Abajo Mountains UT for finding treasure

13 Places to Find Treasure in Utah (with Maps and Lore)

Utah is a beautiful state to explore. From the high elevation forests and lakes to the southern and western deserts, the state has much to offer. On top of the natural beauty of my home state, you can also find various types of treasures in Utah!

Utah was settled by Mormon pioneers in the mid-1800s. Before that, Native Tribes inhabited the state, along with Spanish explorers who came during the 1700s. Each of these unique cultures left behind some type of treasures you can find.

The view of Church Rock heading to Monticello, Utah and the Abajo Mountains
The view of Church Rock heading to Monticello, Utah and the Abajo Mountains – credit Google Maps link

1. Abajo Mountains

The Abajo Mountains, also called the Blue Mountains, lie within the Manti-La Sal National Forest. Abajo Peak is 11,360 feet above sea level. As the home of large populations of mountain lions, mule deer, elk, and black bears, among other wildlife, this area was used as ancestral hunting grounds for many Native American tribes. You can still find Ancestral Puebloan sites, rock art, and other relics from the area’s past.

Within the Abajo Mountains, are the Johnson Creek and Recapture Creeks. These are both known for placer gold. The story goes that Spanish explorers found gold in the Abajo Mountain area, and even a tale that several gold ingots were buried in Recapture Creek Canyon.

Most placer gold is found at the mouth of Recapture Creek, thought to have originated at the nearby Gold Queen Mine, which produced both silver and gold.

Where to Find the Abajo Mountains

From Monticello, head west on Highway 101. Turn south onto county road 0079. Recapture Creek is east of this road, south of the Camp Jackson Lodge and Retreat.

2. Oquirrh Mountains, Bingham Canyon

The Oquirrh Mountains (pronounced Oak-er) separate the western side of the Salt Lake Valley from the Tooele Valley. These mountains have been mined for lead, silver, gold, and most famously, copper.

You may have heard of the Kennecott Copper Mine, which is one of the world’s largest open pit mines. This mine, and others in the area, are responsible for about 99% of all gold found in Utah.

Bingham Canyon was the largest gold placer producer in the state of Utah. Most gold found in this area is very fine gold, so prospectors disregarded it in search of other ore and minerals.

The value of minerals and ore taken from the Oquirrh Mountain area exceeds the totals of the California, Nevada, and Klondike Gold and Silver rushes combined!

Where to Find the Oquirrh Mountains

From Tooele, head north on Highway 36/Main Street. Turn east on 1280 North, then north on 2000 North. This road turns east and heads to the town of Lincoln.

Turn north onto Churchwood Drive in Lincoln. Turn east on County Road 03648, then South on County Road 03649. This leads to the Oquirrh Mountain Range.

3. Green River

Views of the Green River in Utah - man you know treasure is in those hills
Views of the Green River in Utah – man you know treasure is in those hills

The Green River is a major tributary of the mighty Colorado River. It flows through Utah, Colorado, and Wyoming, with the bulk of the river lying in Utah. The Green River, like other creeks and rivers in the state, has been known to contain placer gold.

The best place to pan for gold along the Green River is from the Flaming Gorge National Recreation Area to Horseshoe Bend. From Jensen, below Split Mountain Gorge, and the mouth of Cub Creek are also good places to find placer gold on the Green River.

Where to Find the Green River

From Vernal, head east toward Colorado on Highway 40. This road will lead you across the Green River in Jensen, where you can pull off the road right or left to try your luck at panning. To get to Flaming Gorge and Horseshoe bend to try panning, head north from Vernal on Highway 191. This road will lead directly to the Gorge.

Jensen, Utah

Flaming Gorge, Utah

Insider Tip: Flaming Gorge Reservoir is a great place to stop and rest during your travels. The area features picturesque mountains, a beautiful lake, great fishing, camping locations, and a lodge with restaurant. The dam itself is an engineering marvel! Learn more here: https://www.fs.usda.gov/detail/ashley/specialplaces/?cid=stelprdb5212203

4. Colorado River

The mighty Colorado River provides water to about 40 million people across 7 western states and Mexico. Gold has been known to exist in the Colorado River since the first explorers came to Utah. Most of the gold taken from the Colorado River is fine gold, but with today’s equipment and technology, is much easier to find.

