Collecting Sites - Colorado

We receive this question all the time from out-of-state visitors – “I’ll be visiting your area soon and was wondering where I can hunt for minerals?”

Yes, Colorado is rich in minerals and has long been a popular place for rockhounds. Private land will of course require permission from the land owner.  National Parks and Wilderness Areas are off-limits to collectors, but Colorado has plenty of  Forrest Service and BLM lands that are generally open to rockhounds. However, many of these, such as Devil’s Head, have been heavily picked over for years and may require considerable time (days/weeks) and hard rock digging to find anything. Other areas like Mount Antero which used to be open to collectors were wildly popularized by the Prospectors TV show in 2013-2016 and are now totally blanketed by private claims.

If you will be visiting for a short time, here are our top suggestions for where you can still go rock collecting, have a good time, not get run off at gunpoint, and have your best chance of actually finding something to take home and add to your collection.

Gold

FREE Gold Panning areas around Denver:

Arapahoe Bar – An Official Gold Panning Park on Clear Creek in Wheat Ridge Colorado

Also Check out:

Gold Panning in Downtown Denver and Surrounding Areas  

4 Great (and Free) Spots to Pan for Gold in Denver 

Finding Gold in Colorado

PAID Gold Panning areas around Colorado

If you don’t have experience with gold panning or you don’t even own a gold pan, then you might want to start at one of Colorado’s great paid sites which offer instructions and equipment:

Bachelor Syracuse Mine – Mine Tours and Gold Panning, Ouray CO, call for reservations.

Mollie Kathleen Gold Mine Tour – Cripple Creek CO, descend 100 stories below the surface and see gold veins in their natural state. Free gold ore sample included (but no panning here).

Hidee Gold Mine – Tour and/or Panning, Central City CO – Panning package includes lessons, samples, and gold ore.

Argo Mill – Tour and Gold Panning, Idaho Springs CO – Panning is available even for those who do not want the tour with guaranteed placer gold.

Colorado Gold Camp – training, classes, tours, panning, high banking, sluicing, Leadville CO, call for reservations.

Country Boy Mine – Mine Tour and Gold Panning, Breckenridge CO, online reservations recommended.

Phoenix Gold Mine – Mine Tour includes Panning Lesson, Idaho Springs CO, open 7 days a week, year-round, (weather permitting).

Vic’s Gold Panning – Pan, Sluice, High Bank, Dredge – Black Hawk CO, open 7 days a week (weather permitting).

Fossils

Florissant Fossil Quarry – the Florissant Fossil Beds National Monument is one of the world’s richest and most diverse fossil deposits which includes petrified tree stumps up to 14 feet wide, plus numerous other plant and insect fossils. Of course, collecting is not allowed in the park, but just outside the park, you can collect at the private Florissant Fossil Quarry. Many fine specimens found at this quarry are on display at the Denver Museum of Nature and Science in Denver and at the National Monument. They provide tools, personal instructions, and access to freshly excavated shale from the Florissant Formation.

Dinosaur Digs and Expeditions – The Museums of Western Colorado offer a variety of dinosaur digging opportunities. Participants are allowed to dig under the museum’s collection permit. Sorry, you may not keep what you find. All materials are returned to the Museums for research and display. But you can take lots of pictures and make your contribution to science! Advance registration is required.

 

For a listing of additional fossil locations in Colorado see: http://www.fossilspot.com/STATES/CO.HTM

Other Minerals and Crystals

Hartsel Blue Barite – This is a long-time favorite with Colorado Collectors. On my first visit 20 years ago, I found it via one of the Colorado mineral guidebooks when I happened to be in that area. As we approached the area we asked ourselves – “what does blue barite look like?” When we opened the car door and looked down at the ground we said – “oh that’s what it looks like!” It was everywhere! You will have no trouble finding it. It’s only a matter of finding your best pieces.  This is now a fee site. You will need to go to the Bayou Salado Trading Post, 12561 Hwy 24, Hartsel CO 80449 (location & hours)  to pay a small fee and sign a waiver before going to the site. At the Trading Post they can give you directions to the site and suggestions on finding the best material.

See detailed: trip report by Dave Lines

A picture of Hartsel blue barite from Etsy. I easily picked up a whole bag of these last time I was there.

Limonite Pseudomorphs after Pyrite –  White River National Forrest. From Interstate 70, take the Dotsero exit and head west on the frontage road for about 3000 feet. From the traffic circle head North on Colorado River Road for about two miles to a left on Coffee Pot Road (600). Continue on road 600/140 for about 18 miles (50 minutes) to the White River National Forrest. (If using a GPS, set Coffee Pot Spring Campground as your destination.)

These brown cubes of limonite can be found for miles on both sides of the road within the National Forrest.  Pyrite has weathered out of the bedrock (limestone) in this broad area and the pyrite has weathered into limonite, but retained the original pyrite shape.

Limonite is actually a general term for a mixture of iron oxides including Goethite, Hematite, Hisingerite, Jarosite, Lepidocrocite, and Maghemite. Quarter-inch cubes are common here, and cubes up to one inch may be found. The largest crystals with the best crystal shape are the most prized

Looking for more information on where you can collect in Colorado? Here is a list of Rockhound Guidebooks for Colorado, along with where you can borrow them – for free.  For some of the listed books I have also included the Amazon link, not necessarily so that you can buy them, but so you can use the Amazon “Look Inside” link which will allow you to view the table of contents to see which sites are covered in each book (and sometimes much more). Note that the older the book is, the more likely that availability or access information may have changed for the listed sites.

