How To Find Gold in the Mountains: 8 Best Ways

Finding gold can lead to all sorts of riches, especially if you know where and how to find it. If you’re a collector or want to learn more about gold prospecting, mountains are excellent places to start. Countless gold can be found in many mountainous regions around the world.

To find gold in the mountains, search for quartz deposits, volcanic mountains, and abandoned gold mines. You can also snipe for gold in rivers, use metal detectors around gravel beds, and dry wash for gold if you’re near a mountainous desert. 

Throughout this post, I’ll explain where you can look for gold in the mountains, how you can extract it, and more.

1. Search for Signs of Gold in a Mountain

Not all mountains are filled with gold. In fact, many of them don’t have any gold at all. Nevertheless, there are plenty of signs you can look for if you want to find gold in the mountains. It’s also important to research the region beforehand since many online resources will show what minerals are found in that area.

Here’s a list of various signs that gold might be nearby:

  • Pockets of iron around quartz and other minerals often indicate that gold is near. Gold, quartz, iron, and other minerals form under the same conditions. They break apart over time, but they’re often found in the same areas. If you find iron-packed quartz, you might be right next to a bit of gold.
  • Mine Lab claims that bleached, light-shaded rocks can show you that people have searched for gold in the area. Acidic solutions were used to reveal gold for many decades. If you find massive sections of bleached rocks, you’re likely near an area where miners believed there was gold.
  • Quartz clusters often mean gold and other precious minerals can be found near you. Quartz is found far below the earth’s surface, much like gold. This is one of many reasons that quartz and gold are typically associated with one another. As mentioned above, the presence of iron with quartz is a good indicator of gold.
  • Search fault zones for quartz, iron, and other minerals that are likely to house gold deposits. Since gold forms below the crust, fault zones are some of the best places to find it. When tectonic plates shift, gold is revealed. Mountains are formed through plate shifting, making them perfect for gold enthusiasts.
  • Look upstream if you want to find higher concentrations of gold. Gold is known as a heavy metal. It settled near river beds, so a lot of it stays near the water source. While some of the gold washes downstream, there’s no doubt that you’ll have a good chance of finding gold near fault zones at the start of a river.

As you can see, there are many signs you can keep an eye out for while looking for gold in the mountains. All of these factors can be used throughout the rest of the suggestions, especially when you’re looking near rivers, mines, and caves.

Be careful not to mistake pyrite for gold during your search. However, the presence of pyrite can be an indicator of gold, as they often form in proximity to each other.

2. Look for Rivers With Gravel Beds

Gold is often found in gravel beds because gravel is filled with quartz and other minerals. These rocks are broken apart over the course of hundreds or thousands of years, revealing the gold inside. Furthermore, loose gravel allows water to flush gold through them, which makes it easier to spot.

Consider these factors when looking for gold in gravel:

  • According to Gold Gold, gold is often in gravel beds near places with a history of flooding. This happens because rushing water flushes gold through the gravel, making it much easier to spot. Furthermore, flooding can loosen false bedrock, which usually consists of clay.
  • You can find gold in many rivers, especially those at the edge of cliffs with landslides. If the cliffs have gold, it’ll flow throughout the river. Landslides reveal all sorts of unseen minerals, most of which topple into the river and settle in gravel beds and clay sediment.
  • Gold nuggets collect on false bedrock, which often sits right below gravel beds in rivers. False bedrock is extremely hard and compact, but it’s not true bedrock. However, it’s dense enough to catch most of the minerals that fall through the upper layer of gravel. This means digging through a few feet of gravel can reveal gold in the river.
  • Rivers move and sift minerals, revealing gold and gold-covered rocks. It’s much easier to find gold in mountain rivers compared to lakes. Quick-flowing rivers naturally erode dirt and sand shores, making gold easier to find. The water can also remove a lot of dirt and clay covering the gold.
  • Tidal waves in rivers near oceans can reveal plenty of gold. While rivers are rarely known to have noticeable tides, coastal rivers use the ocean’s movements to flow up and down the shore. This process causes rapid erosion, revealing more minerals than you’d find in a regular river. Consider checking tidal rivers in mountainous cliffs near oceans.

