Mining & Rockhounding

With a nickname as sterling as the Silver State, you better believe Nevada’s a jackpot of mining history. With historic and modern-day silver, gold, and copper mines dotting the state, there are countless ways to zero in on the massive amounts of wealth Nevada mines produce to this day. Head for guided tours of historic mines that put Nevada on the map, hop on a tour of some modern-day mines in Nevada in some of the largest open pit mines on planet Earth, or get a little more hands on with rockhounding that’ll have you crying “Eureka!” from all corners of the state. Nevada turquoise is more accessible than that of any other state, along with natural quartz crystals, free garnet dig sites, and crazy-rare black fire opal public mines. Grab that paper map, a few tools—rock hammer, garden fork, squirt bottle—and a container for all your finds. You’ll be glad you brought ‘em.

Highlights

  • The Largest Silver Strike & Biggest Gold Mine in the World
  • Nevada: A Rockhound’s Paradise
  • Turquoise, Black Fire Opal & Garnets Galore
Dig In

Nevada leads the country in gold and silver, but keep digging. These hills also yield a kaleidoscopic spectrum of precious and semiprecious gems, too.

Can You Dig It?

(The Answer Is Yes, You Literally Can.)

Season

All Seasons

Region

State of Nevada

Nevada’s mining story broke ground before it was even an official state, as pioneers made their way west to the California goldfields in the mid 1800s. Some folks practiced prospecting along the way, but after Nevada’s first gold discovery in what would become Dayton, many stuck around to see what else they might find. Turns out, just up the hill, it’d be the largest silver discovery in the world, instantly calling thousands of westward miners “back east” to get a piece of the colossal Comstock Lode. The boom years of the first major discovery in the United States produced more than $300 million bucks, much of which helped fund development of the West Coast, flipped the bill for the Civil War, and officially made Nevada the Silver State.

Otteson Brothers Turquoise Mine Tour

The bulk of what is mined in Nevada now isn’t much different than it was in 1859, still championed as one of the largest gold and silver sources on earth. Most of the major mines of Nevada surround Elko, Ely, Winnemucca and Lovelock, and make tours available to the public during summer months. Get a look at modern mining equipment, like trucks bigger than your house, and some of the most massive open mine pits in Nevada at places like Nevada Gold Mines—the largest gold mining operation in the world. 

What about those old mining towns in Nevada? Nevada’s home to the most ghost towns and historic mine sites in the country, so if you’re trying to figure out just how many mines are in Nevada, we’re talkin’ in the thousands. Stand in the footsteps of Nevada’s forefathers at Virginia City’s historic silver mines on the Chollar, Ponderosa or Comstock Gold Mill tours, or head south to see the Techatticup mine in Eldorado Canyon—a mine as famous for its bountiful riches as the outlaws and desperados who flocked to it.  

Comstock Gold Mill, Nevada Rockhounding, Nevada Mining, Rockhounding, Mining, Prospecting, Gold Mine
Comstock Gold Mill

From Eldorado Canyon to Jarbidge and Osceola to Virginia City, hundreds of mining camps sprung to life across Nevada right around that same time—some strikes the biggest, and others the purest—many destined to become the most famous mining towns in Nevada, thanks to the arrival of the Transcontinental Railroad. Gold, silver, and copper mines popped up all across the state, which is how damn near all of Nevada’s still standing cities and towns first got their start. Today, more than 20 minerals are mined in Nevada—some so unique they’ve drawn the likes of businesses like Tesla and Panasonic. 

Travel Nevada Pro Tip

As the only place in North America to find this extremely precious, very rare opalized prehistoric wood, it’s no wonder Virgin Valley Black Fire Opal is Nevada’s State Gemstone. Sink a pickaxe and mine your own at northwestern Nevada’s Bonanza, Rainbow Ridge, and Royal Peacock opal mines.

Rockhound Nevada

Millions of years of geologic activity made Nevada—much of which was once a sea floor—the perfect stomping grounds for mining gold and other precious minerals, while also forming distinctive fossils and countless crowdless Nevada rockhounding sites, loaded with unimaginable diversity. That combined with millions of acres of unfenced public land access makes for next to perfect conditions in this rockhounders paradise. 

Nevada is a turquoise mining mecca—so much of it in fact, that Nevada has more turquoise mines than any other state. Sink your pickaxe into more than 120 turquoise mines across the state— many of which possess those prized Royston blues that even inspired Tiffany and Co.’s signature hue. For one of the best places to rockhound Nevada, head straight to the source at the Otteson Brothers Turquoise Mine Tours in Tonopah.

Other prized Nevada rockhounding locations can be found right outside Ely, and have a thing or two to do with natural garnets. When prospectors first came to Nevada, they kept turning up red gemstones in the mountains spanning from Ely to Elko. Though originally assumed to be rubies—hence naming the area’s iconic range the Ruby Mountains—turns out they’re garnets, and pretty sizable ones at that. Local and visiting geologists and rockhounds head to Garnet Hill for sizable garnets that can be found laying right on top of the ground, lodged in matrix, or buried in large deposits beneath the ground. 

There’s something else besides turquoise and garnets in them thar hills. Huge deposits of petrified wood and some of the best rockhounding in northern Nevada await near Denio and the Sheldon National Wildlife Refuge. Fear not! We’re not talking about any old petrified wood—instead, rockhounders from around the world head for northwestern Nevada where opalized wood awaits. Nope, not a typo; this is one of the only places in the world the very rare process occurred, forming the Virgin Valley Black Fire Opal. Some of the best opal mines in Nevada can be found in this region—just take your pick. 


