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Lucky Strikes

Want to pan for gold, take a tour of a mine, or see first-hand how miners lived? The West has a bonanza of gold destinations.

Coloma Boy Gold Panning
Photo caption
A young miner in Coloma, Calif., looks for a flash of color.


El Dorado Gold Mine Ride a train to an active mining site and pan for gold with guaranteed results. Fox, 10 miles north of Fairbanks. (866) 479-6673,

Klondike Gold Rush National Historical Park The park has two divisions: one in Seattle, where miners bought supplies before heading north, and the other in Skagway, Alaska, where they took off for the Yukon Territory. The Seattle site offers interactive exhibits highlighting the city’s role. (206) 220-4240, In Skagway, rangers lead walking tours of the Skagway Historic District, and if you have three to five days, you can hike the arduous 33-mile Chilkoot Trail in the footsteps of the miners. (907) 983-2921,


Empire Mine State Historic Park Learn about hard-rock mining at one of the largest and most productive gold mines in California’s history. Outside Grass Valley. (530) 273-8522,

Goldrush Originals Offer gold panning tours. 1227 S. Main St., Angels Camp, (209) 736-0044.

Malakoff Diggins State Historic Park See where miners once used jets of water to blast away a mountainside. North Bloomfield Road, 27 miles north of Nevada City. (530) 265-2740,


Crystal Gold Mine Spot gold in the walls on underground tours of this 1880s mine. 51931 Silver Valley Rd., Kellogg, (208) 783-4653,

Idaho Museum of Mining and Geology Open April through October. See a re-creation of a miner’s camp and an authentic mining elevator. 2455 Old Penitentiary Rd., Boise, (208) 368-9876,


Libby Creek Recreational Gold Panning Area Bring your own pan and keep what you find. Rudimentary camping in the panning area, developed campground one mile away. Go 13 miles south from Libby on Highway 2, then 10 miles in on Libby Creek Road, a well-maintained gravel route. (406) 293-7773,


Eldorado Canyon Mine Tours Explore an underground 1880s gold mine about an hour from Las Vegas. Highway 165, just east of Nelson. (702) 291-0026,

Gold Quarry Mine Tours of this massive—and massively productive—open-pit gold mine begin at the Northeastern Nevada Museum in Elko the second Tuesday of the month, April through October. (775) 778-4068.


Little Applegate River Two sites here—Little Applegate and Tunnel Ridge—are open for panning. Little Applegate Road, about 11 miles from Jacksonville. Medford Bureau of Land Management, (541) 618-2200.

National Historic Oregon Trail Interpretive Center Watch living history demonstrations, see a five-stamp mill, and pan for gold at an old mine along the Oregon Trail. About five miles east of Baker City. (541) 523-1843,

Yellowbottom Recreation Site Pan for gold in a scenic area with an easily accessible creek. Camping available. Quartzville Backcountry Byway, 20 miles northeast of Sweet Home. Oregon State BLM office, (503) 375-5657,


South Pass City State Historic Site Includes the Gold Mining Interpretive Center and 45 original gold rush buildings. Off Highway 28, 35 miles south of Lander. (307) 332-3684.

Photography by Chris Cheadle/Alamy

This article was first published in March 2010. Some facts may have aged gracelessly. Please call ahead to verify information.