50 Metal Detecting Tips for Park Hunting

Metal Detecting Tips for Park Hunting

Parks have everything a metal detectorist looks for when finding a great treasure hunting location, such as easy access and a known location where lots of visitors traveled to (and potentially lost valuable items).

So long as you’re not trespassing on private property, parks can be a great place to find buried treasure.  And in this article, I’m going to give you 50 great tips for metal detecting at parks.

So let’s get started!

1) Basic Research

The best way to start any metal detecting hunt is with some research. Look into your local area to find some good parks to search. Typically, the higher traffic parks will have the most loot. It is also possible that your parks were the sites of other things in the past, so research these. You may be able to find some older relics, jewelry, and coins. 

Part of proper planning involves making sure you have the right detector by your side.  Below, please check out our interactive guide to view five of the more popular metal detectors available on Amazon:

XP Deus Wireless2 XP Deus Wireless$$$11” DD Coil
Garrett AT Max$$$Waterproof to 10 feet
Bounty Hunter TK4 Tracker IVBounty Hunter TK4 Tracker IV$8” Waterproof Coil

2) Historical Research

Parks have been a part of our societies for as long as there has been civilized society. Common places where people gather and recreate. Older park areas will have older finds. However, older finds could have been buried very deeply due to fill dirt or other renovation activities. 

Researching the history of the parks in your area, or where old parks used to be, can save you from a frustrating day of digging only newer coins (if you are looking for pre-1964 silver, for example). Look into a local historical society for information on the location of older parks in your area.

3) Online Blogs, Articles, and Podcasts

If you are new to detecting, you may want to do some additional research. There are hundreds, even thousands, or metal detecting blogs and articles out there. Podcasts on metal detecting are also becoming more popular. Spend a little time perusing these as you are doing your research.

4) Using the Right Metal Detector

The right metal detector can make all the difference when hunting in a park. Some areas will have highly mineralized soil and certain detectors are better in these areas. Very low frequency (VLF) detectors are the most common. 

Major metal detector brand will have VLF detectors designed for different finds and for different soil conditions. Consider something like the Bounty Hunter VLF Metal Detector to help you on your next treasure hunt.

Pulse induction (PI) metal detectors will search deeper than most VLF detectors and work very well in mineralized soil and saltwater conditions. If your park has a river or other water source going through it, you will want to make sure at least your search coil is waterproof.  If you want a PI metal detector, consider something like the White’s TDI SL or the Garrett ATX

Many metal detector models are fully submersible, but almost all detectors have a waterproof search coil. Do the proper research before choosing a metal detector.  If a waterproof search coil is important to you, you may want to look into the Garrett Ace 400, Quest Q40 or the Fisher F22.

5) VLF Metal Detectors

VLF detectors are typically easiest to use. There are so many models to choose from. Most VLF detectors can be assembled and used right out of the box with a very short learning curve. They are typically light weight and easy to pack around. 

Some of my favorite VLF detectors are the Minelab CTX 3030 and the Garrett AT Pro. Both detectors work well in mineralized soils and are great for finding a variety of treasures. 

For less expensive models, Fisher Labs make very good entry and mid-level detectors that are less pricey than Minelab and Garrett models. 

6) PI Metal Detectors

PI metal detectors are great at searching deep and discriminating out minerals in soil and saltwater. They can be heavier, more expensive, and have a steeper learning curve than most VLF models. 

However, they are good in all soil types and all terrains. My favorite PI models are the Tesoro Sand Shark and White’s TDI SL. Garrett also makes fantastic PI machines. 

7) Search Coils

There are 2 types of search coils that come standard on metal detectors: concentric and double D. Concentric coils produce a conical shaped field and double D coils produce a more linear field. Both can perform equally well in parks. Some metal detectors have interchangeable coils, so you can choose which type you would rather use. 

Concentric coils search deeper than double D, but double D discriminates better. A large search coil will search deeper but cannot fit into smaller spaces like a small search coil can. Small coils are better in trashy environments.

8) Pinpointing Metal Detectors

I always recommend a pinpointer when metal detecting. In a park, you will not want to dig holes that are too large. A pinpointer can help you not need to! After you’ve found a target you can use your handheld pinpointer to zero in on your find. These can be more precise than a full-sized detector. 

The Fisher Pinpointer, Garrett Pinpointer, and Minelab Pinpointer are all really great devices. A lot of pinpointer models are waterproof so they can be submerged for finding targets in the water. 

9) Accessories

It is important to bring more than just your detector. There are many metal detecting accessories you will need. When metal detecting in parks, I recommend using headphones. This will cut down the noise heard by those recreating at the park and allow you to hear faint signals. 

