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Rock Collecting or Rockhounding

Photo of a small sized garnet. Collecting minerals or common invertebrate fossils can be enjoyed almost anywhere. Rock and mineral enthusiasts can explore the hills and canyons for petrified wood, geodes, agates, fossils and many other types of colorful and interesting specimens.

Nevada has a vast assortment of rocks and minerals. Igneous rocks, sedimentary rocks, metamorphic rocks and various other types of metaigneous and metasedimentary rocks can be found. Many types of minerals, both common and obscure, are also present. Gemstones such as turquoise and opal are also locally present.

To protect mineral deposits and ensure long-term opportunities for collection, the following regulations apply:

  • All rock and mineral collection is limited to 25 lbs./day/person, with up to one piece for a total of 250 lbs. / year. A common rule of thumb is a 5 gallon buckets worth.
  • Common invertebrate fossils such as plants, mollusks and trilobites may be collected for personal use in reasonable quantities, but may not be sold or bartered without a permit.
  • Petrified wood may not be traded or sold without a permit issued by BLM.
  • In wilderness areas only surfacing collecting is permitted. 
  • Vertebrate fossils such as dinosaurs, mammals, fishes, and reptiles, and uncommon invertebrate fossils may be collected only by trained researchers under special permit.

Garnet Hill

Garnet Hill is the only designated rock hounding area in the Ely District, an internationally known site for gem collectors looking for garnets. Here you may find the ruby red semi-precious gems in the rocky volcanic outcrops. Garnets can be found either through careful rock breaking or searching the surface and drainages for the dark colored stones. The garnets will usually occur as single crystals attached to small cavities in the rhyolite rock, though they may weather out of the rock, and wash downhill. Bring a rock hammer or just search the ground to locate these crystals. Although most of the garnets found here are not of perfect gem quality, most people go home happy with their finds. Garnet Hill is also an excellent location to view the excavations of the massive open pit copper mines near Ruth, Nevada.

Things to note: There are four picnic sites with grills and a handicap accessible restroom available. A group barbeque area is also available. There are two informal areas for tents or small campers. RVs and large trailers are not recommended. No water is available.

How to get there: Garnet Hill is located in White Pine County, approximately 10 miles northwest of Ely, off of U.S. Highway 50. From Ely drive 6.4 miles west on US 50 to the sign indicating Garnet Hill. Turn east 1.7 miles to a signed road junction and travel south and west 1.4 miles to the parking area.

Oak Springs

Oak Springs Summit Trilobite Area contains fossil remains of six types of trilobites in the shale deposits exposed at this gravel pit. They belong to the Olenellidae family having a shell like a horseshoe crab, jointed legs, compound eyes and the ability to curl into a ball like today’s sow bug. These fossils are the remains of animals that lived in a shallow sea 500 - 524 million years ago. Fossil collectors will find these fossils exposed in a trench at the south end of the gravel pit. There are no facilities available at the site. A BLM sign-in register is located at the parking area and pamphlets are available to learn more about the history of the area and these creatures. Trilobites may be collected in reasonable quantities for personal use. They may not be bartered or sold.

Things to note: Trailhead with large parking area, trail register, interpretive sign and picnic table. Restrictions: Single track trails are closed to OHVs.

How to get there: Located 12 miles west of Caliente on US highway 93 on the south side of Oak Springs Summit, a signed dirt road to the north will take you to a gravel pit. The fossils are located at the west end of the pit on the east slope of a knob.


Garnet Hill Map

Oak Springs Trilobite Area Map

Last updated: 05-03-2012