Rockhounding Books

Rockhounding Books

It’s important to understand that rockhounding guidebooks are a snapshot in time, and in no way fully lay out all the locations where rocks can be found, but rather they show what that author thought was worth including in the book. That said, even old and dated books have some long forgotten about locations in them and can provide valuable insight to an area’s history and material available even if some listings can be misleading or incorrect at times.

Some of these books are hard to find and out of print so you will need to try finding them at the library, eBay, and other used sellers. For more modern titles I have included links to the books on Amazon.

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General Rockhounding

Title: Coast to Coast Gem Atlas by Cyril Johnson and Robert N. Johnson – 5th Edition
ISBN: ‎N/A
Review: Long before modern guidebooks as you know them today there were rockhounding atlases that you could buy and follow along with on your trip. I don’t really know how relevant these are to anyone today but I personally really love them as they provide insight into the past of rockhounding and I have in fact found a few good locations from them that are long forgotten about which was pretty fun to experience. This one covers all of America so you don’t get much detail on it but they also made regional guides as well. These books can get pricey these days but I got mine for under $10 which was worth it.


Title: Earth Treasures Volume 3: The Northwestern Quadrant by Allan W. Eckert
ISBN: ‎ 978-0595089604
Review: I know many people have disregarded these books as they are somewhat dated and the location listings do leave a lot to be desired. However, I think it should hold a place in the collection since it does do a good job of providing a 10,000 foot view of an area’s rockhounding options. I picked up my copy for $3.95 used but I don’t think it’s worth much more than that since you have so many great options for rockhounding books and websites to look at these days.


Title: Modern Rockhounding and Prospecting Handbook by Garret Romaine – 2nd Edition
ISBN: 978-1493032358
Review: The advice in this book is good but I don’t think it would be very helpful to the seasoned rockhound who has been at this for a few years or more. I think this would be great as a gift for someone new to the hobby or looking to get more serious with it. When I read it nothing really stood out as new information that couldn’t be found elsewhere online.


Title: Western Gem Hunters Atlas by Cyril Johnson – 25th Edition
ISBN: ‎N/A
Review: This a lot like the Coast to Coast atlas but it has a lot more details in it. I actually have a handful of these from different years that I have scooped up off of eBay and I think it’s really fascinating to see how locations were added and removed over time. Just like the Coast to Coast atlas they have started to get more pricey as of late but if you can find a used copy on Amazon or eBay for under $10 I think its worth it.


International


Since I do not have much in the way of rockhounding books outside of America in the collection they will all be placed in this section regardless of the country.


Title: Rockhounding in Baja by W.R.C. Shedenhelm
ISBN: ‎N/A
Review: This is a rather small but interesting little book at 45 pages and well worth the $2.95 I paid for it. This book is from the editor of Rock & Gem magazine in the 1970s and reads more like a trip report than it does a modern rockhounding guide book. In it he details his rockhounding adventure in Baja in the late 1970’s. The book has great photos and even some small maps but good luck following the directions in it 40+ years later. Here is a good example of the directions in this book “take the old dirt highway for seven miles south the small village of Rosarito, which is about 25 miles south Punta Prieta, to El Marmolito quarry.” Good luck attempting to figure this out in modern Baja. The book does give great insight into the minerals once found in the area and it has a rather good bibliography in the back.


Idaho Rockhounding

Title: Gem Trails of Idaho & Western Montana by Lanny Ream
ISBN: ‎978-1889786513
Review: For a 2012 book I think is still rather good and you get both Idaho and Western Montana in it which is nice and it even has a listing in northern Nevada, as well. The author did an excellent job with the layout of the book and with the descriptions in the listings. My only real criticism of the book is the use of the degrees and decimal minutes format of GPS coordinates, as opposed to the much more common and standard decimal degrees. I think if you’re going to be visiting this area at all this book is worth buying and can often be purchased used.


Title: Idaho Minerals by Lanny Ream
ISBN: ‎978-0972335638
Review: If you’re even remotely interested in minerals and you plan on visiting Idaho or you live in Idaho just stop reading this and go buy the book.This isn’t a traditional rockhounding guidebook like you might be familiar with since its focus is on minerals and not rock but it is by far the best book I have seen on the topic of Idaho minerals and it even has few chapters covering the history of the Coeur d’Alene, Blackbird, and Sawtooth mining districts which I really liked. This book is a must have for the mineral collector in the northwest.


Title: Rockhounding Idaho by Garret Romaine – 2nd Edition
ISBN: ‎‎ 978-1493034116
Review: I also own the 1st edition of this book and when I purchased this book and compared them side by side I saw no differences other than the 2nd edition has color photos and maps. The author didn’t even update the locations which are now known to be off limits and private property which is a disappointment to see in a modern rockhounding guidebook. Property record searches have never been easier and all authors of modern books should be able to easily verify locations before printing.