Most machines will have a standard plug in for metal detecting headphones. Some have wireless connectivity so you can use Bluetooth headphones. If your metal detector is not fully waterproof, you may want to consider a rain cover to keep the control box from getting wet in rain or snow. Many detectorists also like to use a harness to help hold their metal detector and allow you to hunt longer. 

You will also want good quality digging tools. For park hunting, I recommend a hand trowel, a garden knife (for tough soils), and possibly a full-sized shovel, if the soil is rocky or very hard packed. You will want a finds pouch to keep your look secure. I also recommend gloves to keep your hands from getting scraped on rocks.

10) Read Your Manuals

It is very important that you read the manual for your metal detector. This is a necessary part of becoming a great detectorist. Manuals have great information about the functions and settings of your machine. 

Some manuals even have charts that detail what specific readouts and tones mean. I keep mine in the bag with my metal detector so I can refer to the chart when metal detecting. If your machine has manual ground balancing and sensitivity settings it is important to familiarize yourself with these.

11) Test Your Detector at Home

I always recommend testing your metal detector at home, especially if it is new. Take a few items such as a penny, dime, nickel, quarter, gold piece of jewelry, and iron and scan each with your detector. Note the tone and target ID readout (on LCD screen models) and become familiar with the sounds of each. Remember that some targets sound like others (example: iron and gold both emit a low tone). 

Be aware that some electronic items and power lines can interfere with metal detectors and create electromagnetic interference. I don’t test my detector in my backyard because there are too many power lines and it often makes my detector act erratically. 

Rather, I do these tests in the house, with as many electrical items turned off as possible. Cell phones can also interfere with metal detectors, so consider keeping your phone a good distance from your detector or turning off the phone.

12) Don’t Forget the Batteries!

I always recommend bringing along extra batteries. Many detectors require AA or 9-volt batteries. If you are in an area with highly mineralized soil you may find that your batteries die quicker. My last metal detecting trip to Utah, the ground was highly mineralized and trashy.

My detector acted erratically in many locations, and my batteries died much quicker than normal. Some detectors have rechargeable battery packs but will have a regular battery backup. Always take extra batteries and a charging cable (if you have a model with a rechargeable battery).

13) Headphones

I mentioned earlier that I recommend headphones when hunting in parks. It is important to use good quality headphones that will give you a clear sound. I prefer to use the over the ear type headphones because they seem to block more sound. 

Some machines come with metal detecting headphones, but you can use any type so long as your machine has a plug in port or wireless connectivity. If you are in an area near a highly traveled road or near a place where there are a lot of people, headphones can help you hear faint targets. They also block the noise of your detector from being heard by others.

14) Make a Checklist

I like to make a checklist of all my metal detecting gear and supplies for each trip. Depending on where you are metal detecting, you may need different gear. It is much easier to stay organized and get where you’re going with the proper items if you start out with a checklist.

15) Safety First

Always follow safety rules when metal detecting. While most parks are in towns or cities, some can be more remote. In any park setting, be safe and aware of your surroundings.

16) Know the Laws

Each state has its own laws regarding metal detecting. This can further be broken down into laws specific to each city or town, school district, county, and park. Each entity will have different regulations for metal detecting and may require special permissions. You can generally check each entity’s laws on their website. 

For example, where I live, park hunting requires a permit from the city. Some cities and counties forbid metal detecting in city parks altogether. It is important to find out the laws for your area prior to metal detecting to avoid fines.

17) Be Wary of Federal and State Lands

Federal and state lands are typically off limit to detectorists. There are exceptions to this, but it is your responsibility to determine which lands are off limits and which you may detect on. Certain areas that are typically off limits can be accessed with special permits and permissions. 

If you are unsure whether the federal or state park you wish to detect is off limits, visit or call the government entity responsible for the land. If you are granted special permissions or permits, check in with the park supervisor/manager/landowner upon arrival and keep your permit or permission letter handy.

18) Use the Small Digging Tools

Because you are in a park setting, you want to avoid digging large holes. As I mentioned, taking along a pinpointer and good quality hand trowel or garden knife will allow you to dig your targets without making large holes. Always fill in any holes properly. I like to take along one of my dog’s frisbees (strange, I know, but bear with me). When I am digging a hole, all dirt and the grass plug go into the frisbee. 

This makes it easier to replace the dirt and plug properly when you’ve finished digging. Practice digging plugs on your own property or find videos or online tutorials for digging perfect plugs. If you are metal detecting a beach park, you will want to use a long-handled sand scoop. Just be sure to cover and compact beach holes when you’ve finished. 

