Metal Detecting in California: A Complete Guide for 2022

Wondering how to start your metal detecting adventure in California? You’ve come to the right place.

Metal detecting is a hobby where you go on an adventure and try to find anything from jewelry and coins to historic items using a metal detector. This hobby has been around for a long time. However, it burst into the scene when people found out that you can actually make really good money while metal detecting. Typically, metal detectorists detect and find rare metals like gold and silver and subsequently sell them for a profit. A high-class metal detector costs around $1000 and you can make your money back as soon as 3 metal detecting trips if you know where to look.

There is hardly any place in the United States as great as California for metal detecting. The weather is perfect for metal detecting and the land is rich with undiscovered gold and silver. Whether you want to go metal detecting on beaches, rivers, streams, creeks, ghost towns, or state parks, California offers it all. However, you should do your homework and get familiar with the Golden State’s local and federal metal detecting rules.

Metal detecting laws in California

Even though metal detecting is considered a recreational activity, we can’t disagree with the fact that you may detect something that is historically significant to the government. As a result, metal detecting laws and regulations vary from one state to the next.

California has set its own regulations for metal detecting criteria and its limitations. Furthermore, metal detecting in federal properties is regulated by the Archeological Resources Preservation Act or ARPA.

Always keep in mind that the regulations set by the state or the federal government do not apply to private properties. They just regulate the act of metal detecting in the state or federal properties. If you want to metal detect in any private property, all you need is written permission from the landowner or the tenant.

The regulations for metal detecting in the state of California are rather simple to understand. Make sure you aren’t metal detecting in any historically significant areas in California. Therefore, metal detecting or digging artifacts on any historical sites in California is prohibited. As a result, always exercise caution when excavating native mounds, burial sites, or earthworks.

Furthermore, the State of California also prohibits using metal detectors on Trust’s land without a permit. Additionally, the State of California owns all historic and prehistoric ruins located in the Forest Preserves, and they may not be destroyed without permission. Without formal authorization, metal detecting is prohibited in these preserves.

All in all, don’t dig up anything that appears like an artifact or is more than 100 years old if you’re metal detecting in California on a state or federal land. If you locate and collect a historical relic, notify officials so they can properly take care of it. In California National Parks, metal detecting is also forbidden unless prior permission has been provided. Metal detecting, on the other hand, is permitted in California’s public parks as a recreational activity. It’s conceivable that you’ll receive a permit to metal detect in designated historical sites, although this is highly unusual.

Overall, while metal detecting in California, it’s critical to understand and respect the regulations. Breaking these regulations will result in harsh consequences, such as fines or, in the worst-case scenario, jail time. If you’re looking for a new metal detecting site in California, check with your local, county, and state officials to be sure you’re fulfilling all of the requirements.

Related: Dumpster Diving in California: A Comprehensive Guide

Is it legal to metal detect in California?

Metal detecting is completely legal in California. However, the legality comes with limitations. As previously stated, metal detecting without a valid permit is forbidden on historic sites, state parks, and federal lands in California. As a result, metal detecting on California’s public lands may require a permit. Permits can be obtained over the phone or over the internet. Please contact your local park and recreation office to obtain one. It’s inexpensive, with a single unit costing about $10.

If you use common sense and just seek for jewelry, coins, and gold nuggets on public lands of California, you’ll be fine. Check with the local county office before metal detecting at a historically significant location.

Can you metal detect on BLM Land in California?

The same laws apply to metal detecting on BLM land as they do on all other California public lands. On BLM lands in California, metal detecting is permitted, but you must be cautious not to damage or expose any antiquities. Remember that, according to ARPA, the government has the authority to take any “archaeological treasures” uncovered on BLM land. Archaeological resources are tangible objects from human life or activities with archaeological importance and are at least 100 years old.

Where can you metal detect in California?

Despite the prohibition of many traditional metal-detecting areas in California, the state still boasts a few fantastic metal-detecting spots.

If you live in California, one of the first places you should go metal detecting is your hometown. Not only can knowing the history of the place save you time, but it will also help you uncover the fantastic gems. Where you metal detect and the history of the region determine what you find and how valuable it is. On average, metal detecting based on historical research will yield better results than detecting in random sites.

Some of the best places you can go for metal detecting in California are:

  1. Abandoned Buildings and Structures
  2. Abandoned Parks and Mines
  3. Old wagon train routes and Churches
  4. Native American Trails
  5. Natural Disaster Destruction Sites
  6. California Beaches, Rivers, Lakes, and Creeks
  7. School yards and Ghost Towns
  8. Civil war sites (Fort Tejon state Historic Park, Benicia Arsenal, Downtown Placerville, etc)

Is there any buried treasure in California?

California is a lovely state with lovely scenery and fascinating history. California is rumored to have a plethora of Civil War-era buried treasures. To prevent the Union Army from collecting Confederate gold and silver coins, they are claimed to be buried beneath California’s soil. Some are hiding in the shadows, waiting to be found! Despite the fact that many of these claims are not proven to be true, treasure hunters and metal detectorists remain optimistic that they will be discovered soon.

