Rock Discoveries

Rockhounding in Montana: Discovering Gems and Minerals

Rockhounding in Montana: Discovering Gems and Minerals

Montana is a state that is rich in minerals and gems, making it a popular destination for rockhounding enthusiasts. Whether you are a collector or just want to experience the thrill of finding your own treasures, there are plenty of places to explore.

In this article, we will introduce you to some of the most popular minerals and gems found in Montana as well as where to go rockhounding in the state. Rocks, Minerals, and Gemstones Found in Montana


Garnet is a complex silicate mineral that is often used as an accessory mineral in metamorphic rocks.

It is also an indicator of Skarn-type deposits. In Montana, garnet is commonly found in the alluvial deposits of the Missouri and Yellowstone rivers.

It is a popular gemstone, with shades ranging from pink to reddish-brown. Rhodonite:

Rhodonite is a silicate mineral that is rich in manganese.

It is formed through contact metamorphism and metasomatism. Rhodonite is a popular ornamental stone due to its pink color and unique patterns.

It is also used in jewelry. Serpentine:

Serpentine is a group of minerals that are often found in ultramafic rocks.

It is formed through hydrothermal metamorphism and is commonly used in the asbestos industry. Serpentine is also used in jewelry, as it can be polished to create a green marble-like appearance.

It is also used as a fertilizer. Staurolite:

Staurolite is a silicate mineral that contains iron, zinc, and magnesium.

It has a distinct brown and black color and is often used as a collector’s item or gift. Staurolite is formed through regional metamorphism and is commonly found in schist and gneiss rocks.


Topaz is a popular gemstone that can be found in Montana. Golden topaz is the most common variety found in the state.

Montana has a special island known as the Island of the Topaz, which contains large deposits of topaz. Wonderstone:

Wonderstone is an impervious microcrystalline chalcedony that often contains quartz.

It is characterized by its wave-like colors and unique habit. Wonderstone is commonly found in agates and is highly sought after by collectors.

Where to Go Rockhounding in Montana

Crystal Park:

Crystal Park is a popular location for rockhounding. It is located within the Beaverhead National Forest and can be accessed by taking the Pioneer Mountains Scenic Byway Road.

Crystal Park is known for its amethyst and quartz scepters. The Butte Mineral and Gem Club oversees the area and has installed a boundary fence to protect the crystal-bearing rock formations.

Calvert Hill Mine:

The Calvert Hill Mine is rich in epidote and aquamarine. It was once a tungsten mine and the tailings ponds are open for rockhounding.

Visitors are allowed to collect specimens from the ponds, but they must obtain a permit from the Montana Department of Environmental Quality. Gallatin National Forest:

The Gallatin National Forest is home to the Tom Miner Basin, where a petrified forest can be found.

Visitors are required to obtain a permit for rockhounding due to federal restrictions. Only twenty cubic inches of specimen material can be collected per day.

Gem Mountain Sapphire Mine:

The Gem Mountain Sapphire Mine is owned by the Cooney family and is known for its accessibility. Montana sapphires can be found at the mine, and the staff is hands-on, helping visitors understand the best techniques for finding gems.

Anaconda, Montana:

Anaconda, Montana is a popular location for rockhounding due to its abundance of tailings. The tailings contain scheelite, epidote, and other minerals.

The area also contains argilite and quartzite, which were once part of prehistoric ocean sea beds. Spokane Bar Sapphire Mine & Gold Fever Rock Shop:

The Spokane Bar Sapphire Mine & Gold Fever Rock Shop is located in the Spokane Hills near Helena.

Montana sapphires can be found in the Missouri River gravel terraces, which are made up of unsolidified sediments. Visitors can pan for sapphires and keep the stones they find.

In conclusion, Montana is a treasure trove of minerals, gems, and rocks waiting to be discovered. Whether you want to visit a mine or explore the wilderness, there are plenty of opportunities for rockhounding.

Just remember to obtain the proper permits and respect the environment. Happy hunting!

In conclusion, Montana offers some of the best rockhounding opportunities in the world.

From garnet and rhodonite to topaz and wonderstone, there are a variety of minerals and gems to discover. By visiting Crystal Park, Calvert Hill Mine, Gallatin National Forest, Gem Mountain Sapphire Mine, Anaconda, and Spokane Bar Sapphire Mine, visitors can experience firsthand the thrill of rockhounding in Montana.

With proper permits and respect for the environment, rockhounding enthusiasts can enjoy the beauty and wonder of nature while discovering unique treasures.



Do I need a permit to go rockhounding in Montana? – It depends on the location.

Some areas require permits, while others do not. Be sure to check with the relevant authorities before you start rockhounding.

2. What types of minerals and gems can I find in Montana?

– Montana is known for its garnet, rhodonite, serpentine, staurolite, topaz, and wonderstone. However, there are many other minerals and gems that can be found as well.

3. Are there any safety precautions I should take while rockhounding in Montana?

– Yes, it is important to wear proper safety gear, such as gloves and eye protection. Be sure to also watch for hazards such as steep cliffs or slippery rocks.

4. Can I keep the specimens I find while rockhounding in Montana?

– In general, visitors are allowed to keep the specimens they find. However, there may be restrictions on the amount of material that can be collected.

5. Are there any areas in Montana where rockhounding is not allowed?

– Yes, there are some areas where rockhounding is not allowed due to environmental or safety concerns. Always check with the relevant authorities before you start rockhounding.

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