19) Be Aware of Archaeological Evidence

Some parks may be home to archaeological finds. In these cases, the landowning entity may limit the depth at which you can dig to keep the archaeological items undisturbed. If you find something you think may be archaeologically important, always notify the proper authorities. 

Remember, archeologists depend on artifacts being found in their original and undisturbed positions. This information is valuable for their research. Be aware that if you find anything suspicious, like weapons or human remains, it is important to report this information to authorities immediately. 

20) Follow the Detecting Code of Ethics

It is important to follow the ethical guidelines for metal detecting. When you are out hunting, you are a representative of all metal detectorists. If you are unethical, people will see all other detectorists as unethical. Be sure to follow these guidelines:

  • Know all laws before searching
  • Respect landowners and obtain permissions
  • Use proper recovery methods
  • Leave the area better than you found it
  • Be thoughtful, considerate, and courteous always
  • Never damage or remove historically significant or archaeological treasures
  • Leave the property as you found it. Do not tamper with signs or equipment
  • Protect natural resources and wildlife
  • Do not destroy property, buildings, or any type of structures

21) Use the Proper Sweeping Technique

Sweeping quickly or too high off the ground can increase ground noise and make you miss targets. To find more targets and increase accuracy, keep your search coil close to the ground and smoothly swing it side to side. Don’t tilt the coil away from the ground when you reach the end of your swing. Keep it parallel to the ground.

22) Bag and Tag 

When you find and recover a target, keep a log of some type of where you found the item, what it is, and when you found it. This can help you find patterns in the location and can also be helpful if you’ve found any sort of historically or archaeologically significant items.

23) Evaluate the Site

Before you pack all your gear out of the car, evaluate the entire park. Take note of areas that interest you such as ball fields, picnic areas, volleyball courts, and other places where people might linger (shade trees, grassy areas, etc.).

Pick a spot or two (depending on the park’s size and the amount of time you can detect) and focus your efforts there. Now, unpack your gear and head to your chosen spot.

24) Test Your Chosen Site

Testing the site you’ve chosen from your evaluation can help you determine the potential yield of the area. Swing your detector and listen for tones while watching the target ID (if you have a model with an LCD screen). Note the number of trashy targets and the number of potentially good targets. 

Dig a few good tones and see how deeply the finds are buried and if they are the type of target you were looking for. If they are, keep going in this area. If all you are getting is trashy signals, consider moving to a different area and running the same sort of test.

25) Metal Detect During Off Peak Hours

People are often curious or annoyed when they see someone walking around with a metal detector. To avoid being harassed or barraged with questions, detect during off peak park hours.

Try to visit in the early morning or late evening. This will allow you to detect in areas that are normally bustling with people with little to no interruption and without annoying recreators at the park.

26) Look for Picnic Areas

People spend a good amount of time around picnic areas. Coins and other personal belongings are often dropped in these areas. Search very well around these areas.

27) Look for Trees

Areas with large shade trees are a favorite of people in parks. Search around the base of the tree where people would lean back or where they would stow their belongings while visiting the park.

Also check away from the trunk of the tree in an area about as wide as the longest branches. This is where the roots often lie, and growing roots can take all kinds of treasure with them.

28) Look for Water 

Many parks have rivers, streams, ponds, or lakes in them. People like to recreate near the water. Anywhere people are wading, fishing, swimming, or playing in the water has the potential for loot. If the water is shallow enough (or moving slowly enough, if it is a river or stream), consider wading into the water (if your detector coil is waterproof) and scanning the area well. 

29) Look for Swimming Pools

Many parks have swimming pools in them. It is a well-known fact that people lose items like jewelry and coins around the swimming pool. Watches and other items are removed before entering the pool and can be inadvertently left behind. As with other areas, do not detect these areas if they are being used.

30) Check Near Restrooms

People are often putting things into their pockets or bags as they enter or exit a restroom facility. Check around the restroom building, and along the walkway leading up to it.

31) Check Along Walking Paths

Many items are lost just off walking paths. Scan an area several feet on either side of the walking paths of your chosen park. 

32) Check Parking Areas

Parking lots are often overlooked areas for detectorists. People are fidgeting with multiple items as they enter or exit their vehicles. Digging through your pockets or bags for keys is a common way to lose coins and other items in your pockets. Check these areas, but make sure you are not too close to people’s vehicles as they may feel you are intruding on their space.

33) Check Playgrounds

Playgrounds are often one of the busiest places in parks. These areas have multiple children and adults playing and running. They are likely to have dropped some items. Also check seating areas near the playgrounds as this is the most likely place the parents would have sat while their children play. Don’t detect too near people playing on the playground.

