Metal detecting is a fantastic hobby that can be done just about anywhere, so long as the laws allow. Thre is no shortage of locations that are full of treasure just waiting to be found.
Everything from the mountains, rivers, campsites, local parks, churches, and yards are fun places to metal detect. Nearly all locations you visit will have opportunities for metal detecting (if the law allows).
Metal Detecting Laws
State, federal, and local laws exist to protect historical sites and archaeological sites on public lands. All areas are governed by the National Historic Preservation Act and the Archaeological Resources Protection Act. Both exist to preserve the nation’s history and keep artifacts intact.
Metal Detecting Tip: After years of swinging my machine, I’ve come to realize find treasure is cool, but also having a conservation ethic is better. If you read just a little bit about the 1906 Antiquities Act you understand the idea of perseveration and conservation. Here’s a link. 👉 Antiquities Act U.S. Department of Interior
Each state will have laws unique to the state, and each city or town will have its own laws, too. Some areas will require a permit, others will not. Many cities and towns allow metal detecting in public spaces such as parks. Some areas require permits to metal detect, so make sure you have the proper permissions to metal detect in any location.
You can look at your local area online and see if there are any regulations for metal detecting. You can also head to your local town or city hall, police station, or park ranger’s office to see what the rules are. If you need a permit, they can direct you to the proper place.
Now, onto the 33 best places to metal detect!
- Metal Detecting Laws
- 1. Your Own Yard!
- 2. Ghost Towns
- 3. Battlefields
- 4. Historical Sites
- 5. Abandoned Homesites
- 6. Old Mining Camps
- 7. Old Logging Camps
- 8. Rivers
- 9. Lakes
- 10. Swimming Holes
- 11. Beaches
- 12. Fishing Piers
- 13. National Forests
- 14. River Crossings
- 15. Campgrounds
- 16. Parks
- 17. Schoolyards
- 18. Fairgrounds
- 19. Sports Fields
- 20. Roadside Pull-offs
- 21. Old Dump Sites
- 22. Deserts
- 23. Under Bridges
- 24. Churches
- 25. Abandoned Railroads/Towns
- 26. Abandoned Quarries
- 27. Old Dirt Roads
- 28. Caves
- 29. Shipwrecks
- 30. Old Amusement Parks
- 31. Construction Sites
- 32. Private Property
- 33. Cemeteries
- Get the Dirt: Wrapping Up the Best Places for Metal Detecting Adventures!
1. Your Own Yard!
Your own yard is a great place to search. There are so many items in your own yard just waiting to be dug up. My husband and I searched our yard in Idaho and our current yard in Utah.
In Idaho, we found many old nails, some old coins, and several pull tabs. Our yard in Utah so far has revealed 10 Hot Wheels cars from the 1960s and 1970s, an old cast iron pot, and dozens of nails and screws from building projects.
While metal detecting my in-law’s yard, we found a broach from the 1930s with emeralds set in pure silver! There are many items just waiting to be found right under our noses!
When I first started metal detecting, my own yard was my best tool for learning to use my detector. It is a great idea to place items of known metal composition in your yard and use your metal detector on them to learn how the detector reacts to each metal type. On top of reading your user manual, this is the best way to become familiar with your metal detector.
2. Ghost Towns
Every state has multiple ghost towns. There are almost 4,000 ghost towns in the United States, so there is no shortage of places to look! Some ghost towns are privately owned or owned by the state or cities. Make sure you have permission to metal detect in these areas before you head out.
Ghost towns were once thriving locations that have since been abandoned for a variety of reasons. These areas are great for finding pieces of the past like buttons, buckles, tools, building materials, and coins.
Not all ghost towns are completely abandoned. I visited Silver City, Idaho with my family. It is considered a ghost town but has a handful of residents still. This area was not open to metal detecting.