Montana Rockhounding

Title: Gem Trails of Idaho & Western Montana by Lanny Ream
ISBN: ‎978-1889786513
Review: For a 2012 book I think is still rather good and you get both Idaho and Western Montana in it which is nice and it even has a listing in northern Nevada, as well. The author did an excellent job with the layout of the book and with the descriptions in the listings. My only real criticism of the book is the use of the degrees and decimal minutes format of GPS coordinates, as opposed to the much more common and standard decimal degrees. I think if you’re going to be visiting this area at all this book is worth buying and can often be purchased used.


Title: Rockhounding Montana by Montana Hodges
ISBN: ‎978-0762781621
Review: When I think of a rockhounding guidebook I think of a book that covers most of the popular and well known rockhounding sites in a state, and this book doesn’t really do that. The cover says “A guide to 100 of Montana’s best rockhounding sites” except 39 the locations are for fossil collecting which isn’t a bad thing but it’s not rockhounding, although I think of it as an adjacent hobby.


Title: The Rockhound’s Guide to Montana by Robert Feldman
ISBN: ‎0-934318-46-8
Review: I really don’t know how useful this book is to the average or casual rockhound living in or visiting Montana but if you’re the type of person that wants to look back in the past at some well known and popular locations like Crystal Park then I think you would like this book. The author does a pretty good job of describing these sites as they were in the late ’70s and early ’80s. I picked up my copy used on eBay for $3 and it is worth every penny but perhaps not much more.


Title: So Many Beautiful Rocks! by Kate Bertin
ISBN: ‎979-8985104509
Review: I must admit that I’m somewhat biased here since I personally know Kate but this book is really well written and it’s somewhat different than all the other typical guidebooks on the subject. It’s not just the standard “go here for ____” guidebook. This is a memoir of her experiences rockhounding on the Yellowstone River and she provides information as to where she was so in that way it does have the information one would want out of a guidebook.


Nevada Rockhounding

Title: Gem Trails of Nevada by James R. Mitchell – 2nd Edition
ISBN: ‎978-1889786155
Review: Currently, as of January 2022 when I’m writing this, I haven’t found a good modern rockhounding book for the state of Nevada. I have purchased all of them and returned most of them. The 2nd edition of this came out in 2002 and the 1st came out in 1991 which means the information in this is pretty dated but over all still good-ish. It does lack GPS coordinates but the maps are pretty good so you should be able to cross reference with modern mapping software such as GaiaGPS or Google but I would avoid Google.


Title: Nevada Utah Gem Atlas by Robert N. Johnson
ISBN: ‎N/A
Review: Much like the other atlases that are similar to this that I have reviewed here, this one covers two states, Nevada and Utah, and really provides an overview and look into the past of what was historically found but not necessarily what can be found today. I picked up my copy of this for just a few dollars on eBay and it’s amazing to see how many of the locations listed in it are still accessible and producing good material today despite it being published in 1978.


Oregon Rockhounding

Title: Central Oregon Rockhounding Map
ISBN: ‎N/A
Review: I know it’s not really a book but the Central Oregon Rockhounding Map deserves a place on this list since it contains some really good information about rockhounding locations in central Oregon. If you want to get a copy I suggest swinging by a BLM office in the area to pick one up. If you really have your heart set on getting a copy but can’t buy one in person, you can buy the map online.


Title: Gem Trails of Oregon by Garret Romaine – 3rd Edition
ISBN: ‎978-1889786445
Review: Garret has been working on this book for a really long time; the first edition came out in 1989 and it shows in the body of work in this book. The third edition came out in 2008 so the information is starting to show its age but the book is still relevant and many people look at it as the go to book for Oregon. I have seen this book being sold used for as little as $5 so it’s definitely worth adding it to the collection at that price point.


Title: Rockhounding Oregon by Lars Johnson
ISBN: ‎978-0762783663
Review: Lars published this book in 2014, four years earlier than the Rockhounding Washington but but it seems like he put a lot more effort into this one. The publisher, Falcon Guide, will be releasing a new updated edition of this in the summer of 2022 so I have high hopes that all of the mistakes in this one will be corrected and we will see some new listings added. In particular, this book has a big blanks space south of Bend which has many location that could be added. Some of the locations in this book are suspiciously similar to Gem Trails or Oregon. Some overlap is to be expected but when coordinates from both books lead to the same exact spot and that spot is on private property even though public lands are literally feet away, it doesn’t necessarily inspire confidence.


