Top Spots For Gem Hunting In California

Where to Dig for Crystals in California? Where can you mine for gems in California?

Garnet. Credit: Cherokee Ruby Mine
Garnet. Credit: Cherokee Ruby Mine

Gem Hunting In California

California is one of the richest states in mineral diversity.

Not unexpectedly, it has a good reputation when it comes to activities related to gold mining, but not only that; it is also home to a number of gemstone mines. Most of these mines are situated in the California southern region.

Locations of some of these gemstone mines:

Himalaya Mine, Mesa Grande District, California.

The Himalaya Tourmaline Mine is located near Santa Ysabel, CA at Lake Henshaw in the beautiful Mesa Grande is the best place for gem hunting in california. We offer a fun gem and crystal dig to the public. Visit our dig at Lake Henshaw Resort where you will dig and screen through ore from the world famous Himalaya Mine. Many minerals can be found including pink and green tourmaline, black tourmaline, quartz crystals, spessertine garnet, lepidolite, clevelandite, and a variety of others. Keep all you find.

Where are we located? Lake Henshaw 26439 Hwy 76, Santa Ysabel, CA 92070

When are we open? Open Thursday through Sunday 10am – 3pm. Reservations are not necessary.
Also, Mondays by reservation available

Cost: Adult Dig $75, youth 13 years old to 15 years old half price ($37.50), children 12 years old and under are free with paying adult. Additional children $20.

Discounts: Senior and active military rate $60. Rain day $10 off if it rains more than 75% of the day.

Adult Group Rates: Groups 20+ $50 per person, 10+ people $5 off

Children Group Rates: $20 per child, 12 and under

What to Bring: Sun hat or rain gear, muddy shoes, maybe some rubber gloves, tooth brush, baggie for your crystals and a small bucket, or bin, for specimens. Tissue paper for wrapping your crystals and specimens.

Accommodations: Lake Henshaw Resort Cabins, RV parking, and camping. Call 760-782-3501. Also in Julian (25 miles away) there are several hotels including the historic Gold Rush Hotel. And, there’s a casino, Rincon, I believe it is called.

Gold Prospecting Adventures, Jamestown, California.

Gold Prospecting Adventures, LLC has built a solid reputation throughout California’s Gold Country as the best of the best for gem hunting in california. We are the leading professionals in gold prospecting and gold rush history. That’s because we’ve spent the last 40 years perfecting our techniques, improving our knowledge, and tailoring our programs to meet the needs of the thousands of guests who visit our camp each year. Our guides, dressed in period costume, receive special training to insure that every individual enjoys a remarkably genuine and comprehensive gold rush experience. No other gold prospecting company can stake that claim!

We know (and will share) the real secrets of successful prospecting. And the gold is here, participants have taken out over 300 ounces of gold from the one hole at our Jimtown 1849 Gold Mining Camp.

Whether you are a family looking for a fun and interesing way to spend a few hours on your way to Yosemite, a real adventurer, seeking the true secrets to successful prospecting, or a group organize, planning your next tour. we have the trip for you.

Be our guest, come to Jamestown, live the adventure and take home some gold.

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The OceanView Mine, San Diego County, California.

A visit to the Oceanview Mine allows you a unique view of the only actively working underground mine in the world famous Pala Gem mining district and a chance to find your own gems—tourmalines, kunzites, morganites and more so it is one of best places for gem hunting in california. Screen the dump piles of material we take out of our mine and find the gems we’ve missed—and we miss a lot! You get to keep everything you find at no extra charge; the standard dig fee allows you to keep all you find and you can take home one 5-gallon bucket of rocks that you have screened and washed. Guests also get a jeep tour of Chief Mountain where you can see all of the currently active mines and prospects, as well as views of the famous Pala Chief, Tourmaline Queen and other historic mines.

We’ve taken care of everything you need. We provide you with screens, water, buckets and shovels–and most importantly, a big pile of gem-rich dirt and gravel taken from our mines! After a brief training session, you have four hours to work the pile, looking for your gems. You get to keep everything you find at no extra charge; the standard dig fee allows you to keep all you find. In addition, you can take home one 5-gallon bucket of rocks that you have screened and washed if you want to more carefully sort through them at home. Guests also get a jeep tour of Chief Mountain where you can see all of the currently active mines and prospects, as well as views of the famous Pala Chief, Tourmaline Queen and other historic mines.

Location: 37304 Magee Rd, Pala, CA 92059
What You Might Find: Tourmaline (black, watermelon, and green), Kunzite, Aquamarine, Morganite, Lepidolite, Quartz, & more!
Cost: Adults – $75 each) // 5-11 years old – $60 each // 4 and under are free

Opal Hill Mine, Mule Mountains District, Riverside Co., California.

Opal Hill, located in eastern California near the border of Arizona, is known for its beautiful opal eggs, quartz crystals, and wonderful fire agates so it is one of the best places for gem hunting in california. Sometimes called Coon Hollow, this site is located deep in the Mule Mountains not far from Palo Verde, CA.

To reach the site from Interstate 10, take Wiley Well Road exit and head south for approx. 17 miles, just past the BLM Coon Hollow Campround. Turn left on the small gravel road (high clearance vehicle recommended) at the Opal Hill Mine sign and drive east for another couple of miles to the mine site, which is located on the right.

Opal Hill has a long known history of quality fire agate production, having produced many wonderful gemstones over the years. The old original Opal Hill mining claim used to offers a pay to mine service during the cooler fall, winter and spring months (December 2015 Note: The mine has a new owner and it is unknown if it is any longer open to the public).

