Places to Pan Gold in California

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Gold Hunters can still find gold in some California lakes and rivers. Prospectors must contact the California Bureau of Land Management (BLM) for permits or risk a fine.

Bishop Creek

Bishop Creek in the Sierra Nevada Mountain range near Bishop, CA.
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Bishop Creek is located just 16 miles out of Bishop. Gold Hunters taking South Ford Road should see the creek on the left side of the road. Bishop creek does not often give up nuggets, but it is a good place for beginners.

American River Valley

Flake of gold found in river panning in Northern California
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The American River Valley a good place for beginner to intermediate prospectors, the valley is a part of the Auburn State Recreation Area. Look for gold in the exposed bedrock or pan for gold in the river.

South Yuba Trail

Panning equipment and prospecting tools for sale in store
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South Yuba’s various trails have carried gold hunters into the foothill river canyons of northern California since the original gold rush. Today, there are still mining claims near the trail. BLM offers a detailed map of designated prospecting areas and where the current claims are located (see Resources).

Tahoe National Forest

Trees next to a stream in Tahoe National Forest
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Tahoe National Forest offers a number of areas that are excellent for prospecting. Prospectors should look for gold near these campsites: Indian Valley, Oregon Creek, Union Flat and Wild Plum.

Angeles National Forest

Pieces of quartz with gold and nuggets found by prospector in California
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Prospectors can find quartz gold and even small nuggets in the Angeles National Forest. The area where prospecting is allowed begins at the East Fork bridge and ends just past the Cattle Guard bridge.


  • How to Get Rich in the California Gold Rush; Tod Olson, Scott Allred; 2008
  • National Geographic guide to family adventure vacations, wildlife encounters, cultural explorations and learning escapes in the U.S. and Canada; Candyce H. Stapen; 1999


About the Author

Anastasia Zoldak is an experienced freelance writer and researcher based in Chicago. She has been a professional writer since 2007. Zoldak has an undergraduate degree in business, which she has used in a variety of industries, including retail, sales and recruiting. Prior to becoming a writer, she ran a successful business.

Photo Credits

  • David Paul Morris/Getty Images News/Getty Images