Whether you’re new to rockhounding Agates in West Virginia or a pro at it, this guide will help you feel confident in knowing what locations to search and when.
West Virginia is famous for its coal, but there is much more to this beautiful state’s geology.
You can find a large selection of interesting rocks and minerals including agates, aa well known form of quartz, if only you know where to look.
Where To Find Agates In West Virginia: A 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.
Rockhounding Basics in West Virginia
Most of the prime rockhounding sites in West Virginia are concentrated in the eastern part of the state within the Appalachian Mountains, along the Allegheny Mountain Range.
Because these locations are within high altitude regions, it is important to note that heavy snow or rain aren’t practical weather conditions to go looking for Agates, or any gemstones, for that matter.
Fortunately, while West Virginia is mountainous, it typically has milder weather conditions than other mountainous regions.
As such, rockhounding season is considered to be from late March to early November.
A good pair of hiking boots, a backpack, gloves and either a weather-appropriate jacket or sun block and insect repellant will really make or break your rockhounding experience.
Make sure to check the weather forecast the night before or morning of your venture.
Locations to Search
West Virginia may seem like the underdog of rockhounding compared to its neighbors, but with around 50 sites for gem collecting already marked, location options are far from scarce.
With ample opportunities for rock and gem collecting in the state of West Virginia, it’s all about choosing which sites are most convenient for you and which interest you the most.
Who knows, you may be the next explorer to locate a new site of your own along the way!
In general, agates are most often found near or in or along side water sources, such as rivers, creeks, lakes, reservoirs, etc, as the movement of the water along with weather continually turns over the earth, exposing treasures.
BUt here are some other specific areas to try.
Smoke Hole Area Limestone Outcrops (GPS coordinates 38.856876, -79.276386)
Marked by Spruce Knob, which is the highest point in West Virginia and connecting to the Alleghenies just West, is the Monongahela National Forest.
Here, thanks to its U.S. Forest Service, rock and gemstone collecting is permitted.
This highly mineralized and geologically complex mixed terrain forest has several locations where you can find wonderful specimens!
On the eastern cusp of the forest, squeezing between North Mountain and Cave Mountain, is Smoke Hole Canyon.
A long, half mile deep gorge carved by the South Branch of the Potomac River.
At this location, using simple tools like a short-handled shovel, a geologist’s pick and a bucket, you may be able to find Agates, Quartz, Geodes, Gypsum, Pyrite, and even Fossils.
To get here from Petersburg, you will follow Franklin/Petersburg Pike south for 15 miles, then turn right on to Smoke Hole drive.
Judy Gap Area Outcrops and Gravels (GPS coordinates 38.706257, -79.465866)
Even closer to Spruce knob, nestled along the North Fork South Branch of the Potomac River lies Judy Gap.
On the surface of this area’s streams, gravels and riverbeds you can find the likes of Smoky Quartz crystals, Calcite crystals, Dolomite crystals, Agates, and Travertine.
The best places to search are where water slows down and forms an alluvial deposit.
To get here from Smoke Hole you will simply take Smoke Hole drive south, go right on to Petersburg Pike, then turn west onto Mountaineer Dr, which runs parallel with Judy Run River and that will lead you directly into Judy Gap.
The total drive from Smoke Hole is less than 40 minutes.
Harman Area Limestone Outcrops and Stream Gravels (GPS coordinates 38.915439, -79.513119)
Just a short 22 miles northwest of Judy Gap, along the banks of Horse Camp Run River, you will find a hot spot for Agates, Quartz crystals as well as Calcite and Dolomite crystals.
To get here from Judy Gap, you will take Mountaineer Dr North into Seneca Rocks.
Turn east onto Allegheny Drive, which becomes US Rt 33.
Prime rockhounding location is approximately 11 miles west, between Harman church of Brethren and Blizzard Gate.
If you’re looking to be able to hit multiple spots in one day, or maybe you are staying in the nearby Spruce Mountain Cabins and making a weekend out of it, Smoke Hole, Judy Gap and Harman are the ultimate rockhounding destination trio all within Pendleton County.
Blue Sulphur Springs Road Exposure (GPS coordinates 37.795653, -80.621230)
If you are feeling adventurous and think you might want to venture out further, the southern edge of the Alleghenies in Greenbrier County could possibly be one of the best places to search for agates and quartz crystals in West Virginia.
In this area, there happens to be a large amount of public land generally open to anyone for collecting!
More specifically, north of Alderson and south of Asbury lies prime rockhounding land.
To get here, you will start in Alderson and take Blue Sulphur Springs Road approximately 6.6 miles north until you intersect with Sam Radar Rd.
Once there, you can discover smoky and clear double-terminated quartz along the banks of Muddy Creek.
Things to Remember When Searching for Agates in West Virginia
Always remember that rock collecting locations are constantly evolving.
Specimens may become depleted from over collecting, locations may have been built on or altered, locality information in literature may be inaccurate, and property ownership may have changed.
There will be different legalities of rock and mineral collecting on public land depending largely on which of four federal agencies owns it.
Land designated as national parks are areas of land that are protected from damage and therefore, rockhounding is widely not permitted.
Public land owned by the U.S. Forest Service (USFS) and Bureau of Land Management (BLM) usually allows for collecting of rocks and minerals with certain limitations.
Joining a local rockhounding club such as Kanawha Rock and Gem Club for a group trip is a great idea.
When you know the locals involved, you might be able to join a trip to a site that members of the public wouldn’t otherwise be able to explore.
You may also obtain a scientific research permit which allows for more rock collecting in otherwise restricted areas.
It may be important to note that the cutting of live vegetation is never allowed. Rockhounding is restricted to surface collection only.