to assist them in communicating with nature, especially with animals.

Wearing a piece of rhyolite around the neck, therefore, would aid such communications.


Agate Bay on the North Shore of Lake Tahoe still provides rock hunters with the occasional beautiful specimen, although not as abundantly as in the past.

Agate’s striped appearance makes it a precious stone for making cabochons for jewelry, especially earrings, rings, and brooches. 

Rounded agate, of course, used to find itself tumbled to make the striped stone Aggies prized by marble game enthusiasts.

Healing Properties of Agate

Agate improves mental clarity and reduces anger and anxiety.

Make worry stones or pendants from agate to assist with concentration.

Agate may have gold-like streaks along with brown, gray, blue, green, or white stripes.

Green or moss agate helps with prosperity, while agate with many white protect pregnant mothers and their babies.

Blue agate, crystal healers believe, provides calmness and centering.


Once so abundant that a portion of Lake Tahoe’s North Shore bears its name, the bright orange, yellow and red carnelian, a type of agate, still appears just often enough to excite local crystal and gem hunters.

Unlike other forms of agate, carnelian lacks distinct bands.

Instead, carnelian gets its color from iron oxide, and leaving these crystals in the sun helps intensify their red hue.

Other forms of agate appear from time to time among the types of rocks in Lake Tahoe. 

The agate family includes aventurine, bloodstone, carnelian, chalcedony, chrysoprase, jasper, and onyx.

Healing Properties of Carnelian

Practitioners of crystal healing believe carnelian enhances creativity and sexual energy.

In addition, they think it helps regulate menstruation by increasing blood flow, allowing reproductive organs to heal faster, such as after childbirth.

Crystal healers also use carnelian to improve concentration, eliminate negative thoughts and repair low self-esteem.

Smoky Quartz

Smoky quartz contains traces of aluminum.

When quartz has a smoky appearance, it came in contact with radioactive material such as uranium during its formation.

Thus, smoky quartz crystals merely indicate nearby radioactive material, although they typically do not contain any radiation themselves.

Healing properties of Smoky Quartz

Smoky quartz clears the mind and aids the ability to focus, according to crystal healers.

It counters negative energy and gives you the courage to forge ahead during adversity.

Many local sites around Lake Tahoe where you may carry away smoky quartz ask that you limit yourself to what fits in a five-gallon contractor bucket, such as the plastic buckets from Home Depot, Lowes, or other construction material vendors.


Although rare, amethyst sometimes appears in and near the Lake Tahoe area.

Like smoky quartz, amethyst indicates exposure to radioactive materials.

However, its purple color emanates from the iron oxides rather than the aluminum in smoky quartz.

Most Lake Tahoe amethyst deposits lie on private claims, so ask permission before taking amethysts from any site.

Healing Properties of Amethyst

According to crystal healers, amethyst reduces the frequency and intensity of headaches and migraines by regulating hormones.

Amethyst also supports the immune system, aids digestive functions, and heals the endocrine system.

The scientific community does not back any of these claims, however.

Nevertheless, natural health practitioners use amethysts to help addicts center themselves and reduce anxiety.

Final Thoughts on the Types of Rocks in Lake Tahoe

Whether you enjoy looking at them or you practice crystal healing, the Lake Tahoe Basin has a total of 18 geological quadrants in which to find rocks and crystals from before the existence of dinosaurs.

The three northernmost are Truckee, Martis Peak, and Mount Rose.

South of those three, you find Tahoe City, King’s Beach, and Marlette Lake.

Further south, you encounter Homewood, Meeks Bay, and Glenbrook. Rockbound Valley, Emerald Bay, and South Lake Tahoe comprise the final three quadrants where the most accessible rock finds cluster.

The following three southern quadrants, Pyramid Peak, Echo Lake, and Freel Peak, fall within a 30-minute drive, but the final three quadrants, Tragedy Spring, Caples Lake, and Carson Pass, require an hour and a half drive.

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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types of rocks in lake tahoe