Utah Rockhounding

Title: Gem Trails of Utah by James R. Mitchell – 2nd Edition
ISBN: ‎978-1889786377
Review: I personally find this book to be a little hard to follow at times due to the maps being somewhat poor and the lack of GPS in it. Since it was published in 2006 so it can be a little bit of work trying to figure out exactly where some of the location are but it does have some locations not listed in some of the other rockhounding books for Utah which makes it worth including here on the list. I have noticed that this book is getting somewhat pricey lately so it may not be worth it to pay much more than $15 for this older book.


Title: Nevada Utah Gem Atlas by Robert N. Johnson
ISBN: ‎N/A
Review: Much like the other atlases that are similar to this that I have reviewed here, this one covers two states Nevada and Utah and really provides an overview and look into the past of what was found but not necessary what can be found today. I picked up my copy of this for just a few dollars on eBay and its amazing to see how many of the locations listed in it are still accessible and producing good material today despite it being published in 1978.


Title: Rockhounding Utah by Gary Warren and William Kappele
ISBN: ‎978-1493045969
Review: This is a good book for someone really wanting to find agates in Utah since 31 of the locations listed in it are for agates. Most of the listings are in the southern 2/3rds of the state which leaves northern Utah somewhat empty but overall I think this is a pretty good modern guidebook for someone wanting to explore the state. We used it on our Utah trip in the fall of 2021 and it was helpful in the planning of that trip.


Title: A collector’s guide to rock, mineral, & fossil localities of Utah by James R Wilson (1995)
ISBN: ‎978-1557913364
Review: I really wish I had this book before our trip to Utah in 2021. This book had many leads on locations that I have not seen anywhere else, it’s also different than many of the other rockhounding books that I have in that really it reads more like two books in one. The first half is all about some basics of geology which could be useful for someone new to the world or rocks and minerals. The second half of it is all about the different localities in Utah, since this book was published in 1995 there is no GPS for the locations but the directions are acceptable and sometimes Range and Township is provided. If you plan on visiting Utah or you already live in Utah this is worth picking up a copy of.


Washington Rockhounding

Title: Gems & Minerals of Washington by Lanny Ream – 3rd Edition
ISBN: 978-0918499097
Review: This 3rd edition of this book came out in 1994 but there’s a lot of information in it that dates back much further so take everything in it with a grain of salt. The book covers the whole state and it’s a little like looking though a window into the past but it still contains some really good location information. This was published before the time of GPS so there’s no real meaningful directions to work off of and you need to find your own way with it. This book has started to become exceedingly pricey so if you see it for a good price I suggest you buy it.


Title: Gem Trails of Washington by Garret Romaine – 2nd Edition
ISBN: 978-1889786537
Review: This book is often looked at as the standard when it comes to rockhounding guides in Washington but it’s not without its flaws. It was published in 2014 so some of the locations are out of date but if you take the steps required to verify if the locations are still good I think it makes a good addition to the library.


Title: Minerals of Washington by Bart Cannon
ISBN: N/A
Review: This is a must have book for any serious rock and mineral collector in the state of Washington. Bart Cannon’s book covers the whole state and provides amazing insight into many lost and forgotten about locations that are still relevant and accessible to this day. The book fluctuates between listing exact locations that Bart personally visited to more general area discussion and everything between. When I first got my copy of it I was incredibly impressed by it. If you do manage to locate a copy be prepared to spend over $100 for it.


Title: Rockhounding Washington by Lars Johnson
ISBN: 978-1493019090
Review: This book is really a 2018 revisiting of all the locations in the Gem Trails of Washington guidebook from 2014 for the most part. He even managed to copy some of the same mistakes that were made by Garret in 2014. He also uses the degrees and decimal minutes format of GPS coordinates, as opposed to the much more common and standard decimal degrees. The book does have many color photos and maps which does makes it good for the beginner that might not know what they are looking for. If you want to rockhounding in Washington I think it’s worth buying but just understand that some of the listings are really low effort.


Title: The Rockhound’s Guide To Washington – Vol. 4 by Bob Jackson
ISBN: 978-0918499073
Review: I wish I had volumes 1, 2 and 3 as well of The Rockhound’s Guide To Washington. This book mostly just covers locations in central Washington that are still rather well known so I wouldn’t really go out of your way to hunt down this old guide book from 1985 but I personally find it interesting to read Bob’s personal take on these location from back then. If you do find it be prepared to spend upwards of $50 for it.


Title: Wagonmaster Maps
ISBN: N/A
Review: This is much more of a collection of maps with directions than it is a book but it does have a number of locations listed in it that I have not seen anywhere else. Many of the maps and directions in it leave a lot to be desired but for $10 it’s worth adding to the library, in my opinion. If you want a copy you need to reach out the Washington State Mineral Council, although I have also seen some rock clubs selling them.