Tucked away on a secluded property between Marshall and Mars Hill and just minutes from Asheville is one of the literal gems of Madison County. Little Pine Garnet Mine had been mined before current owner Jackie Ball’s grandfather Logan Ball purchased the mine and the property in 1913. Logan and his son Jack continued to mine it until the early 1950s. Jackie remembers spending time with his grandfather as a small boy, but he himself never worked in the mines. His favorite story is about how Tiffany had a contract in the 1940s and got all the good garnet stones out to ship to their stores in New York City.

Jackie bought the property in 1961 and allowed people to dig in the “spoil piles” from the old mine. But it wasn’t until 1998 that Jackie and his wife started to promote it as a tourist attraction with his Sandy Bottom Trail Rides. Whether you are a serious rockhound or a casual, curious amateur, you can spend a few hours or a day digging in those spoil piles at the mouth of the old mine or venture into the mine itself. At one time the mine went all the way through the mountain but a cave-in closed off a large portion.