Backpacking & Rockhounding – Two Hobbies You Should Never Let Meet

Backpacking & Rockhounding – Two hobbies you should never let meet

The backpacker spends time and money trying to achieve the ultra-light weight pack. The lighter it is, the more successful he’s been. While the rockhounder tries to fit just a few more sweet rocks into his pack & his hands. The more rocks he can come home with, the more successful he’s been. Such contrasting behaviors. These two could never be friends! Surely they should never marry! For if they did, someone is surely to have a bad back, along with some great stories & an awesome rock collection.

I know two great loves – hiking in the wilderness and geology!

I love throwing on a backpack & walking as far into a quiet natural landscape, bushwhacking through a thick forest, and then resting my bones upon some beautiful riverbank.

But when I arrive at the river bank, even after many long miles of exhaustive hiking, I just can’t help myself. You’d think I’d already be laying flat on my back in the tent. But no. Sometimes before I even get my tent up, I’m on the river bank, checking out the rocks. I’m scouring the gouged cliff sides cut by the river. I’m scoping out a day hike up to a high outcrop above camp. Maybe I should go up there tonight just to check it out!?

“Who in their right mind would think like this!?” It turns out, me. The cursed rockhounding backpacker.

As the reader, your likely either relating with the aforementioned phrase of bewilderment or you’re sitting on the page right next to me. If you’re the latter, hello to you my fellow cursed rockhounding backpacker!

Rather than helping you with this conundrum, I’m here to make it worse. I’m here to let you know you’re not alone and to encourage these pesky traits, by sharing my list of some favorite places for combining hiking with a geologic overload!

Being a backpacker and a rockhound is a heavy burden – pun definitely intended.

Happy hikin-n-houndn, my friends!

Great Areas for Hiking by a Geology Lover, in western North America


John Day Fossil Beds – Where hikes through colorful badland landscapes lead you through a story of millions of years of geologic history. (While you can’t collect in the park, the museum display at the park is truly awesome and there are great places outside of the park in the general area to rockhound as well.)

Oregon coast – Whale watching & old growth forests meets a nearby megathrust fault zone & ghost forests that tell of its active tale.

Yukon, Canada

Kluane National Park – Highest density of grizzlies & 2nd tallest peak in North America meets glaciology.


Yellowstone area – Unique ecological landscape meets geothermal features (*You should definitely check out Beartooth Highway, as well!)


Grand Canyon National Park – forever views meets a geologic history spanning a billion years (not great in general for those of you hiking with dogs. Although, the Grand Canyon rim walk with dogs is a rather lovely and fairly lengthy hike to enjoy the Canyon views with pups).

Afton Canyon in the Mojave region – Neat winter hiking terrain (not a summer spot!) with awesome opportunities for rockhounding for agates & more!


Hells Canyon & Wallowa Mountain region – Where you’ll be surprised to find “sound of music” like meadows sitting at the base of snowy mountains surrounded by deep carved green-sided canyons and a nearby vast basalt field.


Kootenai River – Beautiful teal river surrounded by mountains meets fossil stromatolites.


Olympic National Park – Snow capped peaks meet pillow basalts (plus, unlike many U. S. National Park’s, its now dog friendly!)

Mt St Helens – Mountain meadows grow out of a volcanic succession phase, with the culprit looming beautifully in the background


395 Corridor – Where an extremely scenic valley between two large mountain ranges sits right at the convergence of two American geologic wonders – Mt Whitney & Death Valley