Best Places to Find Gold Nuggets With a Metal Detector

We help you find the best places to find gold nuggets with a metal detector.
Written By: Marc McDermott
Last Updated:

For some detectorists, gold is the ultimate find, and it has been discovered in nearly every State. Although gold is so rare it can take experienced prospector years to find, some areas can be more fruitful than others. 

So, where is the best place to find gold nuggets? We have compiled a comprehensive list of where you are most likely to detect.

Best States to Find Gold

Here is a list of the places where big gold nuggets have been discovered. Some have been so large, they are known as trophy nuggets, big enough to retire on! Since these are the best areas to search, it’s a good place for any hobby prospector to start. 


Alaska is home to several excellent places to find gold nuggets such as Games Creek where it was once possible to pay to metal detect after the bucket dredges of the area had finished. 

Other notable areas are Moore’s Creek and Nolans Creek where, although remote, it is still possible to find big nuggets. 

Otherwise, try Anvil Creek near Nome where a 182 oz nugget was once found in 1903. 


The American River is a well-known site since it was the home of the first major gold discovery. Feather River is another great place to find gold nuggets. It is the very place where the Butte nugget was discovered with a metal detector.

There are a handful of notable gold nuggets found in California. There is the Fricot nugget found in El Dorado County, one of the biggest crystalline gold nuggets discovered during the Gold Rush, but another is more notable to any hobbyist.

The Mojave Nugget, weighing 156 troy oz was found by a gold prospector using a metal detector. The largest found in the Randsburg district (one of the best for finding gold), it was unearthed in the Mojave Desert in 1977.

Other notable places include the Dale Mining District, Merced River, Angel’s Camp, Malakoff Diggins State Historic Park, and the Klamath River, famous for being home to some real lunkers as a result of dredging. 


Want to grab yourself a huge nugget? try Rich Hill in Arizona. Finding an in-road could be a challenge, as much of the area is claimed but there are some prospecting clubs to get involved with. Gold was found under boulders here as well as in the crevices of granite as well as in Weavers Creek where there were plenty of large holders found in stream gravels. 

There is a high concentration of gold-bearing towns in Yavapi County, as well as in the Bradshaw Mountains and in central Arizona, the San Domingo placers are particularly desirable.


Always be careful when trying to find gold nuggets in Nevada as the conditions make it a tricky time. But beyond the lack of water, snakes, and mountain lions, there is gold to be found. 

Known as the silver state, there is always the chance that you will find something shiny if your hobby metal detector doesn’t find you gold. Try Pershing County, Rye Patch Placers where gold has been a relatively common find since 1938 as well as Rabbit Hole and Severn Troughs which are good for metal detectorists as the gold is usually closer to the surface. 

Other notable areas include Washoe County and Ponderosa Mine in Virginia City.


With a variety of places to find gold, Oregon Beaches are a fun place for prospecting but if you want to find big gold, you will want to look to the likes of The Blue Mountains.

In East Oregon, it has a 100-mile gold belt that runs up to the border of Idaho and boasts big nuggets such as the 84 troy oz Armstrong Nugget.

Josephine Creek and Sharps Creek have also produced a fair amount of gold over the years. 

Best Countries to find Gold

If you are looking further afield, here are a couple of other options for landing that huge nugget where the chances may be a little higher in the right venue.


Striking gold is still likely thanks to places like Kalgoorlie in Western Australia where the gold rush is showing no signs of slowing up since it emerged in 1893. It was where almost 100 oz of alluvial gold was found near Mt Charlotte. It also led to the discovery of the infamous Golden Mile, known as being one of the world’s richest goldfields. 

Head out with a guide and go in the cooler fall and spring months. If you want to try other areas, visit the Golden Triangle in Victoria, Bathurst in NSW where in 1823, gold was first discovered in Australia, Clermont Queensland with a 181 hectare flat diggings site, and Tennant Creek in the Northern Territory. 