34) Check Basketball, Volleyball, and Tennis Courts

These areas can be rife with treasure! People coming to and going from the courts may be putting things into bags or pockets, and items are set against the fences or edges of these areas while people play. Remember not to detect these areas if someone is using the facilities. They may see this as you are encroaching on their recreation time and get annoyed.

35) Check Ball Fields

Many parks have areas where baseball, football, and soccer are played. Check these areas carefully! As with most areas in the park, people are moving things in and out of bags, fidgeting with keys and other items in their pockets, increasing the chances of dropping items. If games are being played, wait until the fields are empty.

36) Check Any Gazebos

Some parks have gazebos or pavilions in them. These are often used by picnickers or rented out to parties. These are highly used areas in parks and should be thoroughly checked.

37) Check Hilly Areas

Some parks may have hills. These areas are commonly used by children running and playing, or adults walking through the park. Scan the hilly areas carefully.

38) Check Grassy Areas

Grassy areas are common in most parks. These areas can hide a treasure trove of loot! If there is a large grassy area, consider gridding. Create gridlines in your head using a sidewalk, tree line, or other features. After your first pass, turn around and overlap your previously searched area slightly. 

39) Check the Outer Edges of the Park

Older coins can often be found at the outer edges of the park. The outer edges typically receive less landscaping attention than the middle, and people may have frequented the outer edges of the park long ago.

40) Check Along Fence lines

The areas near fences in parks, like the outer edges, are not frequented as much as the interior of the park. However, some people lean belongings against fences, or kids jump over them to get in or out of the park. 

41) Check for Local Events

Parks are often home to many local events such as concerts, plays, festivals, farmer’s markets, and many others. Check the local newspaper or Facebook pages for community events such as these. Check the park after the event to find newly dropped items.

42) Check Any Construction Within the Park

Sometimes construction projects are going on within parks such as repair projects. These areas may have newly removed dirt piles you can check. Anywhere the ground has been disturbed has the potential to have older items.

43) Talk to Your Local Librarian

If you are seeking old parks, or parks that may not exist anymore, consider speaking to your local librarian. They are great at helping you find information like this! A quick Google search of your area combined with information from the library can show you where the oldest parks in your area are, as well as areas where parks once existed.

44) Check with Archaeologists or Historians

Historians and archaeologists are using volunteer metal detectorists more and more to hunt in parks. In 2018, the National Park Service’s Southeast Archaeological Center conducted battlefield surveys using hobbyist metal detectorists.

They hunted 5 Civil War parks, 3 Revolutionary War parks, 1 Red Stick battlefield, and 1 War of 1812 battlefield. While you likely won’t be able to keep the finds from something like this, it is amazing to be part of history and help with local and American history.

45) Double Check All Holes

Once you have found a target, don’t fill the hold back in right away. Sometimes multiple targets are found in or near the same hole. Always double check the dirt you’ve removed as well as the hole before filling it and moving on.

46) Don’t Have Unrealistic Expectations

We would all love to go out metal detecting and come home with a huge find. But the truth is, you will find more trash than treasure, typically.

Sometimes a detectorist gets lucky and stumbles onto a huge coin spill or expensive jewelry or gold nugget. But this is rare! You will absolutely find targets but keep your expectations realistic.

47) Authenticating Finds

If you find an old coin or (new or old) piece of jewelry, you may wish to have it evaluated. A Google search for similar items is a good place to start. Local metal detecting clubs may be helpful, also, as some detectorists may have seen or found similar items.

There are also coin shops, collectors, and jewelers you can speak to. If it is a specialty item, like a Civil War button, you can find a local authority on the subject and check with them, or a museum. Be careful cleaning any items you are not sure about as you can damage them easily.

48) Consider Joining a Metal Detecting Club

Metal detecting clubs are a great resource. Some detectorists will be veterans of the hobby and can have great pointers for newer detectorists. They are also great places to swap stories about finds, search sites, and the like. Metal detecting clubs can be found all over the United States and the world.

49) Keep a Log of Your Finds

Keeping a log of your finds is always a smart idea. This will not only help you find patterns, but in the event you’ve found something historically significant, will help you relay the information to the pertinent authorities.

If you are in an area with numerous targets, you don’t have to log each target as you dig it. Just pick a section (one you’ve laid out when you were gridding the area) and search it. Log what finds you discover in this section and note them. 

50) Have Fun!

The last tip is to have fun! Don’t put too much pressure on yourself to produce a target. Just get out there, detect, and have fun! 

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