Find gold and gems throughout San Diego

by Sandra De La Torre


Just because the California Gold Rush has passed doesn’t mean the hunt for treasure is complete. Whether individuals would rather experience a day in the life of an 1800s San Diego miner or embark on adventures of their own, this county has a wealth of opportunities.

PioneerWays Adventure, a family-owned business in Julian, offers train rides through a narrow gage that provides an opportunity for individuals to tour a real mine from the Gold Rush.

The tour shows some of the  artifacts miners used in their original locations. Tour guides and other employees are dressed in outfits reflecting the era, making the experience much more authentic.

“You get to step back into 1800s,” co-owner of the ranch, Lisa Smith, said.

After the tour, visitors can pan for their own gold in sluice boxes. Although these gold nuggets are not real, they can be exchanged for licorice afterward.

“The tour is hands-on, interactive, educational and historical, and in my opinion it’s good for (people) of all ages,” Smith said.

The PioneerWays tour costs $14 and is available Monday through Saturday by reservation only.
If a train tour isn’t authentic enough, those seeking real gold and gems at an affordable price can visit the Julian Mining Company.

Here, individuals can use a gem and mineral sluice to find a variety of gems in the ore provided, including turquoise and quartz, or simply pan for gold.

Panning sessions include demonstrations on how to pan for gold, and are usually followed by directions to the panning area where gold seekers can show off their newfound skills. Sessions can take around 45 minutes, but individual times may vary.

“Some people stay all day. (It’s) something that requires practice and technique and it depends on interest,” Julian Mining Company co-owner Ryan Cross said.

The Julian Mining Company is only open on weekends and reservations must be made in advance. Prices for the gem and mineral sluice start at $7.95 and gold panning starts at $8.95.

The Oceanview Mine is the last real operating gem mine in the Pala mining district.  It has been around since 1907 and follows traditional mining practices. Operations are stopped for a few days out of the week so the public can enter.

While this tour is more expensive, individuals are able to experience a real operating mine and can look for and take home whatever gems they find, as long as they don‘t mind getting their hands a little dirty.

The tour costs $60 per person and individuals are advised to bring water, food and comfortable shoes as well as storage containers. The mine is open from 10:30 a.m. to 3 p.m and requires reservations.

With so many options available near San Diego, aspiring miners can explore the history of San Diego’s Gold Rush and bring home their own treasures.