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From Interstate 10, take Wiley Well Exit and head south on the graded dirt road for 11.86 miles. A dirt road leads to the claim; it’s no longer marked. (If you pass the entrance to the Coon Hollow Campground going south you’ve missed the road.) Go east on the cut off road and travel for a about 2.3 miles on the rough dirt and rocky road. A high clearance 4×4 vehicle is needed to navigate the last mile of rocky road to the mine. GPS 33°27’08.0″N 114°51’53.5″W

Gems of Pala, Magee Rd, Pala, California

Gems of Pala is a locally owned and operated business. Our owners Blue Sheppard and his wife Shannon are onsite to personally greet you. Blue has over 52 years of experience with gems and minerals. to share with you. We pride ourselves on quality pricing and superior customer service and especially for being the #1 choice in San Diego County for a true family mining adventure.

Gems of Pala gives you the educational experience and excitement of mining for precious gems from a real mine. Enjoy the thrill of searching for gems just like the miners of the 1800’s. You will be provided with all the tools of a gem hunter as well as a demonstration. No reservations required, except for large groups!

Location: 35940 Magee Rd, Pala, CA 92059
What You Might Find: Quartz, Lepidolite, Kunzite, Morganite, Tourmaline
Cost: Gem Buckets that you dig from our pile are $30.00 each. Pre-Dug Gem Bags are $50.00 each. All Cash Only.

California State Gem Mine, Los Gatos Creek Rd, Coalinga, California

Here’s your chance to come find the state gemstone of California, Benitoite

A prospector, James Couch, was grubstaked by Roderick Dallas, and in February, 1907, and on his way to investigate some intriguing outcrops, found a small area littered with blue crystals which he thought might be blue sapphires. He collected several and rushed back to Coalinga. A claim was placed which was named the Dallas Gem mine. Dr. George Louderback, a professor of mineralogy at the University of California, Berkeley, was provided some of the stones. Dr. Louderback soon realized that they were not sapphires or spinel as some thought, but a new mineral not known to science. In July 1907 he published an article, naming the new mineral benitoite, named after San Benito County. The black mineral associated with the benitoite was initially called ‘carlosite’, named after the nearby San Carlos peak. However, he later discovered that this mineral was neptunite which had been discovered in Greenland in 1893.

When word got out of the new discovery, several people, including Dr. George Kunz from Tiffany’s of New York, rushed to the site to secure an exclusive marketing agreement with the miners. Mr. G. Eacret, of Shreve and Company in San Francisco won the marketing rights.

The mine owner, Mr. R.W. Dallas, built a mine camp and immediately expanded mining operations. The mine produced benitoite from an open cut in the hillside, as well as a short underground tunnel pushed into an outcrop of benitoite-bearing material called blueschist. For about 5 years, the blueschist layer yielded thousands of excellent gemstones.

Location: The Historic Old Road Camp – 48242 Los Gatos Rd. Coalinga, CA 93210
What You Might Find: Benitoite (the state gemstone)
Cost: Adults – $70 person // 12 and younger – $20

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Stewart Mine, Pala Mining District, San Diego County, California

Location: Tourmaline Queen Mountain (Pala Mtn; Queen Mtn), Pala, Pala Mining District, San Diego County, California, USA

In the world of treasures, few precious and desirable things can ever exceed the pink tourmaline of Pala, California it is one of best places for gem hunting in california. Gem quality natural pink tourmaline is five times as rare as gem diamond and more than ten times as valuable as gold in its pure form. Tourmaline is harder than quartz (Mohs 7.253), is highly refractive when cut, and produces exquisite gemstones.

The Stewart Mine will always be one of the great classic locations for mineralogists. The Stewart produces the world’s finest natural pink tourmaline, both for mineral specimens that spotlight the world’s museums and. also, for gemstones that highlight the World jewelry industry, but especially for the fabulous blue-capped rubellite specimens that hallmark Pala as the very crest of the best in tourmaline over the whole planet.

Tourmaline Queen Mine, Pala, Pala Mining District, San Diego County, California

Location: Tourmaline Queen Mountain (Pala Mtn; Queen Mtn), Pala, Pala Mining District, San Diego County, California, USA

For over a century the Tourmaline Queen mine near Pala, California has been known for large and beautiful crystals of tourmaline and morganite beryl, it is amazing place for gem hunting in california. The extraordinary blue-capped pink elbaites recovered in 1972 remain among the most famous mineral specimens of any kind ever found in California, and are surely the finest tourmalines ever recovered in North America. Here is the story behind this great locality, which today is once again producing fine specimens.

The Tourmaline Queen Mine located in Pala, San Diego County, California, has always inspired mineral collectors, high graders and geologists. It was originally claimed by Frank Salmons and Associates in March, 1903. Exploratory work yielded some 80 pounds of gem tourmaline. The Queen immediately became the leading producer of tourmaline in the Pala district during the period 1904 through 1914. With the collapse of the major Chinese market for tourmaline, due to the 1911 overthrow of the Imperial government, the mines soon became uneconomical. From about 1914 to 1971, the Queen was worked intermittently by high graders, with limited success.

Pala Properties International, Inc., became involved in the Pala mining district when Ed Swoboda purchased the Stewart Lithia, Tourmaline Queen and Pala Chief Mines. We had been mining the Stewart with mild success since 1968, when we decided that it was time to make the switch up the hill to the Tourmaline Queen. Originally our idea in mining the Stewart was to set up basic operations, learn the gem mining trade, and then move up to the Queen which we were sure was more promising. However, with the discovery of the famed lost tourmaline adit and initial production of a few fine tourmaline crystals, we overstayed these original plans. But without increased production, economics forced us to make the necessary move up the mountain.