Rockhounds - new and seasoned - often are interested in finding new sites, exploring interesting places, and learning more about rocks, gems, minerals, and fossils. It's not uncommon for people to ask advice about where to go or what to do. Accordingly, below are some pieces of advice that may improve your experience. As always, if you have additional ideas, please feel free to let me know.
Join a Local Rock Club. Maybe more than one. Seriously, this is probably the single best thing you can do if you really are interested in rockhounding. You will meet some terrific people. Many of the members will have years (or decades) of experience. They will have information about local sites and, often times, they are willing to go on a field trip with you. Many clubs also have informational programs or activities for children who are interested in rockhounding. In addition, club members often can give you valuable advice about tools and gear. Many clubs also have useful reference materials. I belong to two local rock clubs (and I also help teach after-school programs to interested children).
Know the Official State Rocks. There is a reason why Gator Girl Rocks includes information about official state rocks, gems, minerals, fossils, and dinosaurs. Generally speaking, when a state makes such a designation, that particular substance either is relatively common in that area or is economically important. There are, of course, exceptions (Florida, for example, designated a state gemstone that is not found in Florida and Louisiana designated an oyster shell).
Visit Museums. Museums that emphasize natural resources and/or history often provide an outstanding opportunity to see and learn about local rock, gem, mineral, and fossil specimens. This can be a pretty good clue of what might be available.
Go To Rock & Mineral Shows. Rock, gem, mineral, and fossil shows often can be a great way to see a lot of different, high quality specimens. Often times, there also will be educational programs as well as vendors.
When Traveling, Visit Local Rock Shops. Although there are fewer and fewer rock shops these days, I try to research rock shops before we visit new areas and then try to program in the address to the family GPS when we're on vacation. I've met some truly awesome people doing this. They usually have great advice and the specimens I purchase there are way better than what you find at typical tourist shops. I also usually pack some trading specimens … which can come in handy.
Visit State and National Parks, Monuments, & Historic Sites. Although you cannot collect specimens in any National Parks, Monuments, etc. and also often cannot do so in state and local parks (there are exceptions), these areas often provide great local geologic information. Some even include ranger or expert-led programs. In addition, often times, that are areas outside of the protected area that may be open to collecting and may have similar specimens.
Visit Your Library. With the obvious exception of meteorites, the rocks you may find today also were there a generation or two ago. Accordingly, although older books, journals, and magazines will not have GPS coordinates or digital photos, they will have useful information about rocks, gems, minerals, and fossils and potential collecting opportunities. In many instances, current rockhounding site guides describe this same sites.
Visit Your State's Department of Natural Resources. Often times, certain state agencies (the state geologic survey, state department of natural resources, state department of conservation, etc.) will have a wealth of information about local rocks, gems, minerals, and fossils. Many of these agencies have well educated professionals who are very knowledgeable. Some agencies also have collections that display local specimens.
Visit Universities. Universities - especially those with geology or paleontology programs - often have excellent resources and many often have collections that display local specimens.
Don't Buy A Rock Hammer Until AFTER You Buy Eye Protection. Seriously. It only takes one swing of a rock hammer - by you or someone close by - and you could lose an eye. In addition, the reality is that there are a lot of tools that are far more useful to a beginning rockhounder than a rock hammer (e.g., a loupe, a map, a first aid kit, safety gear).
When Traveling, Visit Another Rock Club. I've done this and have always had a good time. Rock clubs usually have very friendly folks who are very welcoming of rock club members from another club. This is a great way to learn about local specimens as well as to trade specimens.
Gator Girl Rocks. Explore the tremendous content that's available on this website.