If you receive our monthly newsletter, you’ll notice that this month’s issue is dedicated to rockhounding. Rockhounding is one of the most popular tourist pastimes in Southwest Montana. This should come as little surprise, since scouring the countryside for cool rocks (i.e. mining) is one of the foundational occupations of the state. Southwest Montana is situated on a bedrock of granite, which contains innumerable mineral veins. This makes the region an ideal location for rockhounders.
Rockhounders can look for rocks across most of the Beaverhead-Deerlodge National Forest, but the Forest actually has a site set aside for the hobby. The 220 acre Crystal Park area is situated one hour north of Dillon along the Pioneer Mountains National Scenic Byway . For a $5.00 fee, visitors to the area can prospect for quartz and crystal to their hearts’ content, well for five days a season, at least. The site is for hand tools only, and you can shift through a lot of dirt, and find a lot of quartz using shovels and buckets.
When you are planning your trip be sure not to schedule it for the last four days of June. The recreation area is closed June 26th-30th for some exciting renovations. The Forest Service is adding quartz sifting tables for guests to use, and working to secure several unsafe pits and fallen trees. The renovations will ensure that Crystal Park continues to be a fun and unique location for future generations.
Since Crystal Park is quite a distance, one of the best ways of experiencing the area is to make a weekend of it, and head up to the Pioneer Mountains National Scenic Byway . There are numerous campgrounds and picnic areas strung on the Byway between Polaris and Wise River.