Gold Panning and Rockhounding

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.
  • On the Pisgah and Nantahala National Forests materials must be removed using small hand tools without mechanical means or motorized equipment. You cannot remove mineral materials with a pick, shovel, sluice box or similar large tools.
  • On the Uwharrie National Forest mineral materials can be removed using small hand tools along with hand-held sluice boxes, rocker panels and shovels. However, suction-dredging and the use of any motorized equipment to remove materials is prohibited.  
  • 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