Anyone Can Strike It Rich (In Experience) At These 4 Colorado Gold Panning Spots

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Photo: Digital Western History Collection | Gold Panning Idaho Springs - DPL
Miner with gold pan, pick, and shovel panning on banks of Clear Creek near Idaho Springs, Colorado; a canvas frame tent and sluice box in background. The location is near where gold was first discovered in Colorado.

Panning for gold may sound like a relic of Colorado's gold rush past, but prospecting lives on today. You won't get rich -- most of the big deposits were picked off in the 19th century -- but you'll still dredge up gold flakes and other colorful minerals in your pan. Gold prospector Garret Romaine wrote a book for Falcon Guides, "Gold Panning Colorado," detailing the best panning spots across the state. We share a few of his favorites here and their GPS locations, ranging from mountainous creeks to city parks.


Where To Look: There are several areas around the town that are primed for prospecting.

South Fork - 37.94227, -107.89861

Tomboy Mine - 37.93874, -107.75899

Gold Creek - 37.88504, -107.85485

When To Go: Fourth of July through early summer

What You'll See: If you're panning around Gold Creek, you'll see plenty of photogenic ruins from the area's gold rush days. Mining put Telluride on the map in 1875 long before it became a skiing hotspot. Afterward, take your winnings into town: downtown Telluride offers a variety of restaurants, brewpubs and shops.

Cherry Creek Public Area

Where To Look: Where Cherry Creek enters the south fork of the Platte River in Confluence Park.

Confluence Park - 39.75471, -105.00802

When To Go: Late summer for lower water, midwinter for cleaner water

What You'll See: Urban gold panning at its finest. Play prospector before attending a balmy summer evening Rockies game at the neighboring Coors Field, or hopping around hip bars in the LoDo or RiNo neighborhoods.

Taylor River

Where To Look: This site is about 25 miles northeast of Gunnison, by the Lodgepole Campground.Photo: Clear Creek tubing

Parking Area - 38.76202, -106.66212

Crash Site - 38.76633, -106.65345

Lottis Creek - 38.77646, -106.63296

When To Go: Midsummer through early fall

What You'll See: Along the Taylor River you can find the crash site of a B-24 bomber. The plane went down in July 1943, killing all 11 men onboard.

Clear Creek Public Area

Where To Look: The Jefferson County Open Space west of Golden has several opportunities for panning.

East End/Tunnel 1 - 39.74770, -105.25111

Rapids - 39.73876, -105.25988

Beach - 39.74183, -105.28605

When To Go: Late spring through fall

What You'll See: Head west to visit the small mountain town of Idaho Springs after hiking around Clear Creek. Or, go east to head back to the city of Golden to check out the Coors Brewery.