Alaska is a treasure trove of outdoor experiences and also one of the few places in the world that you can experience gold-panning first hand. Step back in time while exploring the Last Frontier and learn about the famous Gold Rush that took place in the late 1800s, when many flocked to the state in hopes of striking it rich as a prospector.
From Juneau and the Kenai Peninsula to Fairbanks and Girdwood, there are a multitude of opportunities to try your hand at gold panning in Alaska. An adventure for all ages and interests, learning how to pan for gold is an exciting activity, sure to create lasting memories. Will you get lucky?
Find out by visiting these eight best places to go gold panning in Alaska.
Gold Dredge 8, Fairbanks
Known historically for having millions of dollars’ worth of gold extracted from the area, Gold Dredge 8 is one of the top places to try gold panning in Alaska. The gold fields of the Tanana Valley was a hotspot for those looking to unearth the riches of the area in the early 1900s.
Located just north of the city of Fairbanks, this destination isn’t just for searching for gold; a living mining museum, gold dredge, and historic railway make this a well-rounded experience.
Start at the old Gold Dredge 8, a U.S. National Register of Historic Places monument. As you’re guided through the dredge, you’ll learn about the key role it played in the development of Fairbanks.
Then venture to the Mining Museum, where you can experience history dating back to the beginning of the 1900s. Learn about the process of gold mining from start to finish, as well as view artifacts and ice age fossils that were discovered on the grounds during the mining boom.
After, take a ride near the original tracks on the replica railway of the Tanana Valley Railroad with narrated commentary and music, courtesy of the conductor.
Finally, it’s time to try gold panning yourself; hone your skills with the aid of Alaskan miners with your own poke and pay dirt. You might even find some real Alaskan gold to take home. Gold Dredge 8 is a great choice to learn about and experience gold panning in northern Alaska.
Gold Creek Salmon Bake, Juneau
Situated just north of Juneau in southeastern Alaska, Gold Creek Salmon Bake is another fantastic choice for gold panning and education surrounding the mining heritage of this region.
This experience is more than gold panning as it includes the opportunity to embark on a nature walk, eat a delicious meal, and learn about the history of gold panning in this area, as well as trying your luck at discovering gold yourself.
Enjoy a walk through the rainforest, view salmon spawning in the river during Alaska’s summer months, and marvel at the Salmon Creek Waterfall. Keep an eye out for majestic bald eagles soaring above you, as they’re often spotted in this area.
You’ll also get to see the old shaft ruins of the historic Wagner Mine. This area where famous miners Joe Juneau and Richard Harris first struck gold in 1880.
Learn how to pan for gold and keep your findings as you search for the riches of the Gold Creek. There’s a reward for your efforts in a feast of wild salmon cooked al fresco over an open fire, accompanied by gold rush potatoes and fresh blueberry cake to the soundtrack of live music in the midst of Alaska’s beauty.
Before you leave, the gift shop and trading post is a great place to find gold panning kits and other Alaskan souvenirs as a memento of your time spent in Juneau.
Gold Rush Training Camp, Skagway
The southeastern city of Skagway and the surrounding area drew more than 100,000 people with the promise of gold during the late 1800s and early 1900s Klondike gold rush.
Led by a guide in historic dress, this tour is a portal back to 1898. Here, you can learn how to pan for gold at the “Gold Rush Training Camp” and feel the energy of what lured many north to the 49th state.
Extract the paydirt, then try your hand at sluicing (washing or rinsing it), and then slowly see if you’ve unearthed any flakes of gold.
After gold panning, it’s also possible to visit the sled dogs, the onsite restaurant and soda factory, and photo booth with costume accessories. A day in Dredge Town at the Gold Rush Training Camp is great fun for families, thanks to all these additional attractions.
Crow Creek Mine, Girdwood
Located about an hour south of Anchorage in the gorgeous Chugach Mountains, Girdwood is another hotspot for gold panning.
Get the classic prospecting experience at the family-run Crow Creek Mine, where old mining buildings are filled with history. You’ll have the opportunity to learn about what it’s like to work a pan and run a creek-side sluice box, too.
Crow Creek Mine was established in 1896 and is one of The Last Frontier’s best-known hydraulic gold mining operations.
Here, you can tour historical buildings like the old Blacksmith shop and barn, with rare equipment like machines, tools, and artifacts, wander the gorgeous gardens backed by dramatic mountain peaks.
Venture along the Alaskan hiking trails, too, including a portion of the world-famous Iditarod Trail. The 400-acre grounds are like an open-air museum that will have you feeling like you’ve traveled back in time.
