We were traveling between Tucson and Las Cruces and looking for a fun overnight stop. This place caught my attention. It literally has hidden gems - jasper, opal, quartz, and more - that you can hunt for and keep. The whole trip we have been telling the kids they can’t take rocks from the parks, and this park advertises itself as a place where you can collect rocks and gems. Sold! To Rockhound State Park we went.
It’s located on the outskirts of Deming, NM at the base of the Little Florida Mountains. We called ahead to see if there was any availability and were told that there were a few first come first serve sites available at the moment. We arrived just before sunset and all of the developed sites were already taken. The camp host told us we could dry camp at any of the pull outs near the visitor center for $8/night. Worked for us!
In the morning we took the mile long Thunder Egg Loop Trail that provides access to the rocky slopes overlooking the campground. There are a few spurs off of the main trail that are also good for rock hunting.
There are some boulders along the trail that the kids enjoyed playing on. You can see veins of various minerals in some of them.
Remind your children to watch out for snakes! Thankfully we did not see any, but we were warned that there are Diamondback rattlesnakes frequently sighted in the area. We were excited to find a Tarantula. You can pick up a brochure on Tarantulas in the Visitor’s Center, which our kids used for their Roadschooling journals. Did you know that Tarantulas get bald on their abdomen when they get old? They also have claws that retract like a cat!
We also sighted a Praying Mantis - quite possibly the largest one we had ever seen.
As we crept along the trail we found some really neat rocks. Mostly we found jasper, but some quartz, several geodes, a little bit of opal, and tiny bit of perlite. It probably would have been good to bring some picks, hammers, chisels or other rockhounding tools.
There’s nothing quite like the excitement of finding a hidden gem. Discovering sparkling geodes were especially exciting. We examined some of the larger ones and kept some smaller finds, which they will add to their Rock Collection. You can download our free Rock Exploration Sheet on our AHG Geology Badge post.
The Visitor’s Center has a display of rocks and minerals found in the area. I would recommend going before you go on the hike so you know what you are looking for, but they do not open until 10am and we only had the morning to spend there. The lady working at the Visitor's Center was extremely kind and helpful. She’s happy to help you identify your cool finds. You can also see how the various rocks look once they are tumbled and polished. The kids have all added a rock tumbler to their wish list.
On our way to the Visitor’s Center (the adobe building in the background) we spotted this Juvenile Red Tail Hawk which was kind enough to let me walk right up to it to take its picture. Between the scenery, wildlife, and rocks, we sure loved this hidden gem!
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