Utah is my home state, so it will always hold a special place in my heart. People often have misconceptions about Utah as a highly religious state with…
Arkansas began as part of the Mississippi Territory and in 1819, became a separate territory. It was admitted to the Union in 1836 as the 25th state. Arkansas…
Oklahoma became a state in 1907, following federal acts that incorporated Native American land into the United States. The terrain of Oklahoma is as diverse as it is…
Kansas was admitted to the Union in 1861. This state has a rich history, and each location has a story to tell. Kansas is also home to hundreds…
Most battlefields will require permission to metal detect, since they are designated historical sites. However, there are many battlefield areas that are not protected by such designations. Old army camps, the routes they walked, and the waterways they came across all have the potential to reveal relics from the past.
Always be respectful when metal detecting on battlefield locations. These are parts of America’s past and should be given the utmost respect. If you find items with a soldier’s name on them, consider tracking the family down to see if they want the item.
While metal detecting my husband’s grandmother’s yard years ago, we found an old dog tag. I did not think too much of it at the time. I recently found it again in my stash and was able to find the man’s grandson online and return the tag to him.
He told me his grandmother was in hospice care and was thrilled to hold her late husband’s dog tag one last time. These small items can have a big impact on someone’s family!
Battlefields have yielded finds like bullets, cannon balls, army pins, weapons, and items from everyday life like razors, knives, and metal cups. A fun thing to find is a “J-Hook” read all about it in this article 👉 Amazing History with Civil War J-Hooks
If you’d like more articles about metal detecting check out the links below.
- Metal Detecting Digging Tools – Tells you all about shovels, scoops and how to dig a plug.
- Where are the Best Places for a Beginner to Metal Detect? – Just like the title says, this article points the beginner to the highest probability places.
- Can You Metal Detect on BLM Land? – So many people have asked me about BLM detecting I had to write this article.
4. Historical Sites
There are hundreds of historical sites all around the country. As with all locations, you need to make sure you have permission to metal detect in historical areas.
Many of these will allow metal detecting, but you may have to give back the items you find. This is not always a bad thing! Some historical sites send items to local museums. They may even give you credit for finding the item!
Be sure you are not metal detecting or digging on any Native American historical sites. These are off limits. If they are on Native American land, they are also off limits, unless you have special permissions from the Tribe.
5. Abandoned Homesites
Abandoned homesites are one of the richest resources for metal detectorists! Often, the people that settled in these areas either moved, or passed away and their items were not always taken or collected.
6. Old Mining Camps
Mining camps are very fun to metal detect. I used to metal detect near some abandoned gold mines in southern Idaho with my family. We would search the tailings piles left behind by miners and find small flakes and pieces of gold!
The miners were more concerned with larger nuggets, so the smaller pieces were left behind. Be sure to avoid old mines. They are not always safe to enter.
Often in mining areas, other semi-precious metals were discarded because they were interested in one specific type of ore. This leaves us a great opportunity to find some discarded silver, copper, gold, and more!
Many mining camps and towns also have other relics from the past. Anywhere people have lived, worked, and traveled, there will be items waiting to be found.
7. Old Logging Camps
Logging camps housed up to 100 men or more during their heydays. Some had buildings and stables for their horses and oxen. Others were just tents. Either way, these areas had people, which means items were dropped or left behind.
Rivers are one of my favorite places to metal detect. Rivers are really two search areas in one. You can metal detect along the banks of the river to find dropped items.
You can also search the river beds for dropped items, buried gold, and more. Riverbanks have always been locations where people gather. They fish, get water, wash clothes, and cross the water.
Rivers flow from higher elevations. In many locations, the higher elevations are where gold and other ore is produced. The gold is heavy, so it will tumble down the river until the water can no longer push it and it falls to the river bed.
Check areas with eddies, natural obstacles like boulders or bends, and confluence zones. Gold tends to build up in these areas so metal detecting them can be quite fruitful.
If you found this article your wanting to get wet metal detecting, let me show you how below:
- I have a complete guide to underwater detecting -> HERE
- Are rivers any good to Metal Detect? Read Metal Detecting in Rivers and Streams
- I compare amazing machines for water in this article -> My Thoughts on the Garrett Mark II Vs. Fisher CZ-21
- Wondering about which beach to search in CA? Read about 5 favorites -> HERE
- Wondering if you can get your machine wet? Read Are Metal Detectors Waterproof?
