The first building you see is an old wooden lapidary (it's where they cut and polish stones; I had to look it up) with a dog resting on the rickety porch. Around the bend you'll find the two long rows of sluicing chutes next to the registration hut, some covered picnic tables, and a couple of porta-potties hiding behind a privacy fence.
There are three mining options: Sluicing, creeking and digging. Since this is an active mine, the fee for each option includes a day-permit required to prospect. Even if you're just along for the ride, you'll need a permit to be on the grounds, unless you just want to hang at the picnic tables. Children 3 and under get in free.
Sluicing is probably the simplest option. Buy a bucket of sand and rocks (they offer different levels: "natural" and "enriched," which means they sprinkle in some non-native finds) and sift through it in the water trough next to the check-in desk.
Whichever option (or combination) you chose, when you're finished mining, a staff member will identify your gems to let you know what treasures you've discovered.
Rocky Face Mountain Recreation Area, just 10 minutes away from the mine.
This is a fun outing all around. I can't promise you'll strike it rich, but I'm pretty sure you'll create some valuable, lasting memories, and have a good time while you're at it.
How to get there:
Emerald Hollow Gem Mine is located at 484 Emerald Hollow Mine Drive, Hiddenite, NC, 28636.
Don't forget to pack:
- Water and snacks: Or pack a picnic lunch if you plan to stay a while.
- Water shoes: Something to make it easier to hop the rocks in the creek.
- Hats, sunglasses and sunscreen: The prospecting areas are mostly shaded, but don't get burned while you mine.
- Bugspray: Fend off mosquitos and ticks.