During World War II, large volumes of crystals were needed for use in two-way radios. The Crystal Mine, at Crystal Peak west of Reno in the Humboldt-Toiyable National Forest, gets its name from the quartz crystals that were extracted here. The military used dynamite to blast the hillside to reveal the seams of quartz crystals.
Today, the Crystal Peak Mine is operated by the USDA Forest Service and is open to the public. Visitors to the mine are permitted to dig within the remaining hillside for crystals. Although this location has been open to the public for decades, good specimens can be found just beneath the surface with minimal effort.
For us, this is a close-to-home excursion on the weekend.
To appropriately prepare for the first rockhounding adventure we needed to make a few local stops. First up, and probably one of my favorite locations in Reno (guilty), Twin City Surplus for some prospecting screens and assorted bullshit. TCS isn’t a typical army navy surplus, it has an extensive back lot of miscellaneous equipment. All of which sits in the Nevada desert weather year round and possesses a telltale desert finish as a result.
Next stop on the way out to Crystal Peak, The Sasquatch. Always a winner. Great eats. Fantastic attitude. Recommended if you find yourself passing through Verdi on the way to… well, anywhere.
Heading up to the Crystal Peak Mine is 9.7 miles from The Sasquatch Grill and Tavern on US 40. The road is unmaintained and in good condition considering the winter weather beating it receives. The forest service roads are well marked. On a typical weekend, there will be motos, UTVs, and random folks seeking higher altitudes and lower temps from the desert floor.
The mine itself is a distinct white and green from the quartz and other minerals that have been exposed. The climb to the top of the mine is not strenuous, even for a 3-year old. There is no mine shaft, any digging is surface excavation and the site is family safe. (Hence bringing my 3-year old).
During our visit, we spent a total of 2-hrs at the site. My little guy amassed a pile of quartz. I was a bit pickier and did find small but high-quality crystals. Keeping an eye on a preschooler, I was not able to dedicate the effort to digging that it deserved. When we did leave I was confident that if I’d been able to focus for a longer period of time, the search would have yielded a better take.
If you’re planning on spending the night in the area there is an endless primitive, dispersed camping. Within a half-mile of the Crystal Peak Mine is the USFS Lookout Campground. It is a heavily wooded area with no special characteristics. There are pit toilets, picnic tables, fire rings, and leveled tent pads.
This one is great with little ones because it’s easy and close. At the same time, you are in the backcountry and at altitude which creates a great atmosphere.
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