Glitter Mountain: Arizona’s Hidden Gem

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“Hey, that kid’s got a pickax. Do you think we can borrow his? Why didn’t you bring one to Glitter Mountain?”

 

“…Paul Bunyan is still borrowing it…”

 

Not necessarily the conversation I thought I’d be having while on my Thanksgiving vacation. Or ever. And yet, my baby brother was asking me for a pickax since my 2 hammers weren’t sufficient apparently.

 

By now, you’re probably wondering what in the world we were doing. Here’s the background…

 

My family spent Thanksgiving last year in St. George, Utah, which was a first for all of us. Before Thanksgiving, St. George was a potty-stopping-McDonals-drive-thru-gas-up kind of place. We never had any reason to stop and explore the hidden wonders around this particular corner of Utah. 

 

Now? I can’t wait to go back and explore some more!

 

So what can you do with both teenage boys and 4-7 year-old girls? Fortunately, my sister found the answer: Glitter Mountain.

 

Located just south of the Utah/Arizona border, lies an old gypsum mine. Known by locals as Glitter Mountain, Sparkle Mountain, or just the Old Gypsum Mine, it really lives up to it’s name. As you approach the location, the sunlight catches the gypsum on the ground and in the rock, creating a glittering effect. 

 

The "glitter from" Glitter Mountain

 

I love glitter.

 

When we arrived to the mine, there were already a ton of people milling around: teenagers too cool to have fun, kids hacking away at the mine, and a few gung-ho adults with full-on shovels, coolers, and buckets. They were literally digging for treasure.

 

Glitter Mountain in all it's glory

 

Walking up to Glitter Mountain

 

My brothers and I headed down to find our location where we could start looking for our jewels. Since I failed to bring a pickax (silly me), we used the back side of 2 hammers.

 

Brothers going at Glitter Mountain with a hammer

 

Quick geology lesson: gypsum is a soft, clear mineral sedimentary composite.

 

What does that mean?

 

It flakes. It’s brittle. And mostly clear, once you wash off the red.

 

Holding the gypsum

 

After I took this picture, I was able to break it with only 3 fingers.

 

 

 

 

 

Getting to Glitter Mountain is somewhat of an adventure in it of itself. When we got everyone into the car, I pulled up the email my sister had sent me with the “directions” from Pinterest. I thought it was going to be easy to find this place…but I was wrong.

 

 

I ended up working off of a hand-drawn map from The Salt Project.

 

 

Isn’t that fantastic? 

 

 

Related: The Survivor’s Guide to Driving in Salt Lake City

 

You end up driving down south of St. George, turning right onto a dirt road “under the overpass,” and then turn again at the cattle corral. Oh. My. Goodness. I have a Honda Civic. Although we were able to make the trip just fine, we passed mostly trucks, jeeps, SUVs, and minivans. Just drive slow. There are tons of potholes.

 

What you need to know before you visit Glitter Mountain:

 

*Bring water. You literally drive into the middle of nowhere, Arizona.

 

*If you want to attack the wall for your gypsum (instead of just picking it up off of the ground), I recommend bringing a pickax or a hammer/screwdriver combo. I even saw a kid with a crowbar…

 

*Bring a bucket or bag, or something to carry your jewels in. If you try to keep them in your pockets, they’ll chip/shatter/leave shards all up in your clothes.

 

*Wear glasses when chipping at the mine. The gypsum flakes off really easily and I’d imagine it would hurt if you get shards in your eyes! I made my nieces and brothers wear mine.

 

*Although hand-drawn, the map above is really accurate and there’s no real location for Google maps.

 

*The best time of day to visit is in the morning, when the sun is on the East side of the mine!

 

 

Have you ever heard of Glitter Mountain? Would you drive into the unknown in search of such a place?



 

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24 thoughts on “Glitter Mountain: Arizona’s Hidden Gem

  1. Arizona is truly a n explorer’s haven! This glitter mountain is the most unique I’ve ever heard. I’ve heard about the rainbow mountain of Arizona but this one is equally unique.

  2. Glitter Mountain looks like so much fun, talk about digging in your own backyard lol. Thanks for the geology lesson on gypsum too, very interesting. That’s amazing to know there’s only a hand-drawn map to get there, it must be quite unknown to most outsiders. I’ll take your advice and definitely bring my glasses when digging!

  3. What an interesting place to visit! I can’t believe how crumbly the gypsum is and how clear it looks – sounds like you made do with your hammer. Sometimes Google Maps just doesn’t do the job and you need an old fashioned hand drawn map haha

  4. really cool. never heard of Glitter Mountain before. it looks like a really experience and also give the chance to get hand on with some unique nature!

  5. Oh, I love glitters too & outdoor adventures… so a glittering mountain seems perfect for me! And the idea of going there with a hand-written map, so fun! 😉 and digging for glittering stones, what a cool adventure!!!

  6. Glitter mountain looks like a great day of family fun. The surrounding landscape is gorgeous. And beating on something with a hammer is always a fun stress reliever. Best of all you can take home some pretty gypsum!

  7. This sounds so fun! I’m from Arizona (living in CA now) and have never heard of Glitter Mountain. Arizona is full of secret surprises. How awesome that you got to go here with tour family.

  8. Haha, this is why paper maps RULE! So rare to find a place that suits all ages AND where you can actually pick your own souvenirs!! I wonder will you get requests for repeat visits from the teenagers?? And what DO you do with all that gypsum you ‘harvested’? Cool adventure – getting weird is one of the joys of life, haha!

    1. Haha we’ll see if the boys ask to go again. My mom took the gypsum to her school to show the kids and do a little lesson on geology. My friend has used them for wedding centerpieces! Who knew??

  9. This looks like a fun and unusual activity! I am from the UK and would love to see more of America! Will definitely look into this when we head to Arizona.

  10. I haven’t heard about Glitter Mountain ever. It sounds great to spend some time digging into it. I loved your practical tips as one should be well aware of everything before heading to the place in Arizona.

  11. Wow, I never heard about the Glitter mountain but it does seem like so much fun. These are the kind of adventures I crave for all the time, I’m sure the kids had an amazing time. Thanks for sharing.

  12. Glitter Mountain sounds so cool! Definitely an activity suitable for the whole family! It reminds me a lot of the “Wild Wild West” section of a theme park we used to visit as a kid — they had a fake glitter/gold mine there and you could take home what you “found”.

  13. I’m reading of glitter mountain for the first time and I must say I’m wowed. I never thought Arizona had such remarkable mountain glittering. I’d be so amazed that I won’t do much but stare mouth open at the treasure on my first visit.

  14. Glitter Mountain sure looks like it arrived in the middle of nowhere. Digging out treasures is surely something I am always up for. Great pictures and I’d love to visit there one day for sure.

  15. Oh wow! Those definitely look gorgeous! I’d like to own a few pieces as well!
    But is it allowed to chip it? Over the next few decades, the mountain might vanish!!! Lolz…
    I’ve been mesmerized by Arizona’s landscape so much and I’ve been wanting to explore them since long!
    Hope I’ll get to visit the American continent sometime in future!

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