8 Amazing (& Free!) Rockhounding Sites in Oregon

8 Amazing (& Free!) Rockhounding Sites in Oregon
Oregon is a paradise for rock hounds. Thanks to diverse geology influenced by volcanoes and rivers, the state boasts over 100 sites to explore for opal, Jasper, amethyst, carnelian, and thundereggs. These locations are scattered throughout the state, some easily accessible, others requiring time and dedication to find.

1. Glass Butte, Lake County What to look for: Obsidian
Although remote, Glass Butte makes it on this list for its beauty and high-quality obsidian. The area is managed by BLM and is open for public use. Actually, there are several smaller rock sites in the area, too many for one visit.

The area itself is pretty secluded, and the nearest major town Bend 85 miles away. From Bend, take Central Oregon Hwy 20 towards Lake county. After approx an hour drive, turn right onto the gravel road towards Knapler BLM camp, then a further 40 minutes drive will take you to the foot of Glass Butte. Because of its remoteness, make sure you're prepared and bring plenty of water and supplies.

2. Hampton Buttes, Crook County What to look for: Petrified wood in various unusual colors, Jasper, Agate
The land under BLM is free to dig and has been really popular among rockhounds for years. So you may not get a lot of surface material, but if you're ready to dig a little, it offers some of the best-petrified wood in deep green and red shades. There is private land nearby, usually fenced off, so make sure you remain respectful. Basic amenities and even cellular reception are not available, so come prepared with GPS and essential supplies. Hampton Butte is a one-hour drive from Prineville and about 45 minutes from Redmond via Hwy 26.

3. The Owyhee Canyonlands, Malheur County What to look for: Jasper, Thundereggs, Quartz, Agate, Petrified wood
The Oregon Badlands, about the size of Yellowstone National Park, offers a little bit of everything for the rockhound. Its is one of the most remote areas in Oregon, and the terrains are as varied as the rocks and minerals you can find there. The vast area around Owye River is under BLM, and two sites, Juniper Gulch and Succor Creek Canyon are particularly rich in petrified wood and fossils.

You can find a wide variety of rocks, but it takes some effort to get there. Hway 201 from Jordan valley will take you into Succor Creek State Natural Area, well-marked roads ahead continue to the creek. Since the area is so vast, you'll need full preps for a multi-day trip, and there's no guarantee of any cellular service also take a four-wheeler or ATV to get around.

4. Maury Mountains Agate Beds, Crook County What to look for: Moss Agate
The Maury Mountain Agate Bed in the stunning Ochoco mountains have remained one of Oregon's most popular destination for agate collectors. So the ground is almost picked clean, but the area has rich seams of moss agate that are waiting to be unearthed with a bit of digging. The Moss Agate from here is renowned for its deep green color and multi-layered design.

The main mine is located at an elevation of 4,199 feet. But there are campgrounds around; the nearest is in Elkhorn Campground, 1.5 miles from the agate bed. The nearest town is Port, take Hwy 380 and travel South for 32 miles. Take forest service road 16; it'll take you to the campground.

5. Willamette River What to seek for: Agates, Jasper, Petrified Wood
Flowing from Portland to Eugene, the Willamette River is a mighty river that cuts through the heart of Oregon. There are tons of gravel bars along the banks, and the river is a popular spot for agate and jasper hunting. The richest spots are between North Salem to the South of Corvallis. The water recedes in summers exposing more rocks to explore. You can find plenty coin size jasper walking along the river, but digging is also allowed if you like. Hwy 58 is the most direct route; it follows the river for most of the way.

6. Oceanside beach, Tillamook County What to look for: Zeolites, Agates, Jasper, Quartz

An adorable coastal town with beautiful scenery and beach, Oceanside is a great place to find zeolites. Zeolites are volcanic minerals and form in cavities in basalt. Another most famous rock is Agate, readily found around the creek. One particular 'Short Beach' is famed as 'Agate Beach' and is located just north of Oceanside. The small town is also beautiful and a great place to stay.

Hwy 101 from Tillamook is the direct route to Oceanside. OR-131 W/3rd St. from downtown Oceanside will lead you to the Oceanside Beach State Recreation Site's parking lot.

Recommended Book: Agate Hunting on the Oregon Coast

7. Lincoln City Beach What to look for: Agate, Jasper, Petrified wood, Fossilized Agate

Lincoln is pretty much holy ground for Japer hunters, a sub-terrain Jasper vein runs through the city, and the beaches are littered with colorful agates, Jasper, and petrified wood. The richest area extends from Siletz Bay all the way to D River Wayside State Park. The area is free to hunt, but you're limited to filling one-gallon container per person per day.

Highway 101 runs right along the coast, a few turns, and you'll be at the beach. The area is dotted with small communities, so there are plenty of places to stay.

8. Sunstone Public Collection Area, Lake County What to look for: Sunstone
This is a piece of land set aside by the BLM for public collecting. There are several pay-to-dig mines in this area, but the Sunstone Public Collection Area is open for anyone to come and dig for free!

The site is located between Albert Rim and Warner Valley, just northwest of the Hart Mountain National Wildlife Refuge. There are signs to help you navigate to the dig area. This is a particularly remote part of Oregon, so be sure you go prepared and well-equipped before you venture out!

Next: Rare Gems & Minerals Found in Oregon