The best place along the Colorado River to search for gold are from the Dolores River south to Amasa Bend near Moab. Many gold claims from the past were closer to the southern Utah/Arizona border but are now buried underneath Lake Powell.

Where to Find the Colorado River

From Moab, take Highway 191 north. You will cross the Colorado River several miles up the highway.

5. San Juan River

The San Juan River is another location known for placer gold deposits. Most of the deposits found are fine textured gold, so it was difficult to collect when it was first discovered. Technology and gold panning techniques have gotten better since gold was discovered here, so you still have a good chance of finding fine gold!

A selfie with the San Juan River in the background
A selfie with the San Juan River in the background

The mouth of Montezuma Creek to Lake Powell is the best place to pan for gold along the San Juan River.

Where to Find the San Juan River

From Bluff, head east on Highway 162. This highway runs past Montezuma Creek and the San Juan River near the Colorado and New Mexican borders.

6. St. George

While the major mining industry surrounding St. George centers on gallium and germanium, gold and other precious ore has also been found in the area. In fact, St. George is home to 12,789 mining claims and 128 mines. South of St. George lies the Goldstrike Mining District, where nearly 200,000 ounces of gold have been found. Silver has also been found in decent quantities in the area, along with lead and copper.

On top of the possibility of finding precious ore, you can also find numerous other natural treasures, like geodes, in the desert surrounding St. George. The city is also home to a dinosaur discovery site, where numerous fossils have been found.

Where to Find St. George

From Salt Lake City, take I-15 south for 302 miles. The interstate runs right through St. George as it continues into Arizona and Nevada.

7. La Sal Mountains

Gold was first discovered in the La Sal Mountains in 1907. Glacial deposits run through the area near Wilson Mesa and Bald Mesa. Most of the gold here is flakes and rough pieces. The area was worked for a short time during the early 1900s and again briefly during the Great Depression. You can still find gold in the aera today.

Gold has also been found in these mountains in a stream called Miner’s Basin, and around North Mountain.

Where to Find the La Sal Mountains

From Moab, head south on Highway 191 to Spanish Valley. The La Sal Mountains lie east of this town, over a series of county roads.

8. Tushar Mountains

The Tushar Mountains in central Utah is home to many abandoned mines. Mill Creek runs through the Tushar Mountains and is a great place to pan for gold! Check the area along the creek north of Signal Park and near the mouth of Pine Gulch Creek in Bullion Canyon.

While searching this area, there is a self-guided tour called “Canyon of Gold” through Bullion Canyon and Miner’s Park. Mining in the area has been active since the late 1800s. When miners settled the area in the 1860s, they found rotted sacks full of ore, likely left by Spanish explorers in the 1700s.

Where to Find the Tushar Mountains

From Salt Lake City, head south on I-15 to Beaver. In Beaver, head east on Highway 153. Turn north on county road 123 to find the Tushar Mountains.

9. High Uinta Mountains

My whole life I have heard about the lost mines dotting the Uinta Mountains. There are said to be at least 7 rich mines somewhere in the area, which supplied the Aztecs with their gold, and supplied the early Spanish explorers with rich ore.

Views from the High Uinta Mountains
Views from the High Uinta Mountains – credit Google Maps link

The story goes that a Native American chief allowed Brigham Young (one of the early leaders of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, or Mormon, Church) to appoint a messenger to be shown the mines and take gold for the church.

Thomas Rhoades was chosen. Early Mormon coins and LDS church decorations were made of pure gold, which Rhoades is said to have brought down from the Uintas. The Lost Rhoades Mine is one of the longest running pieces of lore in Utah. Learn more about this story here: https://www.deseret.com/1989/11/26/18834123/legends-of-utah-gold

Where to Find the High Uinta Mountains

The High Uinta Mountains can be found North of Duchesne, between the Ashley National Forest and Uintah-Wasatch-Cache National Forest.

Insider Tip: While heading to the High Uinta area, head east to Vernal and continue to Jensen, where you will find the Dinosaur National Monument. This monument covers 210,000 acres of Utah and Colorado. There is a visitor’s center where you can take a car to the monument, where you will see a natural rock wall full of dinosaur bones in situ.

