Plan Your Trip To The Mine

Gem Mountain Sapphire Mine will open Wednesday, May 22nd 2024 at 9:30am.
We’re open year round in Downtown Philipsburg!

Gem Mountain Sapphire Mine 2024 Season

May 22nd – September 7th

Open Wednesday – Saturday 9:30 am to 5:30pm
Closed Sunday, Monday, and Tuesday – Visit us Downtown!

First come, first served

If you have a large group or want to guarantee space check out our VIP Section!

Cliff Notes Information

  • There is no cell phone service at the Sapphire Mine or nearby, please download the directions
    · If using Google or Apple Maps look up “Gem Mountain Sapphire Mine”
    · We do not recommend any other navigation systems!
  • Don’t forget to wear “mining” clothes aka clothes that can get dirty, washing gravel buckets can be a messy operation!
  • All equipment is provided by Gem Mountain. Our friendly team will do all the heavy lifting and guide you in your search for sapphires.
  • Bring a jacket, bug spray, sun screen, a hat and a camera.
  • Pack a picnic lunch, if you want. We have cold drinks, bottled water is still only 50 cents, and a limited selection 
of frozen microwave food.
  • Please check the weather.
    · The gravel wash trough is outdoors with only a few covered areas. Pack appropriate clothing for any kind of weather. A cool morning can quickly turn into a hot afternoon, which can just as quickly cool off 15 degrees with an afternoon thunderstorm. Snow is common in June and September.

P.S. If you’re “of that age”, bring your “readers” or a child.
It makes finding the sapphires a lot easier.

The Ultimate Guide to Visiting Gem Mountain Sapphire Mine

Planning Your Route
The Gem Mountain Sapphire Mine is located on Highway 38 also known as Skalkaho Road. There is not cell phone service for many miles before you arrive so be sure to load the directions before you depart. If you’re using Google or Apple Maps type in “Gem Mountain Sapphire Mine” if you use an address you could be routed to the wrong place. We do not recommend using any other navigation system, many have outdated data and get people lost. Give yourself some extra time to take the drive slowly, you’re likely to see a wide variety of wildlife including moose, deer, elk, and bighorn sheep so slow down and enjoy the beautiful drive to the middle of nowhere.
Coming from the North, East or South - Butte, Helena, Great Falls, Bozeman, and Yellowstone National Park:

From Anaconda, shown in the map above, travel approximately 18 miles to Skalkaho Pass Road, MT Hwy 38 (six miles south of, and before, you get to Philipsburg). After you pass Georgetown Lake and come down the “grade”, take it easy across the flat. Slow down as soon as you see the green “Skalkaho Pass Road” and “Hamilton” highway signs. You will be turning LEFT while the highway is making a right-hand curve. This is a DANGEROUS CORNER, and it is easy to miss the LEFT TURN. Travel 16 miles west to our driveway and turn right at the Gem Mountain sign. Large RVs and towing units can ignore the big yellow warning signs about narrow winding roadways. The road is paved and suitable for all vehicles the entire way to our driveway. We have plenty of RV parking. If you end up in Philipsburg, you’ve traveled six miles too far. We have a Downtown Location, stop in our store and look around!

Coming from the West or Northwest - Missoula, Spokane, Kalispell, Glacier National Park, or Flathead Lake:

The Sapphire Mine is located 22 miles west of Philipsburg, map above is from Philipsburg to Gem Mountain Sapphire Mine. Continue south on HWY 1 six miles past Philipsburg to the green highway signs that say “Hamilton” and “Skalkaho Pass Road” and turn right. Travel 16 miles west to our driveway and turn right at the Gem Mountain sign. You can’t miss it! Large RVs and towing units can ignore the big yellow warning signs about narrow winding roadways. The road is paved and suitable for all vehicles the entire way to our driveway. We have plenty of RV parking. Stop for gas and groceries in Philipsburg!

Coming from the Bitterroot Valley - Hamilton, Stevensville, Darby, Triple Creek Ranch, and Salmon, Idaho:

If you are comfortable driving narrow (we mean really narrow, like two cars can’t pass each other in many places), winding (so narrow and winding trailers over 20 feet might not make it), gravel (the washboards can get bad during the summer) road with huge drop offs and no guard rails…. Skalkaho Pass Road (blue route on the map) is a huge time saver and beautiful drive. From US 93 one mile South of Hamilton turn east on MT Hwy 38, “Skalkaho Highway”. Travel east 38.4 miles to our driveway. Plan on spending a few minutes at Skalkaho Falls (18 miles from our driveway), and a short hike out the Boardwalk at Mudd Lake (there is nothing muddy about it, it’s beautiful). This route is NOT suitable for RVs, towing units, big road bikes (Harley, Goldwing, etc.) because it is narrow, winding and dirt/gravel. This route is not for the faint of heart and those afraid of heights and drop offs. Skalkaho Pass Road is one of the last “dirt” State Highways. It is well maintained during the summer. If you’re up for it, take Skalkaho Pass Road for the spectacular views, opportunities to see wildlife, Skalkaho Falls, Mudd Lake, Sand Basin and the Gem Mountain Sapphire Mine (where the pavement ends on the east side). Philipsburg is an additional 22 miles east on paved roads. If you’re not up for the Skalkaho Pass Road you can take the paved way that routes you around through Missoula. Pick up snacks in Philipsburg and then come see us! 

