Lost In The Wilderness: The Search For Abandoned Gold Mines In The USA

When I was a teenager, my family vacationed in Colorado. We drove up the Rocky Mountains and stopped at an old gold mine that had been abandoned years ago. 

While there, I got this idea in my head what if there were hundreds more like it out there? That’s how my obsession with abandoned mines began. 

Since then, I’ve explored dozens of them all over the United States (and even Canada!). They’re full of history, mystery and adventure; but what makes them so interesting is that they’re not always easy to find. Here are some tips for finding these hidden gems:

Abandoned mines pose a significant environmental and health risk.
The hazards associated with abandoned mines include the release of toxic chemicals, unstable structures, and dangerous equipment.
Responsibility for addressing abandoned mines can vary, with private companies, individuals, or the government taking on the responsibility.
Identifying and locating abandoned mines can be a challenge, as can securing funding for cleanup efforts.
Efforts to address the issue of abandoned mines can include cleanup and remediation, enforcement of regulations and laws, and prevention of new abandoned mines.

Digging In The Right Places

If you’re looking to find an abandoned mine, the best places to look are areas that have been mined before. 

This can include:

  • Old gold camps and towns, like those in California or Alaska.
  • The banks of rivers, where many prospectors used to pan for gold during the 1800s.
  • Any area with natural landmarks such as a river or mountain these are often where miners would set up camp and do their mining work.

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Reading Old Maps

When you’re looking for a long-lost gold mine, it’s important to have a map.

Maps are guides. They help us get from Point A to Point B, but they also provide us with the ability to see where we came from and where we’re going. Maps help us make decisions about which roads we should take and when it might be better to take another route entirely.

Maps are an invaluable resource when it comes to locating abandoned gold mines. Without them, you may never have any idea where one is located or even what part of the country has the best chance of having some buried treasure!

If you’re just starting out on your search for lost treasure and need some guidance as far as what steps will lead you down this path successfully, check out these helpful tips below:

Using A Compass

The first thing you’ll need to know is how to use a compass. The needle inside the compass always points north, so once you determine what direction that is and which way it’s pointing, all you have to do is keep walking in that direction until you reach your goal.

It’s important not only that you know where north is but also how far away from it your target lies. A GPS will help you with this task, but if none are around (or no one brought one), there are other ways of finding out. 

One good method involves using the stars: look for Polaris (the North Star), then walk toward it until it appears above the horizon before turning 90 degrees left or right and continuing along in this direction until all three stars form an equilateral triangle with Polaris at its center (you can see an example here). 

This will give you a rough idea as to where true north lies—but again: if possible use a GPS when searching for gold deposits!

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Knowing Your Limits

It’s important to know your limits. If you’re new to the outdoors, stick to trails and plan on doing a day hike. Know how many miles you can cover in a day and always keep an eye on the time so you can make sure that you don’t end up hiking too far. 

If something goes wrong, it won’t help if all of your gear is sitting at camp with your friends while you’re lost somewhere deep in the woods without any water or food. 

The same goes for people who are more experienced; if something happens out there, it can be just as bad as being lost while being less prepared than others around them! 

When venturing into unknown territory like this one, bring along extra supplies just in case anything unexpected happens along the way don’t rely solely upon what might already be available nearby because chances are slim that anything will actually work out perfectly according to plan anyway!

Exploring With A Group

When exploring the wilderness, going solo is not ideal. You will want to be sure to have a group of friends or family with you at all times. 

Not only does this make it easier for your group to share the workload, but it also gives each person someone else to talk to and relate with. There’s nothing worse than being stuck in silence while trekking through the woods by yourself!

Regular To Meet People At Sites You’re Interested In.

Meeting people is an important part of being a regular at a site. You can start by joining meetup groups and Facebook groups, but nothing beats meeting people in person! Google+ communities are great for this, as well. 

If you’re really lucky, you’ll find a local club or organization that meets regularly and has organized events.

If you don’t have time to go out there and meet people in person, Instagram is another way to connect with other regulars at your favorite sites. 

Simply tag the location where you took the photo in question it’s pretty easy! Just remember: when you post photos on social media sites like Instagram or Facebook, anyone can see them so make sure not to post anything personal that might give away too much information about yourself (e.g., posting pictures from inside abandoned buildings).

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Traveling Early

You should be traveling early. The best time of year to visit a national park is in the spring or fall months. You will have fewer crowds, less traffic and more time to explore. In addition, you will also get better photographs because there are not as many people in your background.

If you plan on spending your vacation exploring abandoned mines and ghost towns, it is best to travel during the winter months when most of these places are closed for the season. 

That way when they reopen in the summertime, you’ll have an advantage over everyone else because tourists tend not to visit these areas during this time of year

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Roadside Attractions

Roadside attractions. Signs of abandoned mines can be seen along the side of the road, in the woods, and in the mountains that surround it all. These are places where you might want to consider stopping if you’re looking for more information on your next move.

Finding Natural Landmarks

As you’re walking, look for natural landmarks. You can use them to guide you back to civilization. If you see a mountain or a river, use that as a marker and head in the opposite direction from it. 

In this way, if the weather clears up and you can see where these natural landmarks are, then it’s easy to retrace your steps home.

Also look for signs of people along the way: old roads with ruts worn into them; set piles of rocks or stones (called cairns); or even remains of buildings like an old barn or fire tower where someone once lived. 

These things will help keep you on track as well as give warning if someone else has been through here recently but be careful! 

Don’t try going down any paths that look like they haven’t been walked on since before the 1950s because they may not be safe anymore (i.e., they could cave in).


I hope this article has given you the confidence to try your own search for abandoned gold mines. It’s a lot of fun and can be extremely rewarding, both in terms of finding something interesting and making new friends who share your interests. And remember: exploration is never wasted time!

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Further Reading

Abandoned Mines in the Western United States: This article by Earthworks discusses the issue of abandoned mines in the Western United States, including the environmental and health hazards they pose.

Abandoned Mine Lands Site Information: This website by the Environmental Protection Agency provides information on abandoned mine lands in the United States, including their history, hazards, and cleanup efforts.

Abandoned Mines: Information on the Federal Strategy to Address Risks and Challenges: This report by the Government Accountability Office provides an overview of the federal government’s strategy for addressing abandoned mines and the challenges involved.


What are abandoned mines?

Abandoned mines are mining sites that are no longer in use or have been abandoned by their owners. These sites may contain hazardous materials, waste, or structures that pose environmental and health risks.

What are the hazards associated with abandoned mines?

Abandoned mines can pose a variety of hazards, including the release of toxic chemicals into the environment, the collapse of unstable structures, and the presence of unsecured or dangerous equipment.

Who is responsible for addressing abandoned mines?

Responsibility for addressing abandoned mines can vary depending on factors such as ownership, location, and the type of minerals that were extracted. In some cases, private companies or individuals may be responsible for cleanup efforts, while in other cases the government may take on this responsibility.

What are some of the challenges involved in addressing abandoned mines?

Challenges involved in addressing abandoned mines can include identifying and locating abandoned sites, assessing the extent of environmental and health risks, and securing funding for cleanup efforts.

What can be done to address the issue of abandoned mines?

Efforts to address abandoned mines can include cleanup and remediation efforts, enforcement of regulations and laws related to mining practices, and the development of strategies for preventing the creation of new abandoned mines.