Note that any Colorado resident may apply for a Denver Public Library (DPL) card – you do not need to be a resident of Denver. The Same applies for the Jefferson County Public Library (JCPL). Once you have your library card you can reserve any book online and then pick it up at the branch that is most convenient for you.  Some of these books are available as Ebooks through the Axis360 system and you can download them to your device without ever needing to go to the library!  A few of these books are also available from the DGMG Library for Guild members to check out.

Finding Gold in Colorado – Prospector’s Edition: A guide to Colorado’s casual gold prospecting, mining history and sightseeing Paperback by Kevin Singel | May 26, 2018 

Amazon – https://www.amazon.com/Finding-Gold-Colorado-Prospectors-prospecting/dp/1719553467/ref=pd_sim_14_1/130-2378663-7731904 (view over 100 pages of this book for free in the “Look Inside” preview)

See lots of great information at the book’s website – http://findinggoldincolorado.com/

DPL – https://catalog.denverlibrary.org/search/title.aspx

JCPLhttps://jeffcolibrary.bibliocommons.com/item/show/2365384132

Gold Panning Colorado: A Guide to the State’s Best Sites for Gold by Garret Romaine | 2018  

Lists gold panning sites along with many mining museums and mine tours.  Some reviewers have criticized this book for listing many panning sites that are on private property and are NOT open for recreational panning.

Amazonhttps://www.amazon.com/Gold-Panning-Colorado-Guide-States-ebook/dp/B07B9M47HW/ref=sr_1_2
(“Look Inside” for table of contents and a few intro pages)

DGMG Library – http://denvergem.org/Library.pdf

DPL – https://catalog.denverlibrary.org/search/title.aspx

JCPL – https://jeffcolibrary.bibliocommons.com/item/show/2432292132

Axis360 – https://jeffco.axis360.baker-taylor.com/Search?term=Gold%20Panning%20Colorado&searchby=all

Rockhounding Colorado: A Guide to the State’s Best Rockhounding Sites (Rockhounding Series) by William A. Kappele and Gary Warren | Third Edition, Mar 31, 2017  

In this 3rd edition, they have dropped the number of sites from 96 to 83 due to changes in accessibility for some sites.

Amazonhttps://www.amazon.com/Rockhounding-Colorado-Guide-States-Sites-dp-149301739X/dp/149301739X/ref=mt_paperback
(“Look Inside” link gives access to table of contents AND the first 20 sites in the book.)

DPLhttps://catalog.denverlibrary.org/search/title.aspx

JCPLhttps://jeffcolibrary.bibliocommons.com/item/show/2240514132

Axis360https://jeffco.axis360.baker-taylor.com/Search?term=Rockhounding%20Colorado&searchby=all

Gem Trails of Colorado by James R. Mitchell, January 1, 2008

Features over 90 locations to collect over 80 different minerals and numerous fossils.

DGMG Library (older 1992 edition) – http://denvergem.org/Library.pdf

DPL (older 1997 edition) – https://catalog.denverlibrary.org/search/title.aspx

JCPLhttps://jeffcolibrary.bibliocommons.com/item/show/1842900132

Colorado Rockhounding: A Guide to Minerals, Gemstones, and Fossils by Stephen M. Voynick | February 1, 1995

 Collecting sites both major and minor are listed by county.  

DGMG Library – http://denvergem.org/Library.pdf

DPLhttps://catalog.denverlibrary.org/search/title.aspx

JCPLhttps://jeffcolibrary.bibliocommons.com/item/show/2187988132

The Rockhound’s Guide to Colorado by William A. Kappele | Second Edition 1995

Covers 78 of Colorado’s premier rockhounding sites.

DGMG Library – http://denvergem.org/Library.pdf

DPLhttps://catalog.denverlibrary.org/search/title.aspx

JCPLhttps://jeffcolibrary.bibliocommons.com/item/show/1275817132

Gold Panning and Placering in Colorado–How and Where (Information Series Number 33) 1st Edition by Ben H., Jr. Parker, Colorado Geological Survey | 1992

DGMG Library – http://denvergem.org/Library.pdf

DPLhttps://catalog.denverlibrary.org/search/title.aspx

JCPLhttps://jeffcolibrary.bibliocommons.com/item/show/1235844132

Minerals of Colorado A 100-Year Record by Edwin B. Eckel, 1961, Geological Survey Bulletin 1114 – A summary of the first 100 years of published knowledge, including the chief occurrences of 445 mineral species. Mineral localities and how to find them, noteworthy mineral localities, descriptions of mineral occurrences.

Downlaod your free copy from – https://digital.library.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metadc958017/m2/1/high_res_d/metadc958017.pdf

And here are a few additional free online sources of information for Colorado Rockhounds:

Some YouTube Channels Dedicated to Collecting in Colorado (and beyond):

Feel free to leave comments, corrections, suggestions, or information on your favorite collecting sites below!

This page last updated 9/17/2022

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