Rivers are some of the best places to find gold because they wash all sorts of minerals ashore. Furthermore, they can sift through gravel to make gold much easier to find. If possible, dig under the gravel beds in rivers to reveal false bedrock. It often acts as a net to catch heavy minerals, such as gold.

3. Search for Abandoned Mines With Metal Detectors

Abandoned gold mines are often overlooked because people assume all of the gold has been stripped out of the area. However, this couldn’t be further from the truth. Many gold mines were abandoned out of inconvenience, lack of funds, or more gold prosperity found in neighboring mountains.

So, why should you go to abandoned gold mines to find gold in the mountains?

Gold Mines Do the Location Work for You

If there’s a gold mine, there’s a very high chance the miners knew where to look. Not only does this mean there’s gold in the mountains, but it also means you can look through the mine and head to prospected spots. There’s bound to be leftover gold since it’s unlikely that 100% of the mineral was removed from any given location.

Mines Go Deep Into the Earth

Gold is often found on the surface, especially in rivers, quartz, and similar formations. However, it’s much more abundant underground. Since mines go beneath the surface or deep into a mountain, you’re more likely to find gold. They also offer a way to get closer to the source, which means bigger gold veins.

Many Mines Are Close to Volcanic Systems

You can walk through a mine with a metal detector, locating everything along the way (especially gold). Volcanic systems are more likely to have gold in them. Many miners chose volcanic systems because they bring gold closer to the surface. Additionally, some of them have loose sediment that’s easier to dig and mine through.

Rare Gold Nuggets explains many mines are still filled with gold because miners didn’t find them profitable enough. Mining required a lot of long-distance shipping for various essential supplies. If they didn’t get enough money for their time, they would leave the area (regardless of how much gold was left in the mine).

4. Search for Gold in Volcanic Systems

Volcanic systems are some of the best places to search for precious minerals (especially gold). A lot of gold can be found far below the earth’s crust. When volcanic systems pull magma or shift tectonic plates, gold pushes to the surfaces. This process makes volcanoes some of the most efficient places for gold mining in the mountains. 

However, it’s important to take the necessary precautions before heading to the closest volcano.

Review these guidelines:

  • Search for volcanic systems, not active volcanoes. Not only are active volcanoes dangerous, but they’re not the only thing that brings gold closer to the surface. Volcanic systems include anything near the volcano that was brought above the earth’s crust. Many mountains have volcanic systems worth looking into.
  • Never look for gold near magma, smoke vents, etc. These areas are incredibly dangerous and not worth the risk. Furthermore, they don’t always yield gold. It’s better to look through these places long after they’ve cooled down. You can also search rivers and other locations mentioned above within the vicinity of volcanic systems.
  • Gold is often extracted from quartz, that’s most prominent near volcanic systems. Quartz is one of the most common minerals that comes from volcanic systems. Since quartz and gold form near one another, finding quartz near a volcano is a good sign that you might be close to gold deposits.
  • Lava tubes (also known as lava caves) sometimes harbor gold. These tubes naturally form after magma flows through them. They look like mines, but they’re generally untouched by miners. This means you’ll have access to a volcanic system deep within the mountain without having to do the work.
  • Look for fault lines near volcanic systems for exponentially better results. Much like volcanoes pushing magma and gold to the surface, fault lines expose minerals beneath the crust. You can use fault zone maps to find mountain ranges with noticeable fault lines.

While active volcanoes are quite unsafe to search for gold, volcanic systems in various mountain ranges are often perfect for gold miners. They quite literally pull gold to the surface, making it much easier to find. Rivers, landslides, and other natural occurrences eventually pull gold downstream and into the aforementioned gravel beds.

5. Find Gold in Mountain Caves

Many mountains have numerous caves that have various minerals. Mountain caves are more than worthwhile for those in search of gold. Much like looking for gold in an abandoned mine, you can go through the cave with a metal detector. However, it’s crucial to play it safe when looking through unmarked cave systems.

