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From rockhounding to rock climbing, spectacular outdoor adventures await in Utah’s Mineral Mountains. Located just west of Beaver in Southern Utah, you can’t see these pristine peaks from the interstate. But it’s worth venturing beyond the basic east side views to explore these hidden gems. Thanks to great accessibility and high-quality dirt roads, it’s easier to reach these mini Sierra-style peaks than you might think. Known and visited by few, Utah’s Minerals are the state’s largest exposed mass of solidified molten rock. The range’s bare, pale rocks look straight out of Yosemite, and the mineral-rich area includes some of the world’s most prized gems. Take the time to discover for yourself what makes the Mineral Mountains so special.
Extracting the precious stones and minerals found in these mountains has been popular since the pioneer era, with Utah’s first documented mine originating here in 1858. The discovery of silver and lead launched a mining era that later turned into small excavation digs by rock lovers seeking precious stones. The world’s most prized gem, blue beryl, has been found here, along with smoky quartz, pyrite, opal, silver, feldspar, and obsidian stones like opal dazzle in a wide variety of spectacular colors.
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Today, rock-hounders come to collect the exceptional stones from easily accessible sites. Those new to the practice of hunting for gems and precious stones may want to start with a guidebook like Rockhounding Utah by William A. Kappele. Some of the more attractive spots in the area include the Minersville pyrite and malachite tailings and the Milford obsidian cut. If that sentence causes you to shrug your shoulders, you may want to put a bit of research into the geography of the area to give you the best chance of success. If you plan to venture out, be sure you have the proper tools to extract the stones as well as plenty of water, sunscreen, and a hat—desert days are no joke when it comes to sunburn.
If you’re wondering if it’s finder’s keepers for everything you find in the Mineral Mountains, the answer is, in general, yes. According to Utah law, “a person may collect reasonable gemstones and rocks from public lands for recreational purposes or personal use.” Commercial use is governed differently, requiring a permit from the local BLM Field Office before you begin.
For more rules and regulations, please click here.
If you’re more into climbing rocks than collecting them, ready yourself for adventure on the fragile faces of the Mineral Mountains’ Milford Domes. Featuring everything from fast sport routes to big-wall, multi-pitch climbs, the domes draw people not necessarily for the quality of the rock but for the challenge of reaching the top. Along the way to the summit, you can spy quartz crystal tucked in the cracks of these granite domes.
Not all possible routes are published, and most are multi-pitch trad (or traditional) climbs, meaning there are no pre-drilled bolts and you must provide the temporary gear to place. Fortunately for sport climbers, there are a few bolted routes a five- to ten-minute walk away from the picnic area.
Granite Peak Reservoir is a stunning pool tucked into a narrow rock canyon.
This is a pretty quick little hike with a round trip of approximately 40 minutes. But make sure to climb around these rocks and explore the area, there is a geocache hiding on the north side of the pool. It’s a quiet refuge of tall grass, birds, and still water reflecting sky and granite
Found on the west side of the Mineral Mountains, Rock Corral Recreation Area—known for its towering granite peaks, domes, and precious stones—is used by many visitors as the basecamp in the region. Rock Corral features hiking, camping, climbing, rockhounding, horseback riding, primitive camping, and even a few picnicking sites. It’s rarely crowded, and you can pitch your tent here to access all the area has to offer. The campsites have picnic tables and firepits with restrooms located at the Big Rock Corral Picnic Area.
From the picnic area, you can also start a hike to the summit of 9,580-foot Granite Peak. At the top, you’ll get some spectacular 360-degree views of the region. But you’ll have to work to get there. Not only is there a 2,522-foot gain in elevation, but the “trail” that takes hikers up the southwest route isn’t easy to follow, with bushwacking involved. It’s for experienced hikers with a good guidebook with instructions. The north slope route is considered a bit easier. Both are around two miles (one-way) long—but they will take longer than you think.
For a more family-friendly hike, take advantage of the one-mile, round-trip route that starts on the top of 7,408-foot Soldier Pass. You can approach the pass from the west via a dirt road and park on the north side of the pass. The trail makes a couple wide switchbacks down the hillside, and you’ll soon notice an obvious granite dome creased with water streaks. Follow the through sparse piñon pine and juniper trees to the small Granite Peak Reservoir, a beautiful tarn found in a narrow rock canyon on the dome’s north side. Amid the tall grass you’ll find birds and the still water mirroring the sky and granite from above.
The summer can be very hot here, even at elevation, so take precautions. Snow-cover can last well into late spring, making fall the ideal time for a visit, especially if you’re hiking.
If traveling from Beaver, Utah, take Highway 21 to Milford, Utah, for about 30 miles. From here, look for a sign marking the Rock Corral Canyon turn-off and follow it for two miles. Take the right fork to reach the recreation area.
It’s not the easiest place to reach—but that’s part of the charm. You won’t be battling hordes of fellow visitors on the weekend. Your friend may not be familiar with the area. But you may just come back with some great stories and, if you’re lucky, something special to remember from the trip.
Written by Jenny Willden for Matcha in partnership with Beaver County, UT.
Featured image provided by Beaver County Tourism