Vernal is also home to a Natural History Museum which shows numerous fossils discovered in the area. Vernal is my hometown and affectionately known as Dinosaurland! You will see dinosaurs all over town and beyond. Learn more here: https://www.nps.gov/dino/index.htm

10. Standardville Ghost Town

Standardville, so named because its pristine layout became the standard for coal mining towns, was once a thriving community. Standardville is a ghost town today. This is a perfect place to metal detect or search for relics left by the miners who settled the area.

Evidence of old buildings in Standardville - worth exploring
Evidence of old buildings in Standardville – worth exploring – credit Google Maps link

One story goes that a young girl took her father’s cigar box to play with one day, where he kept freshly minted silver coins. The little girl happened upon some pipes coming from the ground, which were used to deliver fresh air into the mines.

She dropped coin after coin into the pipes until the box was empty. The coins were never recovered and are still somewhere in the town.

Where to Find Standardville

Standardville can be found west of Helper, just south of Spring Canyon. From Helper, take Spring Canyon Road west, which will lead to Standardville.

11. Gold Hill Ghost Town

Gold Hill is in Utah’s west desert, near the Nevada border. It was a gold mining camp established in the 1890s, named after the gold producing mountain east of town. Alongside gold, copper, silver, lead, tungsten, and arsenic were all found here.

Find Gold with VLF Metal Detector
Find Gold with VLF Metal Detector

The town has many ups and downs, in a typical boom-bust cycle. During World War I, arsenic was desperately needed, which revived the town. Following the war, the down declined once more.

Then came World War II, which yielded a great need for tungsten, a major component in steel. The end of the war sent the down into decline again. The last train tracks were torn out in the 1940s.

Many structures still stand in the area. You may be able to find relics from the town’s mining past, as well as precious and semi-precious ore in Gold Hill.

Where to Find Gold Hill

From Salt Lake City, take I-80 west to Wendover, Nevada (just across the Utah border: part of Wendover lies in both states). Take I-93 south where you will see a small sign pointing east to Gold Hill.

12. Kaiparowits Plateau, Fiftymile Mountains

This story begins during the Mexican War for Independence. A Spanish Mission was under attack and fled a group of Native Americans. The Padre of the mission was said to have gotten rich using Mexican laborers, many of whom died in the process.

The soldiers and the Padre loaded 20 burros with gold artifacts, including a 3-foot gold cross with Jesus’ image, and headed north.

The attackers followed the men until the Padre and a couple of soldiers were all that remained. They made it as far as Kaiparowits Plateau, where they hid their cache in a small cave on Fiftymile mountain. A man named Llewellyn Harris came to the area in 1870 looking for the Golden Jesus.

He had a map he had acquired from some Native people that showed the supposed location of the loot. He did find the skeletons of several burros and Spanish artifacts, but the Golden Jesus and other artifacts remain lost.

Where to Find Kaiparowits Plateau

Kaiparowits Plateau can be found south of Escalante. From Escalante, take Paradise Canyon Road to find Kaiparowits Plateau.

13. Great Salt Lake Desert (West Desert)

The Donner Party left the well-known Oregon Trail and walked into the Great Salt Lake Desert via the Hastings Cutoff. Their troubles began almost immediately. It was clear they had to leave some of their belongings behind if they were to continue.

On day 5, George Donner buried a chest containing $15,000 in gold coins near their camp by Floating Island. He planned to return for the heavy chest, but fate was not on his side.

The chest is said to be near a small spring by Pilot Peak, south of the ghost town of Lucin. While you cannot metal detect at the Great Salt Lake, this area is fine if you are not on private property or a National Park or Preserve.

Where to Find the Great Salt Lake Desert

From Salt Lake City, head west on I-80. This runs right through the west desert, near the town of Barro.

Can I Metal Detect in Utah?

Utah is comprised of 42% BLM land, which means public lands. You can metal detect on public lands freely. Make sure you do not enter private property without permission. A lot of area within Utah public lands is owned (kind of an oxymoron, right?).

You may see fences surrounding certain areas. Avoid these as they may be privately held or owned by the state or federal government.

You may not metal detect on any National Park or National Monument lands. Utah is home to 5 National Parks and 7 National Monuments. Utah is also home to 43 State Parks. Utah State Parks allow metal detecting with a permit, which must be obtained by the park ranger of each individual park.

Utah is also home to 8 Tribal Nations, and metal detecting activities are prohibited on these lands. Be respectful of any Native artifacts you may find by returning them to the Tribal authorities.

