California became the birthplace of treasure hunters in the United States of America. Thanks to the treasures found in the golden state, treasure hunters began to search for treasure in their local area. With California holding such prominence in the treasure hunting world, what are the best spots to find lost treasure in California? Let us help you with that.
The 15 Best Places to Find Lost Treasure in California
For organizing, we will organize these locations based on some of the major cities and then provide off-the-grid places that may be of interest. Let’s get started.
1. Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area – Los Angeles, California
Initially, the Native American tribes of Chumash and Tongav called the Santa Monica Mountains Recreation Area home. Spanish explorers passed through the area and worked their way into the continent. Not only that but the homeowners, ranchers, and farmers used the land before the local authority turned it into a recreation area.
Thanks to its rich history, we highly recommend this recreation area to treasure hunters. Furthermore, the recreation area offers access to the North Pacific Ocean.
A general rule for treasure hunters is that prospecting along beaches yields the best results. This recreation area offers one of the best beaches in California. You can also look forward to trails, picnic areas, and several recreation activities available to the public.
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2. Point Mugu State Park – Los Angeles, California
Point Mugu State Park offers 5 miles of excellent beach access, making it ideal for treasure hunters. Furthermore, it’s right next to the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area.
Not only do you get beach access, but you can expect 60 miles of nature trails, access to major river canyons, and several other recreation activities. The scenic view is a welcome bonus to visiting the park.
3. Crescent Bay Beach – Los Angeles, California
You can find Crescent Bay Beach north of Laguna beach. We highly recommend this spot because it’s a beach. Thanks to the ever-moving tides, beaches offer some of the highest probability of treasure finding. A quick reminder would be to confirm the park’s policies on beach hunting and the areas you’re allowed on as a treasure hunter.
Furthermore, you can enjoy tide pools, snorkeling, swimming, and several other recreational activities at this beach.
4. Limestone Canyon Regional Park – Los Angeles, California
Many know it as the Grand Canyon of Orange County, Limestone Canyon Regional Park gives the public access to the Limestone Canyon. Until 2010, the area we now know as Limestone Canyon Regional Park belonged to the Irvine Company (a private company).
The area was secluded from the public for a considerable time; you can assume that treasure could be sitting there. Furthermore, you can look forward to the park’s other activities like trails.
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5. Crystal Cove State Park – Los Angeles, California
Crystal Cove State Park sits on the outskirts of Los Angeles, and it’s on this list because it offers beach access. Again, beaches are a treasure hunter’s best friend, and Crystal Cove provides 3.2 miles of it. Crystal Cove provides one of the few remaining natural seashores.
Members of the Tongva and Acjachemen tribes occupied the area we know as Crystal Cove State Park between 9000 – 3000 BP. In 1769, Spanish missionaries and soldiers established civil institutions in the area.
Crystal Cove has a century’s history, making it a hot spot for treasure hunters. Furthermore, you can expect camping, trails, hiking, tidepool exploration, and other recreational activities available to the public.
6. Mile Rock Beach – San Francisco, California
Mile Rock Beach is a remote beach that sits north of the heart of San Francisco. What’s interesting about Mile Rock Beach is what the tide offers. The shore will be pretty narrow at high tide, but you can explore the boulder-covered beach when it’s out. According to the locals, this phenomenon is spectacular, and many visitors visit the beach at low tide.
You can also explore the Lands End Lookout. Before the Europeans arrived in the United States, the Yelamu Ohlone tribe lived at Lands End in seasonal settlements. Furthermore, the Euro-American settlers purchased the land until the Parks Department acquired it.
The history embedded in Mile Rock Beach makes it one of our most recommended spots in San Francisco, California.
7. Golden Gate Park – San Francisco, California
Golden Gate Park sits dead center of San Francisco, making it one of the most convenient parks. We highly recommend this park to novices looking to learn metal detecting techniques and tools. Furthermore, the park holds a fantastic story. In 1906, San Francisco suffered from the cataclysmic Earthquake and Fire; over 200,000 residents used the park as a sanctuary.
Despite the tragedy, it makes the park a probable location for lost treasure during this period. You can also enjoy several recreational activities open to the public.
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8. Heron’s Head Park – San Francisco, California
On the outskirts of San Francisco sits Heron’s Head Park, a forgotten shipping terminal from the early 1970s. The San Francisco Port Authority has managed the park since its restoration in 2012.
We recommend this park because it accesses the Lash Lighter Basin and the India Basin. Furthermore, you can enjoy the scenic ocean views and trails.
9. Sutter’s Landing Regional Park – Sacramento, California
In 1839, John Sutter settled on the northern part of the park. He set up a permanent camp that acted as a base while building Sutter’s Fort. We recommend Sutters Landing because of its history and proximity to the heart of the city.
Furthermore, the park offers an indoor skate park, basketball court, trails, and several recreational amenities for the public. We also recommend Sutter’s Landing because it provides access to the American River.
10. River Bend Park – Sacramento, California
River Ben Park sits on the edge of the American River. Furthermore, it is the oldest park county park in Sacramento. River Bend Park also sits close to the heart of Sacramento, making its location pretty convenient for treasure hunters.
Not only that, but you get access to the American River. You can expect a trail, a bicycle bridge, rafting, and several recreational activities available to the public.
11. Shoebird Park – Sacramento, California
Next on the list is Shoebird Park; it sits on the edge of the Sacramento River, offering public access to the river banks. Treasure hunting along a historic and significant river poses a high probability of finding treasure. You can also look forward to several recreational activities.
12. Calico – San Bernardino, California
Calico is one of the most famous ghost towns in California. Initially, it was a mining town in the 1800s. However, in the mid-1890s, silver lost its value, and the mine lost its purpose. Thus, making the town a ghost town. Calico is a historical landmark, but you can treasure hunt in the area around the town.