One item of note, if you are metal detecting in a location known for gold, make sure you avoid anyone’s claim. Southern Idaho had a lot of active gold claims along the rivers, and it is illegal to dig on another person’s claim.
Metal Detecting Tip: Check out my complete list of YouTube Channels about metal detecting 👉 The Best Metal Detecting YouTube Channels
One of my favorite YouTubers is named Nugget Noggin. He frequently metal detects in rivers in his area and finds all sorts of things like coins, phones, Civil War bullets, cannon balls, belt buckles, old axes, and so much more! Rivers are treasure troves for metal detectorists! Check out the YouTube Channel 👉 Nugget Noggin
Be sure your metal detector can be fully submerged in water if you plan to search the river beds! If they are not waterproof, they will be ruined.
Lakes are great places to metal detect. People recreate at lakes frequently and that means items are dropped and left behind. Make sure your metal detector is waterproof if you plan to take it into a lake. Shallow waters will allow most metal detectors to work since most coils are waterproof. Just do not get the control box wet if your detector is not fully waterproof!
Learn more about Beach Glass in the Great Lakes in this article 👉 Where to Find Beach Glass in Michigan
Large lakes, like the Great Lakes, can even be home to beach glass! Beach glass is also fun to find when you are out hunting. The Great Lakes are large enough that they are also known for shipping. Shipping areas are rich with dropped items!
10. Swimming Holes
Swimming holes are great places to find items people have left behind. People tend to leave their items as they swim, then dig through bags for towels and dry clothes. During this, items fall out of the bags like coins, jewelry, and even phones.
Try searching during the off season when it is too cold to swim. You can also check during the early morning and late afternoon when the area is quiet and calm.
Beaches, both fresh and saltwater, are some of the best places to metal detect. Both areas are common for recreational activities, so people are constantly wandering the beaches during warmer months. Some areas have fair weather year-round, so the beaches are always open to recreational activities.
Be aware that saltwater can have negative effects on a metal detector. Saltwater is naturally conductive, so when you detect it in wet, saltwater sand or in the water, you may run into issues.
Most detectors will give false signals and may even overload and need to be shut down. There are specific metal detectors made to work in saltwater areas. These ignore the conductivity of the salt and give clearer and concise signals.
Texas is the second largest state in the country and features 367 miles of coastline. As such, it has numerous beaches that are perfect for metal…
Oregon is one of the most beautiful states I have had the pleasure of traveling to. From its picturesque mountains to the gorgeous beaches along the…
Washington State is one of the most beautiful states I have ever been to. The state experienced a gold rush in the 1870s and hundreds of…
New Jersey is a wonderful place for metal detectorists. The Lenni-Lenape Native Americans initially inhabited the state, followed by Dutch settlers, and those who came during…
Maine is a small state with big personality! It is a perfect state for metal detecting. The history of the state goes back thousands of years….
Massachusetts, known as the Bay State, has a long and storied history. This is one of the most populous states in the New England region and…
12. Fishing Piers
Fishing piers are another great location to find dropped items. When people fish, they bring along tackle boxes and their more personal items. These areas are good places to find fishing lures and items like coins. People often drop coins from their pockets when digging for their wallets or keys.
13. National Forests
National forests are my top favorite places to metal detect. National forests allow metal detecting, unless there are areas that are historically significant. These areas will be off limits to detectorists. To make sure your National Forest does not have historical locations, you can check with the park rangers before you metal detect.
National forests are popular areas for camping, ATV riding, and horse riding. I have found so many items in campgrounds. There are countless trails running through the forests. Some of these trails may even lead to old, abandoned homesteads, quarries, logging areas, and mines.
Metal Detecting Tip: BLM land is perfect for swinging a metal detector. Read more 👉 Can I Metal Detect on BLM Land?
14. River Crossings
River crossings are areas where people have historically crossed rivers. These will be shallower areas, or small bridges. Many times, people would use river crossings as a rest area.
Their animals could drink, they could collect some water, and rest before continuing their journey. Items undoubtedly dropped during these rest times and crossings.
While camping, people drop all sorts of items. Kids drop things, adults leave things behind. Just like a house, items get dragged in and out of tents and camp trailers.
