*Please note that it is ultimately the readers responsibility to verify that the locations and information provided below are accurate before making any plans to visit.
Rockhounding in Northern California: Where to Find Geodes and More!
1: Traverse Creek
Traverse Creek is a well-known historical landmark that was made famous by William Louis Stifle. After obtaining a deed to the area, he heavily mined it for serpentine before finding large deposits of quartz, amethyst, tremolite, and other minerals. Many of them are found in the form of geodes.
Now, the area is open to the public, and it has become a popular spot for rock hounds. Geology students, rock and mineral enthusiasts and local school classes often go to the area to see what they can pull out of the dirt. That’s a good thing and a bad thing. On one hand, you know the area has plenty for you to find, but on the other, you’ll likely have to contend with other rockhounds unless you’re very lucky.
Traverse Creek is free, and it’s fairly close to town. It’s only a little over a mile from Georgetown, California, and that makes it perfect for days when you can only afford to spend a few hours digging. The large variety of geodes and minerals is also a bonus if you want to quickly build a varied collection of stones. However, remember to bring your own rockhounding tools. The site may be popular, but it’s not a company-based location. It’s just public land, and there aren’t any shops to rent rock hammers and other equipment from.
If you’d like to visit Traverse Creek, you can click this link to learn more about it.
2: Crystal Mountain
Crystal Mountain is one of Northern California’s best quartz deposits. There are multiple mine entrances and exits that will allow more seasoned rockhounds to find large, high-quality specimens, and some can be dug up on the surface by beginners, too.
The mines are leftover from WWII. So, you might want to be careful if you decide to enter them, and make sure you bring along the right equipment to properly explore an old mine. However, the mines were used to dig up electronics-grade quartz, and a lot of it is still inside of them. If you want clear, sizeable specimens, the mines are your best bet.
If you’re looking to visit Crystal Mountain, you’ll want to head to Sierra County, California. It’s pretty hard to miss the mountain itself, but the main mine entrance can be a little tricky to find. It’s about .1 miles north of Quartz Knob, and you can follow the signage to get to that point.
Crystal Mountain is free to explore, but you will need some extra pieces of equipment to fully explore the most fruitful dig sites. Here’s a brief overview of the mine if you decide to check it out.
3: Pino Grande
Pino Grande isn’t a fancy mine or anything. It does have large geode deposits, though. The geodes tend to be found near creeks and streams in the area, and you’ll have to look around a bit to find areas that are open to the public. You can also find other minerals and crystals in the area, but they’re not nearly as common.
The key to successfully rockhounding in Pino Grande is to get to know the area first. A lot of great digging areas are on private land, and the landowners probably won’t take kindly to you digging up their land. If you really want to dig on private property, you can always ask the owner for permission. If not, you’ll want to find public areas near bodies of water.
To find Pino Grande, you’ll want to head to El Dorado County, and go northwest of Pollock Pines. While you’re there, try to check out some of the other attractions. The old mill, a brewhouse, and a few other neat establishments make up the small community.
4: Slate Mountain
Slate Mountain is home to an old mine, like Crystal Mountain, and it has similar geodes for you to collect. There are several mine entrances around the mountain, and surface-level digging frequently produces great results. So, you don’t have to go spelunking to lug home some beautiful specimens.
The most common crystals at Slate Mountain are quartz, variscite, and strengite. The quality of the quartz varies, and you’re not as likely to find electronics-grade quartz up there, but smokey variants and even amethyst are somewhat common.
Slate Mountain is located in El Dorado County like Pino Grande. So, you can easily add both locations to your trip if you plan on rockhounding for the weekend. However, it’s not very close to town. So, you should bring everything you need with you before you head up the mountain.
5: Peterson Mountain
Peterson Mountain is a place that I recommend to serious rockhounds with a bit of experience under their belts. If that sounds like you, you won’t regret visiting the location. I say that because of how hostile the weather conditions can be. Both the California and Nevada sides are extremely hot during the day, and they drop below freezing almost instantly when the sun goes down. The high altitude can also be a bit jarring for the inexperienced, and there aren’t any stores, hospitals, or services nearby. You’re pretty much on your own out there.
However, if you’re experienced enough to handle those conditions, you can find tons of quartz specimens, and you don’t even have to work very hard. The quartz is practically in plain sight in most spots, and it’s so abundant that you can fill up entire sacks with it within a few hours. Besides quartz, you probably won’t find much, though. You might find some odd trinkets among the rubble of the California side of the range, but the area isn’t known for having other minerals. The area has been used quite a bit over the years, and the companies that once mined it left some stuff behind.
Speaking of companies, you have to be careful if you go to the Reno side of the mountain. An active mining operation sits on top of it. You’re allowed to dig below the operation, but you’ll be charged with trespassing if you try to dig near the top of the mountain. The owner is somewhat strict about trespassing due to safety concerns. If you only use the California side of the range, you don’t have to worry about that. There aren’t any active claims on that side.
To get to Peterson Mountain, you can take 395 outside of Reno, or you can go north of Hallelujah Junction on the California side.