13. Mojave National Preserve – Essex, California
Mojave National Preserve serves as a wall to the Mojave Desert. Initially, the Mojave Desert was home to the Mojave and Chemehuevi tribes. Furthermore, missionaries traveled across the desert, and soldiers set up government posts to protect wagons in the 1860s.
Not only that, but people found copper, iron, gold, and silver mines in the Mojave Desert. Thanks to the colorful history behind the area, we highly recommend the Mojave National Reserve.
14. Death Valley National Park – California
Death Valley National Park was home to four Native American tribes 10,000 years ago. During the California Gold Rush, the first European immigrants to come across Death Valley got lost in the valley. After some valiant survival efforts, they were able to get out, giving the area the name Death Valley.
Today, Death Valley is a welcome scene for cinematographers and photographers. You might have seen some of its footage in movies, films, and music videos.
15. Green Horn Park – Yreka, California
The last spot in California would be Green Horn Park in Yreka, California. Yreka is one of California’s oldest towns. The town came to fruition when explorers found gold in the Black Gulch Ravine in 1851. You could attribute Yreka’s growth to the California Gold Rush. Today, Yreka is an old town that attracts tourism and treasure hunters thanks to its tourism.
We highly recommend Green Horn Park because it’s the only park closest to the heart of the town. It also makes for a great place to start treasure hunting if you’re in the area.
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Treasure In California
In 1881, a thief robbed a freight wagon carrying hundreds of pounds of gold from Nevada to Sacramento, California. Allegedly, the thief buried the gold in the Warner Mountains. However, in 1885, a Native American man named Holden Dick began to trade gold ore in Susanville and Alturas, south of the Warner Mountains.
After a lengthy arrest (Holden attempted to kill a man that wanted information on the gold) and kidnapping, the local’s hanged Holden, and to this day, the treasure trove has never been found. – source
Is It Legal to Metal Detect in California?
The California Department of Parks and Recreations allows metal detectors in parks and recreation areas. However, some parks require detectorists to acquire a permit for treasure hunting.
Despite all that, some local counties prohibit the use of metal detectors in specific parks. Here’s a list of some of those areas:
- Almaden Quicksilver County Park – all areas within the park.
- Anderson County Park – Cochrane/Jackson House.
- Calero County Park – Bailey/Fellow House.
- Chitactac/Adams Heritage County Park – all areas within the park.
- Coyote Creek Parkway – Coyote/Fisher Ranch house & Mala-Guerra Winery.
- Coyote/Bear Ranch – Foreman’s House.
- Ed Levin County Park – Laguna Cemetery
- Joseph D. Grant County Park – Joseph D. Grant Ranch House.
- Mt. Madonna County Park – Miller House Ruins
- Sanborn/Skyline County Park – H.P. Dyer House, Welch Hurst Site (youth hostel), Pourroy Homestead.
- Villa Montalvo Arboretum – all areas within the park.
- Santa Teresa County Park North of Bernal Road
- Sunnyvale – NO Digging allowed in parks (Source)SVDB – SVDB – Sacramento Valley Detecting Buffs, Park Regulations.
You should always contact the park beforehand to inquire whether they require metal detectorists to have a permit. Parks tend to change their rules constantly, so it’s best to check before making a trip out of it.
Can I Keep Treasure Found in California?
Most states will follow the ARPA of 1979 regarding what you can and cannot keep. California isn’t exempt from this federal law. So, what is the ARPA of 1979? It is a federal law that outlines what metal detectorists can and cannot keep from their finds. What does it state?
The Archaeological Resources Protection Act of 1979 states: that any “archaeological resources” that you may find on the state’s properties are the property of the government. You can assume the law extends to anything over 100 years old.
The ARPA of 1979 only applies to government land. If you find treasure on private property, it’s yours for the keeping.
California Treasure In the News
Here are some news stories sharing treasure discoveries in the great state of California.
- Metal detectorist Marshall Smith shared his finds of old coins, jewelry, and other treasures from beach hunting in San Francisco, California. –source
- A group of metal detectorists, the Ring Finders, shared their finds with the New York Times. – source
- Metal detectorist Christopher Castillo shared his treasure hunting finds from West Sacramento. – source
Stories Of Treasure in California
1. The Saddle Ridge Hoard
The Saddle Ridge Hoard is one of the most famous finds in treasure hunting history. The treasure trove contained 1,427 gold coins. Metal detectorists found the hoard in Gold County, California, in 2013. They estimate that the cache is worth over $10 million.
2. The Honey Valley Treasure
In the mid-1800s, a French immigrant Henry Gordier found gold in Honey Valley, California. He bought land and cattle; however, three men killed him for his property. Locals raided the man’s land after his death looking for gold, but they never found any. Today, the Honey Valley Treasure remains untapped.
3. The California Bandit Hordes
In 1851, Joaquín Murieta, and his right-hand man, robbed a stagecoach containing around 250 pounds of gold nuggets worth $140,000. Allegedly, the pair buried this trove on the banks of Feather River. According to Wells Fargo, no one has ever found the treasure.
Books About Treasure in California
I highly recommend these books for treasure hunters looking to get started in California.
New to Cali gold and treasure? Here’s the place to start. California has a rich history and plenty of lost treasure. This second edition is a great read to learn about treasure in California.
If you like detective work searching for 1850s gold, this is the book for you. I was fascinated by this book. I like learning from history to decipher where old gold might be hiding, and this book by Charles Peters fits the bill.
This book is a very interesting read about over 75 different lost treasures and gold mines. The writer combed old newsprint and other historic sources to gather these tales of lost treasures in California.