Rockhounding Idaho Guide – Locations, Rocks & Map

rockhounding idaho guide

Idaho is one of the best states in the US for rockhounding. The state is known for its star garnet, but there are plenty of precious gems and minerals found across Idaho. In this rockhounding Idaho guide, we will explore top spots to visit for rock hunting.

Idaho, known as the Gem State, is a treasure trove for rockhounding enthusiasts. With its diverse geology and rich mineral deposits, Idaho offers a plethora of opportunities for those seeking to unearth precious rocks.

The Rocky Mountains are rich in various rocks and minerals such as gold, garnet, sapphire, opal, topaz, and much more. What’s even better is that most of Idaho’s land is owned by the National Forest Service, so it’s open to the public for collecting.

The best rockhounding places in Idaho are the streams and gravels of Clearwater and Salmon Rivers There are various old mines as well where you can find opal, gold, and other gems. 

How We Picked the Top Places for Rockhounding in Idaho

In order to find the best spots in Idaho for rockhounding, we had to consider a lot of things. It can be tough to find the information we need to shortlist the best places. Here are a few things we took into consideration:

  • Input from local gem hunting associations and groups.
  • The safety of the mining location and the potential hazards.
  • The accessibility of the mining spot.
  • Private and public locations.

Rocks and Minerals Found in Idaho

Idaho is rich in minerals and it comes as no surprise that there are a variety of rocks and minerals found in the state. Idaho also has a long history of commercial mining for gold and you can still pan for gold in rivers and streams across the state.

Here are some of the rocks and minerals you can find in Idaho:

  • Garnet
  • Opal
  • Gold
  • Sapphire
  • Fluorite
  • Agate
  • Geodes
  • Quartz
  • Petrified Wood
  • Epidote
  • Amethyst Thundereggs
  • Pyrite
  • Beryl
  • Zircon

Also read our guides on places to find geodes in Idaho and the best gem mining spots in Kentucky

Our Favorite Spots for Rockhounding in Idaho

Here are some of the top rockhounding locations in Idaho, each with its own distinct mineral.

  1. Empire Mine
  2. Spencer Opal Mine
  3. East Fork Emerald Creek
  4. Big Lost River
  5. Hog Creek
  6. North Fork Clearwater River
  7. Orofino Creek

Empire Mine

Empire Mine

The historic Empire Mine is nestled in the Owyhee Mountains of southwestern Idaho. This site is renowned for its deposits of jasper, agate, and petrified wood. The diverse range of colors and patterns found in the rocks at Empire Mine makes it a favorite among collectors.

Empire Mine is also famous for its high-quality purple fluorite. Petrified wood is also scattered throughout the area, adding to the allure of the place.

To access the site, follow the dirt roads leading into the Owyhee Mountains. Make sure to bring sturdy hiking gear, as the terrain can be challenging.

Spencer Opal Mine

Spencer Opal Mine

Spencer Opla Mine is a must-visit destination if you wish to find opals in Idaho. Located near the town of Spencer in eastern Idaho, this mine is famous for producing precious opals with vibrant play-of-color.

The opals found at Spencer Opal Mine exhibit a stunning range of hues, including flashes of red, blue, green, and violet. You are encouraged to bring your own digging tools and sift through the tailings for opalized rocks.

Spencer Opal Mine is on private property, but it is open to the public and you can enter for a small fee, and dig your own treasures. The place is famous for its Fire Opal. 

East Fork Emerald Creek

East Fork Emerald Creek

For those who are looking for emeralds and other precious gems, East Fork Emerald Creek in the Sawtooth National Recreation Area is a hidden gem in itself. This site is known for yielding emeralds, garnets, and other semi-precious stones, all set against the breathtaking backdrop of the Sawtooth Mountains.

The creek, winding through the forested landscape, is a promising location for rockhounding enthusiasts seeking emeralds. Visitors can also find garnets and other minerals along the creek bed and in the surrounding areas.

Emerald Creek near Fernwood is the best place to find Star Garnets and other varieties of garnets including almandine.

The creek is nestled in the rugged terrain of central Idaho which may require a bit of driving and hiking, so be prepared accordingly.

Big Lost River

Big Lost River

Venturing into the eastern part of Idaho, the Big Lost River is a prime location for rockhounds. The river winds its way through the vast landscapes of the Lost River Valley, presenting opportunities to find agate, jasper, and even fossilized materials.

The area is known for its amethyst, quartz, and chalcedony geodes. The riverbanks are rich with agate nodules, and a discerning eye can spot these treasures nestled among the rocks and gravel.

The Big Lost River offers a more relaxed rockhounding experience compared to some of the more challenging terrains in the state.

