North Pole Spring
The area surrounding North Pole Spring has an abundance of schist bearing garnet exposed on the surface. The majority of garnets are smaller than BB’s, however garnets up to 1 1/4 inch have been found in the area.
When to visit: Spring, Fall, Winter (if dry), Summer (if cool)
What you can find: Almandine Garnet
What to bring: Rock hammer, chisels, pick axe, buckets, backpack, water, snacks.
Where to stay: The town of Custer is 8 miles to the east and offers hotels, camping, and food. Dispersed camping is allowed in many areas of the Black Hills National Forest, check updated travel maps for ensure you are camping in an authorized area.
Getting there: From Custer, South Dakota travel west on Mt Rushmore Rd / HWY. 16 for 7.6 miles then turn right on N Pole Rd. Drive 0.6 miles until you see a forest service road off to the right. The forest service road can be traveled to more easily reach the hills further to the east. N Pole Rd. is well maintained and can be traveled by any vehicle when dry. 4WD is recommended for traveling the forest service road.
(UPDATED 8-16-23 – This location was claimed by a company searching for gold in the Black Hills. Forest service information is unclear as to whether surface hunting claims on forest service is permitted or not. Hound at your own risk.)
The hills surrounding North Pole Spring have an abundance of schist that is typically loaded with small almandine garnets. Explore any of the schist out cropping’s in the area for a chance to find bigger garnets embedded in the schist. Once you find good garnets a chisel works well to extract them. Many loose garnets have been found by walking the forest service road leading back into the hills. Although the road way has been well picked over, new erosions still expose fresh loose garnets in the dirt.