The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines the term as 1. A specialist in geology 2: an amateur rock and mineral collector.
Allow me to expound upon this second definition a bit and lay out my reasoning as to why rockhounding is such an enjoyable and exciting pursuit. To me a rockhound is someone who cannot pass up seeing a pretty rock without stooping down to get a closer look. Who routinely returns from family outings with their pant pockets bulging, full of their latest geologic treasures.
Who can always justify searching for, “just a few more minutes”, for that extra special find. Who has routinely utilized the front of their shirt as a basket in order to effectively transport the largest amount of rocks possible back to their vehicle or camping site. Who gushes over and enthusiastically shows off his most price-worthy finds to friends, family and anyone in the neighborhood who has the patience to listen. A Rockhounder is a person who just really gets just how cool rocks really are!
Rockhounding also isn’t an exclusive pursuit for elite, hyper-knowledgeable folks either. It is a wonderful hobby for the average Joe and the family. Kids in my experience tend to LOVE finding awesome looking rocks! Recalling my own childhood I remember (and my parents would attest to) the vigor and single minded devotion for which I would search for small bits of shiny, jet black volcanic obsidian amongst the graveled roads throughout our campground just outside of Yellowstone National Park. Collections of which I still treasure to this day.
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There are a few notable reasons for the easy entry into this pursuit. No training or prior experience is needed to get started. In fact it is often as simple as being observant and looking down at the ground in front of you. This is the case for this week’s spotlight on the Agate Hill location. Additionally, rockhounding is generally a low budget hobby that doesn’t require much to get started. Nothing much is required initially above what one wouldn’t already have if prepared for other outdoor adventures. So there’s no reason to delay. I mean, as visitors to Zion the whole draw is about incredible rocks. Follow these pointers and get started rockhounding at a great introductory spot, perfect for beginners that I can guarantee won’t leave you disappointed!
Agate Hill is a superbly rewarding, straightforward, family friendly rockhounding hotspot anyone can visit. Located not far from Bryce Canyon and up against the spires and red walls of the formation’s western edge, the hill itself is truly entirely covered by Agate! Agate is a crystal formed from the mineral chalcedony, a microcrystalline variety of quartz often within seams or cavities within volcanic rock. Agate here at the hill can readily be found in all different varieties and color schemes from deep, dark, saturated appearances to those with striking transparent hues all across the color spectrum. You should find something to just about everyone’s liking. Following the directions provided this rockhounding adventure is really just about getting yourself to this unique, beautiful place and then following the same directions I got from a woman at the local rockshop prior to my first visit here, “just look down and pick up the pretty rocks!”
Directions to Agate Hill.
– From the East entrance of Zion National Park, continue east on Highway 9 and turn north onto US-89 at Mount Carmel Junction and continue North for 45 miles before taking a right on Highway 12 following the signs towards Bryce Canyon.
– Continue east along Highway 12 for 2 miles and then take a left onto a dirt road following the signs for Casto Canyon.
– Travel North on this dirt road for 3.4 miles, past the Casto Canyon trailhead until reaching the small, otherwise unnoteworthy hill immediately after. 37.785558, -112.339178
– Cars and 2 wheel drive vehicles should stick to the main road, 4X4 rigs with plenty of clearance can continue down the 2 wheel track which hugs the south side of the hill.
– The entirety of the hill contains an incredible amount of agate but try searching an area of the hill away from the main roads for larger, potentially eye catching finds. Enjoy!