Some visitors to the national forest like to try their hands at finding minerals or panning for gold. Visitors are asked to following these guidelines when rockhounding or gold panning in the National Forests in North Carolina.

  • Rockhounding and gold panning may take place on most national forest lands – provided only small quantities of material are removed for personal, non-commercial purposes. 
  • Recreational rockhounding and gold panning are not allowed in Congressionally-designated wilderness areas or in the corridors of designated wild and scenic rivers.
  • Recreational rockhounding and gold panning are not allowed in forest areas where mineral rights are owned by a private party, or in an area that is under mineral lease to a private party.
  • Permits are required for removal of mineral materials for scientific and research purposes.
  • Commercial removal of minerals requires a prospecting permit from the Bureau of Land Management.
  • Materials must be removed using small hand tools without mechanical means or motorized equipment. Removing mineral materials with a pick, shovel, sluice box or similar large tools can cause significant impacts to resources is considered mechanical so therefore not allowed.
  • Suction dredges are not allowed by forest closure order.
  • Gold pans may be used for gold panning in the beds of streams, but the banks of streams cannot be disturbed by digging or removing materials.
  • Any disturbance to or removal of historical or archaeological artifacts is prohibited by federal law

Rockhounding Areas

  • Appalachian Ranger District area description

Recreation Areas

Recreation Activities