Places to Visit or Collect in the Southwestern United States
(Re-posted by RTA editors on this Trip Advice Forums by permission from the author.)
These are places I visited or were recommended to me while traveling in the Southwest for my book. I mostly visited rock related places and ground open to collecting.
Weather wise, October may be the best time to travel the Southwest, followed by May.
It is impractical to visit every place you want to go because day after day you will find certain stores, mines, and museums closed.
Traveling Monday through Thursday is especially tough, my advice is to prospect or collect on those days and then try to visit businesses and museums closer to the weekend.
You will have to return to the Southwest to visit places closed on your first travel. I envy you.
Arizona (and one exception in Utah)
James Mitchell’s Gem Trails of Arizona is dated but essential.
Anyone traveling extensively off-pavement in Arizona should get an Arizona State Trust Land Permit. $15.00 for an individual. Rockhounding on Arizona State Trust Land is prohibited but stopping at any point on these lands constitutes a “use” and that use demands a permit. Determining where these properties exists while driving is impractical, most are managed grazing land outside of small towns or settlements. Rather than guess, it may be easier just to get a permit.
Washington County (Utah)
BLM Arizona Strip Office
345 E Riverside Dr.
St. George, UT 84790
37°04.986' N 113°34.611' W
This office is physically present in Utah but manages Arizona land. They manage the Grand Canyon’s North Rim, a no collecting area, and the Virgin River Recreation Management Area in northwest Arizona, a noted rockhound area. The office has some nice rock and mineral displays.
On my last visit they requested that I fill out a rockhound permit when I asked about collecting areas. This form applied to casual use, not commercial operations which is usually what demands a permit. Many BLM and USFS offices act as their own fiefdoms, drawing up practices and procedures to fit their particular area.
Apache County (St. Johns)
Petrified Forest National Park (Apache and Navajo Counties)
1 Park Road, AZ
34°48.016' N 109°53.120' W (First Entrance)
34°48.923' N 109°51.941' W (Rainbow Forest Museum)
A must stop with no collecting permitted.
Petrified wood here exhibits brilliant colors of white, red, brown, black, purple, and blue from trace elements. The vast amount of petrified wood here resulted from a logjam of trees which occurred in an ancient river in the Late Triassic Period, some 200 million years ago.
The Painted Desert Inn Visitor Center’s lower floor reveals how the building was constructed with petrified tree logs.
The Petrified Forest National Park stretches north and south between Interstate 40 and Highway 180, with an entrance at each end. Near the south entrance is a fee-dig site for petrified wood. This is the DoBell Ranch, listed further under entries for Navajo County.
The Navajo Nation Museum and Library
Highway 264 and Loop Road
Window Rock, AZ 86515
P.O. Box 1840
Window Rock, Arizona 86515
35°39.843' N 109°03.308' W
The Navajo Nation Museum and Library is located in Window Rock, Arizona. Despite its name, the Museum is located in Apache County. This facility has historic jewelry fashioned by native people. Jewelry sold at the gift shop is done by American Indians, some sourced from local and
Apache-Sitgreaves National Forests
30 S. Chiricahua Drive
Springerville, AZ 85938
34°07.912' N 109°16.507' W
Two woodlands managed as a single forest. This East-Central Arizona territory looks like an upside-down “L”. The forest covers parts of Coconino, Navajo, Apache, and Greenlee counties, some 2.76 million acres. These are two Apache-Sitgreaves Ranger Districts in in Apache
Springerville Ranger District
165 S. Mountain Ave.
Springerville, AZ 85938
34°07.868' N 109°17.261' W
Alpine Ranger District
42634 Hwy. 180/191
Alpine, AZ 85920
33°50.958' N 109°08.823' W
Cochise County (Bisbee)
Sunshine Gallery and Gifts
1313 North Highway 80
St. David, Arizona, 85630
31°55.770' N 110°16.865' W
Destination rock shop, if not for the rocks and minerals, then for Rolf himself. Rolf is a mineral authority with vast personal and professional experience. His fascination with everything rock related began in Germany when he was nine. He knows all about the Bisbee area and
Tombstone. Plan a trip. Tell him Thomas said “Hi” and that I plan on visiting soon.
Bisbee Mining & Historical Museum
No. 5 Copper Queen Plaza
Bisbee, Arizona 85603
31°26.537' N 109°54.969' W
Bisbee was known as the “Queen of the Copper Camps’. It lies in southeast Arizona, a world class location noted for copper and a variety of other minerals. Occupying a historical mining setting, the museum complex features exhibits and an underground mine tour. Read more about
Bisbee’s copper connection in the August, 2019 edition of Rock&Gem Magazine.
BLM Safford Field Office and BLM New Mexico’s Las Cruces Field Office
711 S 14th Ave.
Safford, AZ 85546
32°49.926' N 109°43.446' W
BLM’s Safford Field Office manages areas in Cochise, Graham, Greenlee and Pinal, Counties.
Coconino County (Flagstaff)
Grand Canyon National Park
Grand Canyon, AZ 86023
36°03.558' N 112°06.583' W (South Rim Visitor Center)
One of the great natural wonders of the world. A UNESCO World Heritage site. “Unique combinations of geologic color and erosional forms decorate a canyon that is 277 river miles long, up to 18 miles wide, and a mile deep. Grand Canyon overwhelms our senses through its
immense size.” Viewable from sites at both North and South Rims as well as Grand Canyon East and West.
Grand Canyon – Parashant National Monument (North Rim)
Public Lands Information Center
345 East Riverside Drive
St. George, UT 84790
36°11.958' N 112°03.153' W (North Rim Visitor Center)
The North Rim has many overlooks at the end of challenging, lengthy 4WD roads. Seasonal road closures. No services. Permits required for overnight stays. Inquire at the Public Lands Information Center in St. George, which also doubles as BLM’s Arizona Field Strip District
Office. No collecting allowed. The North Rim visitor center is open May 15th through October 15th.
Museum of Northern Arizona
3101 North Fort Valley Road
Flagstaff, AZ 86001
35°14.094' N 111°39.934' W
“Celebrating the Colorado Plateau.” A must stop for anyone visiting Flagstaff and beyond. The 1935 building is a beautiful work of art and geology. Its walls are principally malpais basalt fieldstone and its interior courtyard and many paths are lined with native sandstone pavers. A
geology collection of note, with many mineral, rock and meteorite samples.
Flagstaff Visitor Center
1 East Route 66
Flagstaff, AZ 86001
35°11.860' N 111°39.098' W
Walking Tour of Flagstaff’s Downtown Stone Buildings
Self-guided tour. Recommended book: Stone Landmarks: Flagstaff’s Geology and Historic Building Stones by Marie D. Jackson. Piedra Azul Press. 1999. May be available in town at Starrlight Books. Call ahead. 928-774-6813.
Flagstaff’s stone buildings are to that city what Victorians are to San Francisco. Here, a rockhound can look and touch a variety of materials while visiting a colorful and historic downtown. Building stones are all local. They include moenkopi sandstone, malpais basalt, kaibab limestone, and olivine laced basaltic lava. The Babbitt building, a highlight of the walking tour, was built of what Jackson calls pumiceous dacite, “a frothy, silica rich volcanic rock” produced by an explosive eruption from nearby Mount Eden a half a million years ago.
This downtown tour enlarges on the experience one will have at the Museum of Northern Arizona and at the Sunset Crater Volcano National Monument. Parking is limited in the downtown district and card-based meters are in effect. The visitor center does provide 30 minutes of free parking, allowing enough time to at least see nearby Leroux Street, which has three buildings featured in the book.
Next up: More from Flagstaff and beyond.