Where To Find Cool Rocks: 7 Types of Spots That Rockhounders Look For

There are amazingly unique stone specimens everywhere, if just take the time to look.

Experienced rockhounders focus less on the “hot spots” and more on the typical types of spots where cool rocks can be found.

In this article, we’ll give you 7 ideas of where to find cool rocks, regardless of where you live.

Initial Rules About Rock Hunting You Should Know

While it seems like a simple thing to walk around and pick up stones, it can actually be quite complicated, and sometimes illegal.

Some stones, gems, metals, fossils, and other materials are actually quite sought after, and are thus very valuable.

A big part of the beginner rockhounder’s education is learning about map reading and property rights.

In looking for cool rocks (and in picking them up to take home to polish, make into jewelry, or just otherwise admire), you must understand whether or not you can take home the rocks that you have found.

The laws about rock collecting and removal vary from country to country, state to state, county to county, and city to city.

Some states have a lot of rules governing the materials of the land, while others have few.

In the United States, you’ll have to sort out who manages the land you are standing on (public versus private), and then whether you can take home the specimen you’ve spotted.

For example, there is very little you will be able to take home from National Monuments.

Rather than go through every single possibility, we just recommend that you do a general search for the rockhounding rules/laws where you are planning on prospecting.

One thing we do not recommend: walking around your neighborhood and grabbing rocks out of the yards, driveways, rock gardens, or refuse piles located on private land owned by your neighbors.

While it can be cool to walk and spot neat stuff, don’t walk onto their property to get a closer look, don’t pick it up, and don’t take it home with you without permission.

And don’t let your kids do it either.

And always pay special attention to anything that looks like Native American artifacts (like arrowheads or burial grounds), vertebrate fossils (like dinosaurs), or human remains of any kind. Most states will have some rule or protection for them.

In the suggestions below, we’ll talk generally about places where you can find cool rocks, and we’ll leave it to you to determine the legality/illegality of such a hunt in your area.

Here’s some additional info about tools a beginner might need to get started rockhounding.

What Sort of Cool Rock Do You Want To Find?

The type of rock you are interested in will definitely direct where you should looking. For example, many people are really interested in finding a geode/thunderegg.

Unfortunately, thundereggs don’t just litter the ground while you are on an average hike, especially if the hike is one that is well known and well-traveled.

Further, there are just some places in the world where some of the cool rocks (like thundereggs) formed (and don’t form).

If there is a specific type of rock that you are interested in (or even gold or gems), it is best to gather information via internet or books/work of mouth to find the best spots.

Start with the rock you want, and work your way backwards.

Not Sure What You Want To Find? Just Want To Look?

If you are just looking for something beautiful, cool, special, or unique, here are some places that are more likely to result in something cool.

Finding Rocks in Disturbed/Dug Up Earth

Any place where the land has been dug up can be a really prolific place for rock collecting. Some people will tell you to look for projects and jobsites where the digging was done way deep.

I’m of the mind that disturbed soil is disturbed soil, and is still worth looking through regardless.

Look for construction projects like:

  • residential construction (digging involved with foundations, driveways, roads, landscaping, pools, water features, sprinklers)
  • agricultural pond/irrigation construction
  • trenches for pipes and other utility infrastructure
  • road cuts (digging done in road building)

Definitely avoid pawing through the piles while active work is going on (think heavy machinery), or going through piles of material that were obviously purchased to be placed on the property.

To avoid getting cited for trespassing, if the construction project isn’t yours, explore these piles when you can get permission from the property owner.

If the piles are on public land (and there often are, especially road cuts), make sure you comply with any application rockhounding specific rules.

Finding Cool Rocks Where The Water Meets The Land

In general, the edges of waterways tend to be excellent places to rockhound.

Think ocean beaches, lake beaches, river banks, creek/stream banks.

(We love hunting for agates on small poorly known beaches in Oregon like Short Beach, Strawberry Hill, and Bullards Beach).

The reason? The continuous movement of the water continually molds and shapes the land, and that persistent pressure and shaping unearths the treasures that reside near the surface.

Changing weather and seasons can increase the amount of water and force of the water (storms, flooding, kind tides) which can move or expose hidden deposits.

Look for exposed gravel bars. Even better, find gravel bars that are set away from the general public, as easy access can mean the sites get picked over.

But even if you can’t get away from the crowds, you can still often find something that others miss.

Walk into the water a bit to scour for stones, or even bringing a shovel to turn over some of the gravel bar for stones that had not been found by surface hunters.

While some waterways are better than others, you can almost always find something cool along a waterway if you walk even just a little.

You can make a special trip to a creek or river to rockhound, or you can incorporating some rock hunting as part of your other regular activities, such as hiking, kayaking, fishing, and biking.

Rock Hunting Seasonal Water/Dried Up creeks/reservoirs

Some small rivers or creeks only run in the wet months. Some reservoirs are only full part of the year. take advantage of the dry times to take a shovel out with you and dig down into the streambed.

And walking around the reservoir, in addition to some cool rocks, you might find other valuables, such as lost watches, jewelry, and sunglasses. A metal detector could really come in handy.

When looking for specimens in a dry environment, make sure to bring extra water to use to soak or clean up rocks as you go as dried up mud and gunk can make it really difficult to get a good look at what you’ve found.

Finding Rocks While Hiking

Getting out and about in nature provides great opportunities for rockhounding. Keep your head on a swivel while walking, looking for natural rocky areas alongside the trail.

As the miles go by, look for any exposed rock formations, cliffs, outcroppings, points, etc.

While avoiding critters that enjoy living in those spaces (think snakes), exposed rocky hillsides and ridges can be great places to find cool rocks.

Watch the sides of the road as you drive to and from the trailhead. You’ll often spot rocky hillsides or exposed areas that could be worthwhile to explore as well.

Digging Up Under Very Old Stumps

When a large old tree falls over (think something in the range of 100-200 plus years or more, take a shovel and start digging down and around the roots.

While other areas around the tree may have been dug up, paved over, stripped by floods, trees do a pretty good job of keeping the soil around its roots stable.

If the tree was cut down without pulling the stump out or grinding it out, dig down and around and under. We’ve seen this done at several locations (such as Red Top Mountain in Washington State).

Abandoned Quarries

We have found a significant number of rocks called “leaverite” by family members in abandoned quarries.

In those same quarries, we’ve also found a lot of quartz and other cool stones.

Take special care in these spaces to watch for falling or unstable rock, and definitely wear protective clothing and shoes.

Estate Sales

You might find cool rocks at garage sales or on social media.

The cool thing about many estate sales is that they allow you to walk through the house and make an offer on items that you find.

In most cases, the person running the sale has no idea of the value of a rock collection, and in most cases wants to get it out of the house to avoid taking it to the dump.

Places to Avoid

Under no circumstances are you going to want to collect rocks or other specimens on private property, mining claims, abandoned mines, or anything that looks like an old tunnel.

Collecting on private property could result in a ticket.

Trying to hunt for rocks in someone’s mining claim area could get you arrested (or worse).

Climbing into an abandoned mine or tunnel could get you killed.

Wrap Up

Ultimately, there are cool rocks everywhere, if you take the time to look.

We’ve created an ultimate guide to gifts for rockhounds with helpful links directly to Amazon to make looking for and checking out potential gifts quick and review easy!

Still not sure where to go? Check out our Where to Go Rockhounding hub page for more articles to help you plan your next (or first) rockhounding trip.