7 of the Best Road Trip Destinations for Gem Hunting

Who doesn’t love a good old-fashioned treasure hunt? Road tripping by car or RV to some of the best gem hunting destinations in the United States is a travel bucket list item. The beauty and majesty of gemstones in person is something to marvel at even if you're not interested in actually searching for them. Plus, having treasure to take home with you is exciting.

One of the things to keep in mind about gem hunting at some of these locations and others is that many are in the middle of nowhere. You may need to boondock in an RV, stay at lodgings provided by the mine, or consider traveling a long distance for a day trip. Make sure to take the time to plan out what your gem-hunting road trip looks like, so you’re not surprised by where it takes you. 

Gem hunting may not spark your fancy, but road tripping or RVing to one of these destinations is an adventure in-of-itself. Many of these locations have so much to do in and around the mine, you may not strike gold, but you may learn a...MORE thing or two and see some beautiful scenery along the way.

Here are seven of the best destinations in the United States for gem hunting, rock hounding, and adventure.

  • 01 of 07
    gems found at emerald hollow mine
    ••• Emerald Hollow Mine 

    Located in Hiddenite, North Carolina, Emerald Hollow Mine couldn’t be situated in a more appropriately named place. Discover emeralds at the only public prospecting destination in the United States. Using one of three sluiceways, you’ll pick your bucket that comes down the line directly from Hiddenite’s emerald mine. If you’re lucky, green gemstones aren’t the only treasure you’ll find. You might get your hands on amethysts, topaz gems, or even aquamarines.

    Hiddenite Family Campground has partnered with Emerald Hollow Mine to encourage visitors to stay nearby. Surrounded by the Brushy Mountains, this emerald mine is often touted as one of the most unique geological locations in North America. Visitors will be able to hike and explore the surrounding areas between emerald hunting. Consider getting there later in the day as this is a prime spot for local school field trips.

  • 02 of 07
    Crater of Diamonds State Park
    ••• Crater of Diamonds State Park. Amy the Nurse/Flickr/CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

    Located in Murfreesboro, Arkansas, Crater of Diamonds State Park is the only public space in the world that allows you to dig for diamonds. Rent tools for your search, or bring your own. With more than 40 rocks, minerals, and other interesting finds in this field of volcanic ground, you’re sure to find something or have fun doing it at Crater of the Diamonds State Park.

    Crater of Diamonds State Park offers more than gem hunting for travelers. Consider camping there, taking part in a nature hike or a fishing trip, or learning more about the wildlife and birds in the park. If camping or RVing isn’t your type of trip, consider one of the local motels or riverside resorts. Murfreesboro is also full of history, including the Ka-Do-Ha Indian Village Museum.

  • 03 of 07
    colorful gems found at Gem Mountain
    ••• Gems found at Gem Mountain.  Gem Mountain

    Gem Mountain is located in Philipsburg, Montana, a remote area in western Montana. The time it takes to get there is worth the fun you'll have digging for sapphires. Everything you need to get started will be provided with admission. Gravel is typically priced by the bucket, and the staff at Gem Mountain will help you screen out what’s worth keeping and what’s worth throwing back into the dirt.

    One of the biggest perks of traveling to Gem Mountain is its proximity to Glacier National Park and Yellowstone National Park. so consider visiting one of them while you're in the area. In "Gold West Country," Gem Mountain isn't the only attraction—consider visiting the Philipsburg Chamber of Commerce while you're there to learn about local events, where to stay, and what to do in and around the town.

  • 04 of 07
    Herkimer Diamond Mines
    ••• Herkimer Diamond Mines. Orbital Joe/Flickr/CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

    Located in Herkimer, New York, Herkimer Diamond Mines doesn’t have actual “diamonds,” but rather quartz crystals that resemble diamonds and are hidden within its caves and the ground below. These 500 million-year-old crystals can be found as easily as brushing against a wall or by getting dirty with a hammer and chisel. 

    Herkimer Diamond Mines is a hop, skip, and jump away from a Kampgrounds of America (KOA) campground for you to stay at during your journey. The KOA features three dining areas, unique lodging options, and events hosted throughout the season. You're close enough for a day trip to the Utica Zoo, the Adirondack Scenic Railroad, and cider mills galore. The area has several interesting museums, including Erie Canal Village, which is an outdoor living history tour.

    Continue to 5 of 7 below.
  • 05 of 07
    Royal Peacock Opal Mine
    ••• Royal Peacock Opal Mine. Travel Nevada/Flickr/CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

    Located in Virgin Valley, Nevada, Royal Peacock Mine features some of the most gorgeous black fire opals you’ll find in North America. This is one of the more expensive gem hunting expeditions you’ll go on but it's well worth it, especially if you dig within the bank area. The bank area is where the highest concentration of fire opals hide and costs $190 per day per person to dig there, but if you want a bit cheaper experience without as much of a payoff, consider the dumps and tailings of the mine for $75.

    Royal Peacock Mine offers lodging, history, and more in the Virgin Valley. With a fully-loaded RV park and additional lodging available, you can spend your time exploring the area. Come prepared because you are 100 miles from the closest full grocery store when visiting this Nevada institution. Make sure to book early because Royal Peacock Mine is only open from May 15 to October 15 every year.

  • 06 of 07
    people at the mine
    •••  Cherokee Ruby and Sapphire Mine

    Located in Franklin, North Carolina, the Cherokee Ruby and Sapphire Mine walks you through the process of finding rough gemstones before screening them yourself. You get to participate in every step along the way to finding rubies, moonstones, garnets, sapphires, and more. If you truly want a hands-on gem hunting experiencing, this is it.

    Cherokee Ruby and Sapphire Mine is only open from May through October each year, weather permitting. This Cowee Valley staple is a must visit for gem hunters and enthusiasts. The rubies and sapphires at this mine are some of the most previous in North America and the world. Nestled within the Nantahala National Forest, you're surrounded by fishing, hiking, and bird watching all year.

  • 07 of 07
    gold nugget found at Gold Prospecting Adventures
    ••• gold nugget found at Gold Prospecting Adventures.  Gold Prospecting Adventures

    Located in Jamestown, California, Gold Prospecting Adventures lets you relive the California Gold Rush as prospectors did 150 years ago. Using sluice boxes rather than buckets, you can wade through the contents looking for flakes of gold, small nuggets, or perhaps something a bit bigger to take home. Guides help you learn more about gold prospecting, as well as help those getting started rock hunting for the first time with the best techniques for striking gold.

    Jamestown and the surrounding area are full of things to do. Whether It's the Railtown State Historic Park or a day trip to Yosemite National Park, you won’t be bored on this trip, that’s for sure. Consider hiking the mountain trails out of town or learn the history of the California Gold Rush while visiting. Many old time TV shows and westerns were filmed in and around Jamestown, including Green Acres and Petticoat Junction.