• Caelen Burand

Rockhounding Utah: Vernal

A short drive north of the lovely town of Vernal takes you into a geologically rich landscape with the added bonus of lovely rockhounding!




Our Finds:

The area has a variety of possibilities while rockhounding. While the petrified wood, jasper, and other related materials is on par, we found a true gem in the blue common opal geodes! These geodes are hosted in a light grey stone and are sky blue inside! In addition there are spectacular calcite crystals that accompany the opal! The agate and other materials are strewn throughout the layers and are commonly found in conjunction with the geodes but because of the outstanding nature of these specimens we'll focus our attention on helping you find these geodes.

The blue opal is hosted in a hard mudstone material that appears light to dark grey, externally it is difficult to correctly identify as there are many grey round rocks. All of these may contain the common opal thus we recommend breaking some of the rocks to aid in identification. We did learn that the heavier stones generally were more likely to have the blue opal inside.



The layers along highway 191 are geologically intriguing, displaying bright banding that are perfect for rockhounding! We found that the lower layers held little but midway up the layers, slightly below the red Morrison formation, were the best! The layers are well picked over, instead we recommend searching the drainages where torrential downpours in the early summers concentrate material.

Searching for the light blue opal in the geodes was particularly prosperous in the drainages, where their additional weight acted to pull them into the drainages. Unfortunately the large grey geodes only rarely contain the blue agate so we recommend having a rock hammer or light chisels to peek inside of the geodes. Furthermore walking south on highway 191 towards areas that are slightly less accessible proved to be prosperous as these areas were much less picked over than the drainages near the turnoff.

Sadly, we were simply passing through Vernal and were unable to spend many days rockhounding there. The result is that we were not able to explore as much as we would have enjoyed, if you have the time, we believe there must be far more prosperous areas nearby, we marked one of these on the map.


Nearby Amenities/Attractions:

We could not suggest rockhounding in Vernal without highlighting the nearby geologic marvels, primarily Dinosaur National Monument. This national monument straddles the Colorado-Utah border and is 328 square miles of dinosaur rich sedimentary deposits! We were astounded by the fossils and geologic formations of the monument, particularly "the wall." This wall of dinosaur bones is a 30' x 200' section of partially excavated dinosaurs! It includes over 2,200 differing bones from over 200 different dinosaurs! It is unlike any other quarry in the world! We include a link to the national park service's webpage below.

In addition, the site is adjacent to Red Fleet state park, where there are various exposures of dinosaur tracks and sits to the south of Flaming Gorge Reservoir, a beautiful canyon exposing 33 different geologic layers that encompass nearly 3 billion years of geologic history! Below we have attached a link to a geologic self-tour of the reservoir.


The Maps:

Below is the copy of our google map highlighting the area we found to host the blue opal geodes. Additionally the map includes a site we DID NOT visit but believe it would be prosperous and less picked over. We encourage you to search there too.

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