And beyond? Some of the best rockhounding in southern Nevada lies outside Goldfield, in a place called Gemfield. Here, you can dig for chalcedony, agate, jasper, quartz, and countless other claims. Snag a few pocket-sized baubles that catch your eye, or load actual buckets of finds for a tiny fee. Though the rest of the state is loaded with dig sites presenting this kind of diversity, Gemfield is special because so many different types of rocks and minerals are found within one area.

Nevada Geology Rocks

Don’t let our epic landscapes fool you. Underneath the surface are hidden gems – literally – that are yours for the taking. Turquoise, garnets, black fire opals, and a whole lot more are still routinely unearthed from hills that used to (and sometimes still do) boom with gold and silver.  Pick up a pick and see what treasures you’ll take home as souvenirs. 

#NVAdventure

Snap a photographic “gem” while you were getting after that rockin’ Nevada geology? Tag those shots #NVAdventure to share them with your fellow rockhounds. If we dig it, you may find it featured here!

Inside #chollarmine where riches still hide... no wonder #virginiacity is said to be one of the most #haunted towns in America - some of those old miners still think they’ll strike it rich!🤠⚒ 👻
🕵️I Spy with my Scientific Eyes🕵️‍♀️
....#FossilFriday 🦖🦕🦖🦕🦖🦕🦖🦕🦖🦕
This dinosaur long bone was discovered in February with help from paleomel in the valley.of.fire. Looks more like a pile of rock, but scientists are currently trying to piece it back together to see what dinosaur was roaming around 100Ma. 
This specimen was recovered under a scientific permit, and a reminder NO fossils should ever be collected. If you ever come across a fossil: take a picture, get coordinates, and inform park personnel as soon as possible! 
There are fossils you can look for and collect however on private or BLM land! Invertebrate fossils (shells, corals, and trilobites) can be collected. If you are going on a fossil hunt on public lands, pack out what you pack in, social distance, and collecting is legal as long as it’s for your own rock collection. No trading, bartering, or selling. 
#nevada #jrscientist #Scientist #fossils #dinosaurs #paleontology #homeschool #distantlearning #EdChat #learning #teaching #scienceEd #k12 #travelnevada #homemeansnevada #neverstopexploring #stayhomenevada #nvpaleo #nvsciencecenter
My sparkly find at The Royal Peacock Opal Mine this weekend. #digginginthedirt #ignorethedryhands #homemeansnevada
4 days in stage 1 of tumbling 😍💙 They’re wet but I didn’t edit this picture at all. So, so stoked to see how these turn out!
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#turquoise #rockhound #rocktumbling #naturalresources #naturalturquoise #ottesonbrothersturquoise #travelnevada #homemeansnevada #rockhoundingnevada ottesonbrothersturquoise wildjaejewelry
Today my hubby, pup and I escaped to do a little rockhounding 30 minutes from home. One of the advantages of living in Nevada is the vast rockhound opportunities everywhere! Overlooking Gold Hill, with Virginia City in the background, we found some interesting quartz crystal clusters. Nothing earth shattering, but fun nonetheless. Still caked in mud, it will be fun to see how these clean up! 🤩
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#rockhoundingnevada #nevadarockhound #rockhounding #goldhillnevada #virginiacitynevada #quartzclusters #nevadaoutdoors #naturelover #explorenevada #givingearthminerals #gemsandminerals #rockhunting #naturalstones #rocksandminerals #ilovenevada #homemeansnevada
Who even cares about diamonds when you can find 5 carat garnets sitting right on top of the dang ground? #finderskeepers #howtonevada
Quick hike out in Wilson Canyon this morning.

#rockhounding #rockhound #hikenevada #nevada #nevadadesert #nevadatrails #travelnevada #hike #hiking #hikingadventures #wood #petrifiedwood #agates #agatizedwood #agate #lizard #hornytoads #reptiles #explore
Here is a sampling of what I found at the new claim (yet to be named). It cleaves like opal, has the color of the powderest blue turquoise and I think it's variscite. I'll send some to the lab just to be sure. 🥰 But I'm excited to polish some up to get a look at the
In #Ely, #Nevada we found small garnets that look like the bright red seeds you find inside in a pomegranate. They are beautiful stones that can be find at the #Garnet Hill Recreation Area! You are even allowed to take them home with you.  We're here filming with geologist Brett Wagers for our #travel series #SeeingtheUSA. It's on amazonprimevideo and public TV stations in the USA including #PBS. visitelynevada travelnevada mypubliclands
White Pine County Will Be Here To Welcome You Back. Stay Strong. We Will See You Soon.

Our next feature to provide travel inspiration during these crazy times and counting down the days until life returns to normal is: Garnet Hill. Known as one of the best rock hounding sites in Nevada, Garnet Hill presents great views, including of the mine across the valley, delivers family fun collecting sharp, dark colored garnets, and is only a short drive from downtown Ely. More info can be found on our website by clicking this link: https://bit.ly/2UrcBhZ.  #visitelynevada #getelevated #mountaintown #getoutside #greatoutdoors #rockhunting #rockhounding #familyfun #nvroadtrip #familyfun #photooftheday #epic #awesome travelnevada ponyexpressnevada
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