Rocks & Minerals

drawing of a leaf fossilLimited collection of common invertebrate or plant fossils such as shells, leaf imprints, corals, etc., as well as rocks and minerals for personal use is allowed on the Santa Fe National Forest. These materials may be collected without a permit provided the collecting is for personal, hobby, and noncommercial use.


You may gather small amounts (usually less than ten pounds) of widespread, low-value, relatively common minerals and stones (common quartz crystals, agate, obsidian) for noncommercial use.

Animated scene of man panning for gold in the mountainsRecreational gold panning or use of metal detectors is allowed, with restrictions, to prospect for gold nuggets and other naturally occurring metals or to look for other metal. 

While panning is generally a recreational activity, it is regulated under the mining regulations (36 CFR 228, Subpart A).  Mining activities, including recreational panning, are prohibited within Santa Fe National Forest campgrounds, the Jemez NRA, Wild and Scenic Rivers, and Wilderness.

It is a good idea, and your responsibility as a recreational prospector, to check with the Bureau of Land Management for specific locations to find out whether or not there are mining claims in the area. 

Metal Detecting is allowed throughout the forest except in significant archaeological or historical sites.  It is the responsibility of the person using the metal detector to not remove any item protected by law.  Please read question and answers before embarking on a detecting mission.

No permit or notification is required for collecting if the following applies:

  • Collecting of samples is on the surface (no digging with hand tools or mechanized equipment).  A small sluice may be used.
  • Collection is for personal use and esthetic values (cannot be sold or bartered). 

For the following activities, please contact the Santa Fe National Forest to discuss permitting or authorization:

  • Activity that does involve digging with hand tools or mechanized earth-moving equipment, including bobcats, suction dredges, ‘high banking’ or dry washing equipment.
  • Commercial activities including collecting mineral or fossil specimens for re-sale.
  • Removal of more than insignificant amounts of landscape rock. 

The following items may not be collected or removed by casual collectors:

  • Vertebrate fossils (dinosaurs bones, fish, - anything with a backbone), and shark teeth. 
  • Archeological resources including any material remains of prehistoric or historic human life or activities, which are at least 50 years old, and includes the physical site, location, or context in which they are found including items such as old coins, metal implements, or utensils. (36 CFR 261.2)
  • The collection of projectile points, pottery, or any other archeological resource or artifact is not allowed (36 CFR 261.9 (h) without a permit. Projectile points include ‘arrowheads’ and any prehistoric human-modified stone. 

Recreation Areas

Recreation Activities