The Oak Grove TreasureOutlaws robbed a Wells Fargo wagon loaded with $30,000 in gold in 1853. The wealth was allegedly hidden in an oak wood 3 miles east of the old Rincon Stage Station and southeast of the East Fort and San Gabriel Rivers, according to legend.
The Myrtletowne Buried Treasure$125,000 worth of buried treasure is said to be buried in Myrtletowne. A stagecoach carrying gold bullion was robbed in the late 1800s. The bullion was supposedly buried near the town by the criminals.
The Borrego Valley Gold NuggetsBorrego Valley might be hiding a big number of gold nuggets in a hidden treasure. Indians assaulted a wagon convoy transporting the gold. The gold was apparently hidden in the bottom section of Borrego Valley, some five miles northeast of Carrizozo.
The Butterfield State Outlaw CacheA strongbox containing $60,000 in gold may be hidden along the Butterfield State Route. Outlaws are said to have concealed the treasure between the ruins of an ancient stagecoach station at Carrizo and the repaired station at Vallecitos, on or near the road.

Metal detecting on California Beaches

California is home to 840 miles of lush coastline. Since the Californian beaches get really busy, it is the perfect spot to detect lost jewelry and coins. As a result, you will meet a lot of fellow metal detectorists flicking over the Californian beaches in the evening for their metal detecting adventure.

As of writing this article, metal detecting on California beaches is perfectly legal. However, if you find any stuff older than 100 years, the state of California has a right to take it away from you.

Some of the most famous beaches to go for metal detecting in California are:

  1. Venice Beach, Los Angeles
  2. Zuma Beach, Malibu
  3. Carmel City Beach, Monterey
  4. Santa Monica State Beach, Santa Monica
  5. Arroyo Burro Beach, Santa Barbara

Metal detecting in California Rivers and Creeks

California is not only rich in coastline but also in rivers and creeks. It’s a great place to do metal detecting because there are so many rivers, creeks, and streams. Make sure you have adequate waterproof metal detectors while detecting in rivers and streams. The following are a few of the best rivers and creeks in California for metal detecting:

  1. American River(South Fork), El Dorado
  2. Atastra Creek, Mono
  3. Big River, Mendocino
  4. Bell Creek, Tuolumne
  5. Big Sycamore River, Los Angeles

Metal detecting in Ghost Towns of California

The California landscape is littered with hundreds of abandoned villages and ghost towns. These are the towns where mining used to be done, but people left as the ore ran out. All in all, people fled to other cities and towns for various other reasons.

All of the villages and towns in California’s ghost towns have been abandoned. These California towns have a lengthy and illustrious history. Metal detecting in California’s ghost towns may also necessitate municipal approval. After determining if you require a permit and obtaining one, California’s ghost towns will quickly become one of your favorite metal detecting places.

Historical relics may be found in these Ghost towns. Coins, fine jewelry, and other valuables abound in these California ghost towns.

Some of the popular ghost towns in California for metal detecting are:

  1. Bankhead Springs, San Diego
  2. Lockhart Ranch, San Bernadino
  3. Mormon Island, Sacramento
  4. Lost Horse Mine, Riverside
  5. Spenceville, Nevada

Metal detecting clubs in California

One of my favorite activities is metal detecting in California since it allows me to reconnect with old acquaintances while also making new ones. If you want to meet new people and go on a metal detecting trip with them, I highly recommend joining a metal detecting organization in California.

Metal detecting has grown in popularity in recent years, with clubs springing up all across the country. The club’s members are active and supportive of one another. These groups come together once a month to show off their treasures, plan their next trip, and talk about how to evaluate the diversity and worth of their finds.

Metal detecting groups might be a great way to find out about new treasure-hunting spots. If you’re a newbie, setting up your metal detector for a specific location might be difficult. As a result, joining a metal detecting club is a fantastic way to deal with this problem.

There are various wonderful metal detecting organizations in California. Whether you’re a beginner or a seasoned hunter, metal detecting organizations in California can help you improve your skills.

Metal detecting clubs are not required to have an internet presence. As a consequence, you may join Facebook groups to network with other California metal detectorists and share your knowledge.

Some of the best Metal detecting clubs in CA are:

  1. Treasure Hunters Society Of Santa Clara Valley, Campbell
  2. San Joaquin Valley Treasure Hunters Metal Detecting, Clovis
  3. Mount Diablo Metal Detectors Club, Concord
  4. Treasure Seekers of San Diego, Escondido
  5. West Coast Prospectors & Treasure Hunters Association, Garden Grove
  6. California Wreck Divers, Manhattan Beach

Similarly, some of the most popular Metal Detecting Facebook groups in CA are:

  1. Metal Detecting Group CA
  2. Northern Cali Metal Detecting
  3. South CA Metal Detecting
  4. Metal Detecting Finds and Advice

Final Thoughts

Overall, California is an excellent area to satisfy your metal detecting needs. Nature, history, weather, and permissive legislation all contribute to the enjoyment of this activity in California. Just make sure you’re familiar with California’s metal detecting regulations before attempting it in public. If you’re going to private property, be sure you get the landowner’s permission first, otherwise, you might be punished with trespassing.