The more popular the area, the better chance you will have of finding dropped items! Check near fire pits, areas where campers park and tents are set up, and along any trails nearby.
A few summers ago, my husband and I went with his parents to the national forest above our town. We searched several campgrounds and found several bottle caps, cans, and even some type of strange metal we cannot identify. The metal detector says it is silver in composition, but we are on the fence!
Parks are one of the most popular areas in any city or town for people to gather. Birthday parties, taking the kids to play, walking dogs, and playing volleyball make parks wonderful places to recreate.
These are also some of the best places to find dropped items. As people walk and dig through their pockets or purses, they tend to drop items.
When searching parks, check near old trees. Tree roots tend to move items away from the trees as they grow. Older items can be easily found near these old trees. Also search along walkways and near playground areas.
Schoolyards are just full of dropped items and old relics. Most schoolyards, like any other building in a city or town, are usually built on areas where former buildings stood. Relics from the past are scattered all over schoolyards. Make sure you get permission from the school before you try your hand at detecting these areas.
The best places to look in schoolyards are along paths, near playgrounds, and near any large trees.
Fairgrounds are popular areas of any town. People gather for various activities like rodeos, fairs, and farmer’s markets. Anywhere people gather and mingle, they drop items. Check while these areas are not being used.
Again, you will have to get permission from the city or county that owns the fairgrounds prior to metal detecting.
While searching the fairgrounds, look near concession stands, parking lots, walking paths, rides, and gaming areas.
19. Sports Fields
Sports fields are usually governed by the recreation departments in each city or town. Ask them if you can metal detect when sports are not going on. Sports fields are used constantly and usually have a large volume of people. As with other popular areas, there are ample opportunities to find items like coins, jewelry, or even something older!
Look for areas where people sit to watch games like bleachers or grassy areas. Check these along with walking paths, restroom areas, and nearby parking lots.
20. Roadside Pull-offs
Roadside pull-offs are places where some do not think to metal detect. People use these areas constantly when they need a break from driving, want to stop for a snack or scenic view, or use a restroom, if one is available. As people exit and enter their vehicles, items are inevitably dropped.
21. Old Dump Sites
Old dump sites will produce a lot of trashy targets (some pun intended), but there are the occasional diamonds! Things people from the past used and threw away may have been junk to them but may be treasure to you!
Metal Detecting Tip: A great spot many dectortist don’t consider is around old out houses. Check out this article to learn more 👉 Finding Outhouses and Privy Holes to Search for Treasure
When I was in college, I took an anthropology class. This class detailed how many relics from the past have been found in old dump sites (also called middens, when referring to ancient times). You never know what you can recover from these sites!
Dry, arid regions naturally preserve items within the sands. Just look at Egypt! The United States is nearly 7 percent desert, and 11 percent semi-desert. This is a lot of land to metal detect! I have metal detected in the Mojave desert a few times while visiting family in the Las Vegas area.
I am planning to metal detect the southern Utah desert on our next trip there, too. These areas have been known to produce gold, relics, and old coins.
23. Under Bridges
Underneath bridges are great places to search for treasure. People stop and rest under bridges, have picnics, and use them for fishing and other recreational activities. Some areas have newer bridges where older bridges once stood. These areas are great for finding relics and newer items like coins and jewelry.
Many churches are built on areas where homesteads or other settlements once were. Some are quite old, so they have the potential to produce relics while metal detecting. Churches have a lot of people in and out, so they have many items waiting to be found. Check nearby trees, along paths, and close to parking areas.
You will need permission to metal detect on church property, so speak to the person in charge before you go digging up the property!
25. Abandoned Railroads/Towns
There is nearly 160,000 miles of railroad in the United States. While these were being built, many railroad towns were constructed to house the workers and their families. Railroad towns are all but abandoned now, so they hold a lot of relics from the past inhabitants.
Abandoned railroad lines are another great place to search. You can find old railroad ties, spikes, tools, and other items dropped by workers.
