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Garnet Hill | Free Semi-Precious Gems

Garnet Hill – Semi-precious Gems Ready for the Taking – Free of Charge

Ready for an awesome day trip at Garnet Hill! You can set out on an adventure to collect gems in the hills above Ely. How do I get there, you ask? First off, you will need to decide between two alternative routes to the site. The roads can be pretty muddy when conditions are wet. It is recommended you take the Highway 50 route if you are in a low clearance vehicle or road conditions are wet. The main entry from this direction is easily accessible by passenger vehicle during good weather.

Route 1:

Take Highway 50 West out of Ely. Drive approximately 5 miles. You will see this sign for Garnet Hill on a dirt road to the right. Take this road approximately 1.5 miles.

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Turn right at this sign. Go about 1.5 more miles until the road dead-ends at a parking lot at the top of the hill. Prior to reaching the parking lot at the official Garnet Hill site, you will reach an unmarked dirt road intersection.The road to the left will take you to a vantage point of Ward Mountain and the mine. If you continue straight and drive down the hill it will take you to an awesome seasonal creek that contains garnets. To get to the main site where the bathroom, campsites, and informational signs are located, follow to the right.

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Route 2:

Turn west onto Highway 490 off of the McGill Highway. Follow this road until it leads to a stop sign and Lackawanna Road. Make a right turn on Lackawanna Rd. and go about a mile to 244 St North St. Turn left (west) and follow the large dirt road approximately 4 miles. Turn left at the Garnet Hill sign.

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Garnet Hill is an internationally known site for gem collectors looking for garnets. In the short time, we were there, we saw license plates from five different states. Two square miles of public land was designated as a public recreation area in 1970 to ensure continued public access to the site. It has both recreational and scientific study values.

Garnet Hill is famous for its very dark colored garnets found in a flow banded rhyolitic volcanic rock. Garnets can be found either through careful rock breaking or searching the surface and drainage areas for the dark colored stones. The garnet crystals have a sparkling luster and are attractive no matter the size. They are dark red to black in color and are an average of one-quarter to one-half inch in size.

A few small garnets- Photo Credit Kenzie Bauman

A few small garnets- Photo Credit Kenzie Bauman

Two Methods for finding garnets:

  1. Visually search the surface and nearby drainages for the dark colored garnets. Their very dark color contrasts strongly with the local rock and soil.
  2. Work to break open the garnet-bearing rocks with hammers and chisels. This is the best method for locating the finest garnet specimens.

Things to note: There are four picnic sites at Garnet Hill with grills, and there is a handicap accessible restroom available. A group BBQ area is also available. There are two informal areas for tents or small campers. RVs and large trailers are not recommended. No water is available.

Garnet Hill Group Site with Ward Mtn Range in background- Photo Credit Matt Bauman

Garnet Hill Group Site with Ward Mtn Range in background- Photo Credit Matt Bauman

Garnet Hill Rest Room- Photo Credit Matt Bauman

Garnet Hill Rest Room- Photo Credit Matt Bauman

Garnet Hill Camp Site- Photo Credit Matt Bauman

Garnet Hill Camp Site- Photo Credit Matt Bauman

For one last treasured gem, a view to remember, take the dirt road that leads up the hill just to the left as you exit the parking lot. You will follow this short road up and arrive at the top of the hill. This commanding view offers an amazing vantage point of the mine, Ward Mountain, the town of Ruth, and the Steptoe Mountain Range.

Ward Mountain- Photo Credit Matt Bauman

Ward Mountain- Photo Credit Matt Bauman

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