Finding Your Own Sapphires

In the store you’ll purchase your gravel! Our most popular gravel item is the Natural Sapphire Gravel Bucket. The $40 Gravel Bucket is 2 gallons, approximately 25 pounds of 100% natural sapphire gravel and will fill the screening tool 3 or 4 times. 

For first time visitors, a single bucket will take one person approximately 45 minutes to wash. For returning customers or those with some experience, a single bucket will take one person approximately 20 to 30 minutes.
The Mine location also offers the Lucky 7, buy 6 buckets and get the 7th free! The Lucky 7 is perfect for a small group, family, or dedicated rockhound ready to spend a good part of the day with us.

Lucky 7 Rules:

  • All 6 buckets must be purchased at once to get the 7th free bucket
  • Only available at the Mine location (Not available in Downtown Philipsburg)
  • We sell sand bags for an additional $1 if you need to take a couple buckets home

In addition to the Natural Gravel Buckets, we offer packaged gravel products including the Mega Jug, Cowboy Boot, Miners Pail, Treasure Bag, and Party Bags.

Gem Mountain provides all of the equipment and our friendly staff will do all the heavy lifting, shoveling and bucket carrying. We’ll show you how to wash, what sapphires look like and most importantly a great search technique. Our team will be available to assist you as you continue searching through your gravel and to answer any questions. When in doubt if it’s a sapphire or not, keep it and let our team evaluate your gemstones for you!

After you’ve finished sifting through your gravel for the day, don’t forget the most important part! It’s time to head back into the store for a stone evaluation.

Creating Wearable Memories

Inside the store we have stations set up to evaluate your sapphires for gem quality, categorizing them into Small, Fractured aka Flawed, and Cuttable. During the evaluation our team member will utilize light to look at the inside of your larger sapphires to determine which are cuttable and could be heat treated and faceted. Every year we process over 24,000 customer sapphires! We provide two phase heat treating, a fancy burn and a blue burn. This deposit of sapphires are “undercooked” and our natural heat treating process “reheats” the sapphires to bring out the naturally occurring trace elements in the sapphire. Learn more about our heat treating process here.

If you love the color of your sapphires as is, do not heat treat it and jump straight to faceting. We offer Montana and Overseas Faceting, we highly recommend spending a little extra and supporting local for larger 3-ish carat sapphires. Overseas faceting is our most popular and an excellent cost effective option! Our average finished stones are valued at $400 to $600 per carat if the finished weight is 0.50 ct to 0.99 ct. You can learn more about our faceting options here.

Plan to turn your Gem Mountain adventure into a wearable memory like these visitors have!

Can we stay the night? Yes, come camp!

Gem Mountain Sapphire Mine has a small six site campground. It is free and available on a first come, first served basis. The road to the campground is located about halfway up the parking lot on the right hand side. Of the six sites four are large enough for two trailers/RV’s. Please save the first long pull through for large RVs and trailers. The second site is a short pull through. The third site is a combination suitable for two units. The top three sites are back in. Two of the three are large enough for two units. Each site has a fire pit and picnic table. You’re on your own for firewood. The porta potties are located at the corner of the parking lot by the wash trough. Well water is available from the kitchen sink and garden hose located by the flagpole. Camping is only available the days we’re open, Wednesday – Saturday. The gate is locked at the end of the day Saturday so please plan accordingly.

Additional camping nearby:

Black Bear Campground
Crystal Creek Campground

Are dogs allowed?

Yes. Please keep your dog on a leash. If your dog exhibits aggressive behavior (lunging at other dogs or people) or is barking and whining, we will ask you to place your dog back in your vehicle.

Still have questions?

Our team is here to help (406) 859 – MINE (6463) or send us an email info@gemmtn.com. We can’t wait to welcome you to Gem Mountain! 

Follow

Mine Location

21 Sapphire Gulch Lane
at mile marker 38.4 of Montana Highway 38, Skalkaho Pass Road, between Hamilton and Philipsburg.

Year-Round Phone: (406) 859-GEMS (4367)

Mine Phone: (406) 859-MINE (6463)