26. Abandoned Quarries
According to the US government, there are over 390,000 abandoned hard rock mines on federal land. This is a lot of opportunity for you to metal detect and find some dropped items! Some quarries had homesteads built nearby where you can search for relics. In these areas you will likely find old tools, buttons, belt buckles, and maybe even coins.
27. Old Dirt Roads
There are over 1.3 million miles of unpaved roads scattered throughout the United States. Some of these roads are very old and no longer used. Dirt roads hold many secrets. In fact, while metal detecting on an old dirt road high in the Boise National Forest, I found an old railroad tie! These roads were the only option for travel in the past, and as such, there are thousands of items waiting to be found.
Caves can be great places to find treasure. Many caves and caverns have a history of human activity. Any location with human activity has items left behind. Be careful while searching caves.
Check any areas with evidence of human activity like fire pits, paths, and anywhere with carvings or drawings. They are not always safe, and you can easily get lost. Make sure you have a good flashlight and extra batteries!
Shipwrecks are probably the most profitable metal detecting locations of all. There is an estimated $60 billion in lost treasure tied to shipwrecks. Off the coast of the Florida Keys, the Nuestra Señora de Atocha was found and is the most valuable shipwreck recovered. There are still many shipwrecks waiting to be searched, and areas near known shipwrecks to search.
Learn some of the techniques for metal detecting underwater 👉 How to Metal Detect Underwater
Shipwrecks are normally quite deep, so you will want to make sure you are scuba trained and certified, and that your metal detector is capable of being submerged deeply. Some metal detectors can be submerged up to 250 feet.
30. Old Amusement Parks
There are around 1,000 abandoned amusement parks in the United States. These areas were once crawling with people so there is no doubt there is opportunity for finding lost treasures.
Some of these may be privately owned or owned by the city or towns, so make sure you have the proper permissions to metal detect in abandoned amusement parks.
31. Construction Sites
Many times, when new construction is going up, relics from the past are dug up. Check with the construction company and see if they will give you permission to metal detect before they erect their new buildings.
Many buildings are put up in areas where old buildings and settlements have stood for centuries. There are countless relics waiting to be found in these areas. While they have the large construction equipment digging around, why not check the dirt piles and freshly exposed earth!?
32. Private Property
Private property is always one of the best bets for metal detectorists. Many of these areas have never been metal detected so any items that may have dropped, past or present, are just waiting to be found.
Metal Detecting Tip: One of my most popular articles is about getting permission for private land. Read it here 👉 How to get permission to detect private property
Many fields, croplands, homesteads, and grazing lands have been used for centuries for one thing or another. These are great places to find relics.
Be sure you work out something with the property owner concerning the items you find. Does the property owner want the items? Do you get to keep them? It is always best to get permission in writing to metal detect and include in that what will become of the items you find.
Old cemeteries are great places to metal detect. You will have to have permission to metal detect in any cemetery. Always make sure you are respectful when metal detecting in cemeteries. These are resting places for people’s loved ones, so respect is necessary. Any items you find should be disclosed to the cemetery owner. These may be family items that can be returned.
Metal Detecting Tip: Treasure hunting doesn’t mean making a mess, digging holes and destroying historic sites. Use some ethics and preserve history. Sharing pictures and documenting the location and researching the back story is the most important part of finding treasure. Read my article 👉 Metal Detecting Rules, Ethics and Laws
When searching in cemeteries, always avoid searching too close to someone’s grave. These areas may give off signals due to items being buried with loved ones. It is more respectful to avoid the graves and search the areas around the cemetery instead. Try searching near any large trees, near the roads and any walking paths, and paths between graves.
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Get the Dirt: Wrapping Up the Best Places for Metal Detecting Adventures!
This list is by no means inclusive, but these are my favorite places to metal detect. Any area where humans have travelled or settled, there will be relics and items to find. Places where recreational activities are common will likely yield newer items. Old homesites, camps, and roads are great places to find relics.
As you metal detect these locations, be sure you are always respectful. You are an ambassador of our hobby, and if we leave a mess behind, we will see increased regulations. Always fill in all holes you dig. Always clean up any trash you find and haul it out. Always seek permission to metal detect. And, always have fun!
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