What Kinds of Treasures Can I Find in Utah?

Utah is home to various kinds of treasures. When metal detecting or treasure hunting, you many find newer items such as coins, jewelry, wallets, and phones. You may also find relics from the past including those left by Mormon settlers and Spanish explores. The state has a rich Native American history and is known for Native artifacts.

Fossils are also a common find in Utah. I live just outside the Dinosaur National Monument in northeastern Utah. This area is home to thousands of fossils of dinosaurs and plants. I have personally found fossils of small sea creatures and coral (the area was once a seabed).

There are also dozens of stories of lost gold and treasure circulating through Utah. Spanish settlers used the state for its rich ore, and much of this ore remains hidden or untouched in the ground today.

👉Hey David here the guy behind this website. Check Out My Favorite Metal Detecting Equipment Below 👍 Recommended

Nokta Ultra
Nokta Simplex ULTRA 👈 Awesome Machine!

When asked what I recommend, the 👉 Nokta Simplex Ultra stands out. Perfect for beginners, it’s waterproof, includes wireless headphones, and offers five functional modes, growing with your detecting skills.

Lesche T Handle Shovel picture
Lesche T Handle Shovel digs through everything

The next thing you need is a great shovel, believe me when I say you’ll dig more knowing you can dig FASTER. The nearly bullet proof Lesche T- Handle Shovel is the most comfortable heavy duty shovel I’ve ever used.

I love the CKG Sand Scoop for Beach Metal Detecting
I love the CKG Sand Scoop for Beach Metal Detecting

Metal Detecting and Beaches are a perfect match. To search a beach you’ve GOT TO HAVE A SAND SCOOP. CKG Sand Scoops are heavy duty and able to be used as a shovel.

Minelab Equinox 800 amazing Metal Detector
Minelab Equinox 800 amazing metal detector

If it’s time up UP YOUR GAME , get the industry standard metal detector. The Minelab Equinox 800 IS THE BEST. Okay it’s not cheap, but your finds are going to increase with this machine.

Treasure Hunting Tools

One of the best treasure hunting tools is a metal detector. As a heads up, Utah has highly mineralized soil, which is difficult for some metal detectors to decipher a target from the minerals in the ground. Because of this, I recommend the Nokta Simplex+.

I have used this detector for several years in Utah soil and have had great success. This detector features a Beach Mode, which helps eliminate natural mineralization levels and give truer readings. Learn more about the Simplex + HERE

You will also want a good hand shovel and a good full-sized shovel. These are important for digging up any treasures you may come across.

If you plan to pan for gold in Utah, you will want a gold pan or a sluice to separate the dirt and sand from the gold. Gloves are always a good tool to take with you while you hunt for treasure. They protect your hands from damage.

Because Utah is a desert state (even the northern, high elevation part of the state is considered a mountain desert), the summer temperatures can soar above 100F. Take along some sunscreen and plenty of water when you are hunting for treasure. Utah has the highest instance of skin cancer in the country, so use your sunscreen!

Looking for some “How To” metal detecting articles? I’ve got you covered

Utah Treasures in the News

There is a web series titled “Uncharted Expedition,” led by Utah native Timothy Draper. He seeks to show treasure hunting and uncovering historical research on his show. The show went to St. Goerge, Utah in hopes of uncovering treasure.

There are numerous stories of the Spanish explorers clashing with the Native Americans as they came through Utah, and many of these explorers stashed their finds for safe keeping. Some never came back to retrieve them.

Learn more about Draper and his web series, and how it pertains to Utah, here: https://www.stgeorgeutah.com/news/archive/2022/06/25/ajt-treasure-hunters-share-love-of-adventure-and-history-in-sneak-peek-of-uncharted-expedition/

Kicking Up Dust in Utah

Utah is a state full of natural beauty and diverse terrain. The state has been inhabited for thousands of years, and relics exist all over the state. You can also find gold, silver, copper, and potentially more rare treasure like Mormon gold or Spanish gold here!

Malory Ericksen discovered metal detecting in 2015, initially unearthing nails and pull tabs in Idaho. The finding of an old railroad tie cemented her passion for the hobby. Now in Utah, she delights in uncovering historical treasures, driven by her love for history.

Read Malory’s complete bio 👉 About Malory Ericksen

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