Hog Creek

Hog Creek

Hog Creek is situated in the Salmon-Challis National Forest. It is a rockhounding haven known for its deposits of garnets and other minerals. The creek, meandering through the forested hills, provides ample opportunities for collectors to sift through its gravels and discover the hidden treasures beneath.

Garnets found at Hog Creek come in various colors, including deep reds, oranges, and browns. Apart from garnets, you can also find plenty of Amethyst Thundereggs across the creek.

The creek’s gravel bars and the surrounding areas are promising spots for rockhounding enthusiasts seeking these semi-precious gems.

North Fork Clearwater River

Clearwater River

North Fork Clearwater River is a prominent destination for gold prospecting and rockhounding. Nestled in the northern part of Idaho, this river has a rich history of gold mining, and remnants of that era can still be found today.

The North Fork Clearwater River is known for its gold-bearing gravels, and diligent rockhounding can yield small flakes or even nuggets of the precious metal.

Panning and sluicing are popular methods for extracting gold from the riverbed, and the area’s gold-rich history adds an extra layer of excitement to the rockhounding experience.

Apart from gold, you can find plenty of other minerals in the gravels of the river such as Agate, Chert, Jasper, and Fibrolite. 

Orofino Creek


Orofino Creek is another treasure trove for those seeking gold and other precious minerals. The creek is located in the Clearwater National Forest and offers a scenic and rewarding rockhounding experience against the backdrop of lush forests and clear waters.

Gold prospectors frequent Orofino Creek to pan for gold in its gravels. The creek is also known for producing various specimens of sapphire, and epidote. 

The creek’s gold deposits have attracted rockhounding enthusiasts for decades, and the area remains a popular destination for those seeking the thrill of finding small particles of the precious metal.

Other Rockhounding Spots in Idaho

Apart from the popular spots mentioned above, there are so many other places that you can check out in Idaho for rocks and minerals.

Please remember that the rock collection in these areas is constantly changing. So, it’s best to stay updated with the latest information. Some of these places are as follows:

  • Mussellshell (Eldorado Creek) – Gold
  • Salmon River – Agate, Jasper, Chalcedony, Gold
  • Ruby Meadows – Quartz, Corundum
  • Riggins – Garnet
  • Bayview – Galena
  • Setters – Opal
  • Avery – Kyanite
  • Deadwood Gulch – Gold, Garnet
  • Boulder Creek – Garnet
  • Agatha – Opal
  • Lewiston – Agate, Garnet, Gold, Quartz, Opal
  • Rhodes Creek – Zircon
  • Upper Priest Lake – Gold, Quartz, Feldspar
  • American River – Zircon
  • Canyon Creek – Red Garnet
  • Little Goose Creek – Diamond
  • Garden Valley – Aquamarine
  • Stanley – Gold, Sapphire
  • Little Squaw Creek – Opal
  • Yellow Pine – Opal
  • Seven Devils Mining District – Garnet, Malachite, Epidote
  • Fairfield – Moonstone
  • Dismal Swamp – Quartz, Topaz
  • Hyndman Peak – Tourmaline

Tips for a Successful Rockhounding Trip in Idaho

  • Research and Preparation: Before embarking on a rockhounding adventure, conduct thorough research on the specific minerals and fossils found in each location. Familiarize yourself with the geological history of the area to enhance your understanding of what to look for.
  • Safety First: Always prioritize safety during rockhounding expeditions. Wear appropriate gear, including sturdy shoes, gloves, and safety glasses.
  • Tools: Pack essential rockhounding tools, such as a rock hammer, chisels, a magnifying glass, and containers for collecting specimens. A field guidebook specific to the minerals and rocks in the region can be a valuable resource.
  • Time of your visit: Consider the time of year and weather conditions when planning your rockhounding excursion. Some sites may be inaccessible or less enjoyable during certain seasons, so plan accordingly for the best experience.
  • Respect the environment: Leave no trace and respect the natural environment. Follow ethical collecting practices, and avoid damaging vegetation or disturbing wildlife. Adhere to any regulations or guidelines set by the landowners or authorities.


That brings us to the end of our rockhounding Idaho guide. Idaho’s diverse landscapes offer abundant mineral deposits waiting to be unearthed. The state is known for its gold, garnet, and sapphire reserves.

Whether you are a seasoned expert or a beginner, each rockhounding site in Idaho has its own unique charm and geological treasures waiting to be unearthed. Before embarking on any rockhounding adventure, ensure you are well-prepared with the right tools, knowledge of regulations, and respect for the natural environment. Happy rockhounding!

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