Tourists come from all over the world and descend upon the city of Las Vegas all year long. That’s because it’s one of those places that has so many different types of activities to choose from. And one of those things that are often times over looked are all of the rockhounding opportunities that are near Las Vegas.
So whether you live in Las Vegas, or are visiting and simply looking for a break from the lights, the gambling and all the people, then you’ll want to grab your rockhounding tools and check out one (or more) of these rockhounding dig sites near Las Vegas.
Note: If you are a resident of Las Vegas, or one of the nearby communities, then the best way to really learn the area in and around Vegas is to join a local rock and mineral club, such as The Southern Nevada Gem & Mineral Society. You will gain a lot of local experience and knowledge from participating in club activities and field trips.
Rockhounding Sites Near Las Vegas
1. The Ore Car Mine
The Ore Car Mine is a claim owned by the Southern Nevada Gem & Mineral Society. At the time of this writing, the club welcomes all rockhounds to the claim, however they do not allow commercial digging. The Ore Car Mine area is littered with agate, and all you really need to do is just walk around and collect what you want. It’s fairly common for club members to throw out all different kinds of random rocks and minerals there as well. So you might even stumble upon a few specimens that are not actually from the area.
The mine is approximately 1 hour East of Las Vegas. Directions to the mine can be found on the Southern Nevada Gem & Mineral Society website.
2. Oak Springs Trilobite Site
Rocks and minerals are not the only things rockhounds can go after near Las Vegas. There are plenty of opportunities for collecting fossils near Las Vegas as well. And more specifically, trilobite fossils.
The Oak Springs Trilobite Area is an excellent place to visit when looking for rockhounding locations close to Las Vegas. Even though this site is well off the beaten path, it’s still very much worth your time.
Situated just outside Caliente on US 93, this area is packed with fossil remains of multiple different types of trilobites in the shale deposits near Oak Springs Summit.
There is a parking lot near the Oak Springs Trilobite Area, trail register, interpretive sign and picnic table to be enjoyed by guests, however, there are no public restrooms are available. So be prepared for that.
3. Fossil Canyon at Red Rock Canyon Recreational Lands
The Red Rock Canyon Recreational area around Las Vegas is an excellent location for finding all different kinds of fossils. This area is well known for dinosaur tracks, invertebrate fossils, coral fossils, sponges and many other ancient shelled marine life.
4. Tule Springs Fossil Beds National Monument
Tule Springs Fossil Beds National Monument spans over 22,650 acres of land. and is only 20 miles north of the Las Vegas Strip, making it an easy stop for anyone looking for areas of interest near Las Vegas.
What makes Tule Springs Fossil Beds so unique are the wide variety of species of animals that have been uncovered there as well as the large concentration of fossils that are in the area.
Even though collecting fossils is not permitted at the park, it’s still well worth the visit if you have any interest at all about what the Las Vegas area looked like in ancient times.
5. Mine Tailings Near Goodsprings, NV
If you’ve never dug through the tailings of an old mine, than you are missing out. Mine tailings are the “waste” materials that are left after the mineral the miners were targeting has been extracted. That means there could be a literal ton of rocks and minerals to find in these tailings! But why wouldn’t they extract those as well? Because they’re only looking for one thing. Everything else is trash and gets thrown out.
Southern Nevada, including the area around Las Vegas is riddled with old and new mines alike. A little bit of research on sites like mindat.org and similar websites will provide you with all the information you need on knowing how to locate these mines.
Be careful though. You want to make certain that you are not snooping around private mine claims and private property. Always know who owns the land and gain permission before going.
6. Trilobites on Emigrant Pass, CA
Directly South of the town of Pahrump and across the border into California is Emigrant Pass on the Old Spanish Trail road. This section of road is an excellent location for finding trilobite fossils. There are sections along the road where you can literally pull to the side of the road and walk ten feet into fossil filled slate.
7. Dry Lake Beds
It’s no surprise that the landscape around Las Vegas is desert. That means bodies of water just don’t last long. If you’re able to locate a dry lake bed, then you’ve found an excellent location to do some rockhounding and fossil hunting.
Much of the area surrounding Las Vegas is BLM, which means rockhounding is permitted. Simply go to Google Maps and start searching for evidence of dry lake beds that are located on BLM land. Then plan your adventure out to those lake beds.
8. Any Direction Out of Las Vegas
The fact is, there are countless areas close to Las Vegas that are good rockhounding dig sites. I’m not joking when I say that you can literally grab some extra water, a rock hammer and jump in your car and drive out into the desert in any direction. You’ll eventually stumble upon an area where rocks, minerals or fossils can be found.
And if you have a copy of Roadside Geology of Nevada you’ll have no trouble knowing exactly what to look for.