Rock Hounding

A reddish-brown shale rock with multiple angular and curved folds on a blue-green background

Casual or recreational collecting on National Forest System lands means the collecting of a reasonable amount of widespread rocks and minerals for personal, hobby and non-commercial use.  Collecting small amounts of samples off the ground, with no digging with hand tools or mechanical equipment, is allowed without permit. 

If digging with hand tools or mechanized equipment is necessary then a permit or other authorization is required.  Panning for gold, provided it follows the above guidelines, usually does not require a permit. 

Collection is generally prohibited in wilderness areas.  Before collecting or prospecting, please contact the district for local information. A permit is required if you intend to sell collected material such as rocks and minerals.  You may need a permit if collecting rock for landscaping your yard and other personal uses.

The collection of projectile points, pottery, cans, bottles or any other archaeological resource or artifact on public lands is not allowed (36 CFR 261.9 (h)) without a permit. Projectile points include ‘arrowheads’ and any prehistoric human-modified stone. Archaeological 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. (36 CFR 261.2).



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You may be able to collect fossils from National Forest System lands without a permit if they are:

  • On lands that are legal to collect fossils,
  • Common invertebrate or plant fossils,
  • Collected for personal use and not for resale,
  • Gathered by hand or with non-powered hand tools, and
  • The amount is less than 25 pounds per person, per day, and not more than 100 pounds per year.

Per Title 36 Code of Federal Regulations, Part 291 § 291.12, casual collection of fossils is not permitted within Forest Service-managed National Monuments, which includes the Berryessa-Snow Mountain National Monument.