Keep these safety suggestions in mind:

  • Avoid caves with sudden drops or those with warning signs. Many caves are too dangerous for explorers and gold miners. Spelunking and searching for gold can be profitable and exciting if you stay on marked paths. Furthermore, you should stay away from caves that are too hard to access.
  • If you’re inexperienced, steer clear of mountain caves without guideposts. These markers tell you where to go in the cave when it’s unsafe and more. Additionally, some cave guide posts provide entry hours (along with hours that you have to avoid).
  • Don’t look for gold in mountain caves when there’s flooding nearby (or heavy rainstorms). You can quickly get trapped in a cave if it rains. That being said, rainstorms cause erosion that makes it very easy to find plenty of precious minerals once everything dries.

Finding gold in mountain caves can be more dangerous than exploring abandoned mines. However, applying the aforementioned safety tips will ensure you don’t get lost or in deep trouble when searching for gold. Many caves are worth looking for gold, so why not give it a try?

6. Snipe for Gold in Ancient Rivers

Sniping for gold is the process of flushing gold out of narrow cracks in rivers. These cracks often form in bedrock and false bedrock, both of which can harbor plenty of gold. Since ancient rivers have more gold (in most cases), they’re often the better choice for gold enthusiasts. Older rivers are more abundant because gold has had a longer chance to settle in the bedrock.

Here’s the step-by-step guide to sniping for gold in mountain rivers:

  • Wear scuba gear or snorkeling equipment to ensure visibility and the ability to stay underwater for long periods. While you can dive without this gear, you’ll spend a lot of time heading back to the surface for air. Furthermore, you’ll end up moving the sediment every time you swim, which could shift the gold away from you.
  • Look for cracks in the bedrock (or false bedrock) since that’s where gold usually is in rivers. The vast majority of gold sniping takes place in natural cracks below rivers. It remains there for hundreds of years or more. Most miners used to look for gold in mines, caves, and shores, but very few of them focused on sniping.
  • Use a sniping bulb (also known as a suction bulb) to push and pull air through crevices below the surface of the river. It’s important to remain as still as possible while pushing or squeezing the bulb; otherwise, you could end up moving the gold and making it impossible to find.

Sniping for gold is one of the most rewarding and difficult ways to find gold. However, it’s much more common in mountainous regions because cracks in the riverbed are often caused by fault lines and shifting tectonic plates. Check out my other article for a comprehensive guide on finding gold in rivers: How to Find Gold in Rivers: The Ultimate Guide

If you’re interested in sniping for gold, review this helpful YouTube video:

7. Dry Wash for Gold in Dry Desert Mountains

Dry-washing is a very common method of looking for gold in desert mountains. This process requires a tool known as a dry washer. It automatically sifts sand, dirt, and other debris out of the pan, leaving heavy mineral deposits behind. If you want to find gold in desert mountains, dry washing should be your go-to method.

Dry washing works by pulsing air through loose sediment. It’s much more manual than other forms of looking for gold, but it might be your only option. You’ll also need a bucket to scoop large amounts of soil into the tool.

Note: Dry washing is very difficult if the soil is mildly damp. All of the dirt clumps together, making it nearly impossible for it to shake through the dry washer. Only use this method if you’re looking for gold in a mountain that’s extremely dry.

8. Go Suction Dredging in Mountain Streams

Suction dredging is one of the most effective ways to extract gold from mountain rivers and streams. It involves a machine known as a suction dredge that pulls water, gravel, gold, and other minerals. All of the sediment goes back into the stream, while the gold stays in the machine for easy retrieval.

Gold Rush Nuggets reports suction dredging is becoming illegal in some areas due to unwanted side effects on local watersheds. Always check your local laws before bringing a suction dredge anywhere.

If you’re permitted, suction dredging is debatably the best way to look for gold in quick, massive amounts. Avoid suction dredging in shallow water because it can bring air into the system, which causes overheating and motor problems.

Suction dredging often disturbs sediment at the bottom of the river, so it’s best to avoid this method if you also want to snipe for gold in the same spot.

Final Thoughts

Mountains are some of the best places to look for gold. They harbor countless minerals, making them a paradise for prospectors, collectors, and enthusiasts. Whether you’re sniping, dry washing, dredging, or using any number of tools, there are plenty of ways to find gold in the mountains.

Alexander Picot

Alexander Picot is the principal creator of, a website dedicated to tips on finding and collecting precious items. Inspired by reading countless adventurer reports from the oldtimers, Alex is passionate about discovering hidden treasures and loves to share his experience with the rest of the world.

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