Enjoy the hands-on gold panning and sluice-box lessons and experience recreational gold mining, or take one of the more involved, guided prospector tours to hear more about what life was like for miners during the gold rush era.
Indian Valley Mine, Anchorage
Situated approximately 20 minutes south of Anchorage on the scenic Seward Highway, Indian Valley Mine and Gift Shop is a fun destination for gold panning and shopping while visiting Alaska.
The mine’s main cabin and assay building are some of the oldest structures on the Turnagain Arm, and are deemed a National Historic Site. Tour the assay building, which is now a small museum, and the gift shop, housed in the main cabin.
After, buy a pay dirt bucket and learn how to separate the sand, dirt, and rocks from the gold, using the traditional techniques of the miners. Swirl the pan to get the gold to stay on the bottom and then wash away the dirt and sand to uncover your potential gold pieces.
Whatever gold you find while panning, you’ll get to take home as a memory of your time spent in Alaska. Before you leave, browse the gift shop for gold nugget jewelry, pan kits, Alaskan Native crafts, t-shirts, and other souvenirs.
Liarsville Gold Rush Trail Camp, Skagway
Situated just north of Skagway at the base of White Pass, the Liarsville Gold Rush Trail Camp is a fun spot for gold panning, history, and an authentic salmon bake.
Named after a group of journalists who traveled to this spot near Skagway during the Klondike Gold Rush and made up fictional stories, the Liarsville Camp is, in fact, a great place to find gold.
The tour starts with a short, melodrama-style performance with more about how the camp received its name, before tucking into a feast of fresh, wild-caught Alaskan salmon with live music to accompany it.
Then try your hand as a new prospector in the gold fields and pan for gold at the panning station. Bring whatever gold pieces you find home with you after your visit to one of the best gold panning spots in Alaska.
Denali Gold Tours, Cache Creek area, near Talkeetna
Across the river from Talkeetna, near Denali National Park, Denali Gold Tours on the Cache Creek offers an authentic gold panning experience.
Set against the backdrop of the snow-capped Alaska range, the adventure starts with an almost 20-mile ride into the Alaska backcountry where gold was discovered in the Cache Creek area in 1905.
In addition to learning how to pan for gold and searching for your own in the creek, wildlife viewing is a possibility with this tour as well. Keep an eye out for moose, eagles, and bears as you pan for gold in the untouched natural landscape.
Pan for gold in the clear waters of the creek, where you’ll learn essential gold panning techniques. Swish water through the riverbed sand, stones, and metal dust, looking for the gold pieces that will sink to the bottom, since they’re heavier.
Everyone gets to take whatever they find home, as well as a souvenir bottle of gold flakes. After you work up an appetite panning for gold, enjoy lunch of grilled reindeer hot dogs.
Adventure Sixty North, Seward
Head to the Kenai Peninsula for gold panning along Clear Creek with Adventure Sixty North, just outside of Seward. Learn the art of gold panning from the professionals, while being regaled with local history and stories tied to the area.
You’ll pan in elevated wooden troughs through pay dirt where you’ll have a solid opportunity to find your own Alaskan gold. You’ll also search for semi-precious stones like garnet, quartz, amethyst, red jasper, and tourmaline, which are typically found in the 49th state.
Combine your gold panning activity with a hike to the nearby Exit Glacier for a full afternoon of Alaskan-style fun. The two-and-a-half-hour hike will get you up close to one of the state’s most famous glacial ice fields, an amazing opportunity for photography.
Prospector John’s, Seward
Just outside of Cooper Landing on the Kenai Peninsula, Prospector John’s is only an hour’s drive from Seward. Enjoy the setting adjacent to the beautiful Kenai Lake, surrounded by rugged mountains.
Here, you’ll enjoy a hands-on gold panning experience involving shoveling up your own bucket of raw gold ore and learning how to sift through the wash plant, sluice, and pan the gold flakes you discover in your loot.
Take them home as a souvenir of your time spent learning this traditional method of searching for gold. Make sure to stop in the gift shop as well to look for Alaskan-made gifts, fossils, gemstones, and homemade wild meat jerky like elk, buffalo, and wild salmon.
Catch gold fever at these top spots for gold panning in Alaska. A luxury cruise is a fantastic way to try gold panning first-hand in some of the most scenic and historic locations from the heady days of the Gold Rush.
From southeastern Alaska’s famous salmon bakes to hiking opportunities in the Kenai Peninsula, gold panning is the perfect activity to pair with other classic Alaskan adventures. Browse Alaska cruises and book your historic and adventurous vacation today.