With Canada being the 5th largest gold producer in the world, it is definitely worth the trip. For gold panning, try the Vermillion River near Sudbury, or the Klondike River in Yukon, 

Fraser River in British Columbia is another good venue where prospectors have left some gold behind over the decades. For a chance of finding small nuggets, it is a good place to start your gold hunting journey. 

Ways To Find Gold

Use these techniques to make the most out of the different areas where gold is prominent. 

Panning in Creeks or Rivers

A great place for any budding prospector to start. Try looking for spots where the river runs fast but calms after passing over a bit of a rapid, or even a waterfall. This is where gold tends to collect in small, slow-flowing spots where the nuggets are not swept away.

Good spots are crucial to success and gold is more likely to collect in idle pools, crooks of the bedrock, log jams, and the spaces between boulders. 

Look for both bench deposits on the stream bank, and a streambed that is under knee-deep for the best chance of spotting that nugget. 

Metal Detecting Near an Old Mine

Modern technology means your chances of finding gold when metal detecting near an old mine is significantly increased compared to someone trying their luck in times gone by.

It is possible to find gold between the walls, in the floor of a mine, and even in the tunnel floors if it is safe and legal to do so. 

Among the old tools, tins, and buried belt buckles, there is always the chance that a miner dropped a nugget or two. 

Old mining towns that were well known for their gold-producing finds may have been exhausted long ago, but there is a reason why detectorists flock to these areas in hopes of finding that golden nugget. 

Check out our guide to the best metal detectors for gold.

Dry wash for Gold Deposits in the Desert

The desert remains one of the best places to find gold nuggets and dry washing is an easy method for any hobby prospector. 

The vibrate and push air to separate gold from gravel and using them is as simple as shoveling dirt into the machine and waiting for the gold to be separated by the machine. 

Snipe for Gold in Bedrock Cracks

Arguably one of the more challenging ways to hunt for gold, but can still yield shiny golden rewards. You have to get a little hands-on to snipe for gold in bedrock cracks but looking at exposed bedrock with cracks from heavy vegetation or exposure to the elements can help.

Essentially you are digging in cracks and cleaning out the bedrock in the right areas. It takes time and patience, some tools, and commitment to get deep into the crevices where the good gold lies.

The narrow cracks are best, so look for anything an inch wide that looks like it goes down deep. 

Suction Dredging in a River

A noisy and often expensive method, river dredging pulls streambed materials into a pipe and passes them over a sluice box to sort the different materials. This is how gold is separated.

Be sure to stay on the right side of the law and check on those all-important regulations before heading out with yours. 


Can You Find Gold Nuggets Anywhere?

Gold nuggets can be found in virtually any river in the world, although there are spots where the chances of finding that elusive shiny nugget become far more likely. 

Gold cannot be found anywhere as the time needed, and geological stability required to form gold nuggets is not the same around the world. 

Where Is The Easiest Place To Find Gold?

It is easier to find gold where the water slows in the bend of the river since it does not require a lot of extensive equipment.

The best location for finding gold is usually where it has been discovered in the past. Experts say that looking for quartzite is a good place to start since it is often found in quartz veins.

In terms of equipment, it is easier to look with a metal detector, but a lot of it is down to luck. It is possible to make your luck using better equipment, but panning for gold in places known for being rich in gold like Feather River, California will increase your chances. 

Can You Find Gold Nuggets With A Metal Detector? 

Yes, you can. It can be difficult to find gold without one and because they use a ground balance that can separate minerals from one another, it is easier to spot metals and gold nuggets. 

Some of the world’s biggest gold finds have been discovered with the use of metal detectors, and technology has never been better for hobbyists. 


So, there are plenty of places to enjoy a gold-finding break. 

The chances are that there are places known for their gold near you but if you want to have a chance of unearthing retirement sized finds, you will want to head to one of the famous gold-producing areas mentioned above.