Mineral Collecting and Gold Panning Permits

Surface disturbing rock and mineral collection activities require a permit on White Mountain National Forest. All surface disturbing rock and mineral collection activities must follow the Forest Plan standards and guidelines listed below.

A man sits in a river panning for gold.

A man pans for gold along the Ammonoosuc River.

Mineral Collecting Permits

A free permit is required to collect mineral specimens from designated sites where surface-disturbing mineral collecting is allowed.

  • Free mineral collecting permits can be obtained at the trailhead. 
  • Mineral collecting permit is valid for 1 day at one mineral collecting site
  • Make sure to read and comply with the conditions on the permit.

Gold Panning Permits

A free permit is required for gold panning.

  • Gold Panning permits are available through any White Mountain National Forest District Office.
  • Permits are valid for 1 calendar year.
  • Make sure to read and comply with the conditions stated on the permit.

Mineral Collecting Standards and Frequently Asked Questions

Where can I mineral collect on the WMNF?

Surface disturbing mineral collecting is allowed with a permit at designated mineral collecting areas:

Non –surface disturbing mineral collecting (i.e. picking up a rock) is allowed without a permit except for the following management areas:

  • Alpine Zones
  • Experimental Forests
  • Appalachian Trail
  • Research Natural Areas

What is surface disturbing mineral collecting?

The use of any hand tool constitutes surface disturbance.  Surface disturbing mineral collecting is removing, digging in, excavating, disturbing, destroying, or in any way damaging any natural or cultural resource. 

Where can I pan for gold?

Gold panning occurs mainly on the Pemigewasset Ranger District.  There is a history of gold recovery in the Ammonoosuc River basin in particular the Wild Ammonoosuc River and Tunnel Brook.

Where can I get information about the mineral collecting sites on the White Mountain National Forest?

Information is available at the Moat Mountain, Deer Hill and Lord Hill mineral site kiosks and the White Mountain National Forest website. 

What kind of rocks and minerals will I find on the White Mountain National Forest?

Smoky quartz, microcline (amazonite), beryl, amethyst and topaz are the most commonly sought after minerals.  These minerals are found in granite rock units.

Is there a fee for a permit?

There is no fee for the permit

Where can I get a permit?

Mineral collecting permits are available at the three designated mineral collecting areas:  Deer Hill trailhead, Moat Mountain mineral site trailhead and the Lord Hill mine site.

Gold panning permits are available through any White Mountain National Forest District Office.

How much material can I collect?

Mineral collecting is limited to 50lbs. / one 5 gallon bucket of material per permit.

Why do I need a permit to pan for gold and mineral collect?

As stated in the 2005 WMNF Forest Plan, S-1:

“The collection of mineral specimens for personal use is allowed without a permit as long as there is no surface disturbance, except within officially designated fee free collecting areas and other restricted areas.” 

Why can’t I use a sluice box for gold panning?

As stated in the 2005 WMNF Forest Plan, S-4:

“When surface disturbing collection activities are allowed through a permit, the following are required:

a. Only hand tools are permitted.  The use of power, mechanized equipment, or explosives for recreational collecting of geologic resources, including gold recovery activities, is prohibited.  This includes sluice boxes, rocker boxes, and dredges."

What hand tools do I need?

Mineral collecting:

  • Rock hammer, chisels, safety glasses, sifting screen and a hand trowel. 

Gold Panning:

  • Small trowel or similar digging tool for scooping sediment and a gold pan.

All standards and guided by the 2005 WMNF Forest Plan