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Rockhounding is the hobby collecting of rocks, fossils, and geologic specimens from a natural environment. Arkansas has an environment that led to it being one of the best places in the world to rockhound for quartz crystals! In fact, it ties with Brazil for the quality of the quartz specimens.

The Ouachita mountain range in central Arkansas is home to some of the best quartz veins in the entire state and there are plentiful mines, both commercial and public. The commercial mines regularly produce museum-quality specimens for both private collectors and museums around the world. But, the beautiful quartz crystals can also be dug out by the general public at several of the mines. One of those places is free to explore, and located just outside of Mt. Ida, Arkansas!

Crystal Vista is an abandoned commercial mine that is now open to anyone to explore and hunt for quartz crystals. The four-acre, crystal digging area sits atop Mount Gardner and there is a .8-mile trail that leads to the top. The trail to the top is very steep, because, remember, you’re hiking up to the top of a mountain! Once you’re at the top of the trail, take a moment to enjoy the incredible scenery before you focus on the ground. The crystals can be found through two methods: surface hunting, and digging into the mountain. Both methods can produce great results, especially after fresh rain!

Here are a few tips to enjoy your crystal digging experience at Crystal Vista in Mt. Ida!

What to bring:

  • Sturdy hiking shoes for the hike up and down the mountain, sandals are not recommended due to the rocky terrain.
  • Clothes that you don’t mind getting dirty, long sleeves and pants recommended for sun protection but also to protect from thorns, sharp rocks, insect bites, etc.
  • A hat and sunglasses, plus sunscreen and bug spray.
  • A five-gallon bucket to hold tools on the way up and tools plus crystals on the way down.
  • A small, clear bag or container to hold your smaller crystals and keep them safe.
  • Hand gardening tools, such as a trowel and small, hand rake.
  • A long, flat head screwdriver, and rubber mallet if desired.
  • Lots of water, plus extra water to leave in the car for afterward.
  • A picnic lunch plus snacks.

Things to keep in mind:

  • There is spotty or no phone service in this area. Bring a satellite communicator if absolutely necessary (I personally recommend the Zoleo satellite communicator).
  • Beware that it can get VERY hot in the summertime, so plan accordingly.
  • The weather can change quickly in the spring, and storms can pop up fast so be sure to check the weather forecast before you go.
  • You are exploring a wild area, and there may be wildlife in all forms including the possibility of snakes. Be aware of your surroundings and look before you pick up or move any rocks or logs.
  • Please practice Leave No Trace principles and pack out what you pack in.
  • There are no bathrooms, bring your own toilet paper and please pack it out.