Metal detecting rules and regulations are often hard to locate online and New Hampshire is no exception. This guide is designed to aggregate the information and resources to tell you everything you need to know to start metal detecting in New Hampshire.
Can you metal detect in New Hampshire?
While metal detecting is allowed on state-owned land, including beaches, parks, and forests, there are some caveats. To start, you’re prohibited from metal detecting on state historic sites and natural areas listed here: List of New Hampshire DRED Owned Properties
You’re allowed to metal detect in the following locations:
- Athletic fields;
- School grounds;
- Perimeters of cemeteries;
- Unpaved roads;
- Within 25 feet of picnic tables and park pavilions; and
- Currently used dumps.
Other prohibited locations include Odiorne Point State Park, historic sites, cemeteries, and Native American burial grounds. If there is a historic site, cemetery, or Native American site, you are not permitted to metal detect in that area.
New Hampshire State Law Regarding Metal Detecting
PART Res 7301 RULES RELATING TO ALL PARKS AND DRED PROPERTIES
Res 7301.19 Metal Detectors.
- (a) Metal detectors shall not be permitted on DRED properties unless otherwise stated in this section or if permitted by special use permit pursuant to Res 7400.
- (b) Metal detectors shall be permitted along the shoreline of beaches and at athletic fields, playgrounds, and within a 25 foot radius from picnic tables and pavilions, unless otherwise posted.
- (c) Metal detectors shall not be permitted at state historic sites and natural areas listed in Res 101.06, or Odiorne Point state park.
- (d) Money or items found whose value is in excess of $50.00 shall be subject to Res 7301.27, Lost and Found Items.
Res 7301.20 Digging.
- (a) Digging shall be permitted on sand beaches, with all resulting holes completely filled in prior to leaving the site. Digging holes to a depth greater than 12 inches shall not be permitted.
- (b) Digging and other ground disturbances shall not be permitted on DRED properties, historic sites, and DRED natural areas unless permission has been granted by special use permit pursuant to Res 7400 in cooperation with the department of cultural resources, division of historical resources pursuant to RSA 227-C:9.
- (c) Money or items found whose value is in excess of $50.00 shall be subject to Res 7301.27, Lost and Found Items.
2018 New Hampshire Revised Statutes Title XIX – Public Recreation Chapter 227-C – Historic Preservation Section 227-C:12 – Exemptions and Limitations.
227-C:12 Exemptions and Limitations
I. Notwithstanding any provision of this subdivision to the contrary, any person who, prior to the effective date of this subdivision, has acquired historic resources from state lands or waters, which include items commonly known as antiques, may continue to possess or market such items as antiques.
II. Treasure hunting with metal detectors and dowsing rods is exempted from the restrictions of this subdivision on the following lands owned or controlled by the state, its agencies, departments, commissions, and institutions, unless an historic resource on such land has been recorded and restrictions are posted:
- (a) Beaches;
- (b) Athletic fields;
- (c) School grounds;
- (d) Perimeters of cemeteries;
- (e) Unpaved roads;
- (f) Within 25 feet of picnic tables and park pavilions; and
- (g) Currently used dumps.
III. No power is conferred by this subdivision upon any official, commission, or other agency of state or local government to close any body of water or portion thereof, or access thereto, on a temporary or permanent basis, to recreational diving, recreational or commercial fishing, scallop dragging, recreational or commercial boating, or lobstering.
IV. Paper documents; photographic positives and negatives; microforms, including microfilms, microfiche, microcard, and microprint; and reel to reel, cassette, or cartridge tape recordings and magnetic tapes of information storage which qualify as historic resources under RSA 227-C:1, VII, other than documentation of a field investigation, are exempt from the provisions of RSA 227-C. The responsibility to preserve, arrange, index, and allow access to these historic resources shall remain with the department of state, division of archives and records management.
Source. 1981, 504:5. 1985, 345:3. 2003, 97:4, eff. Aug. 5, 2003.
Do you need a Metal Detecting Permit in New Hampshire?
The state of New Hampshire does not require a permit to metal detect, but permitting is required on certain properties. When you’ve selected your location check the park or city rules for specific guidelines.
These can occasionally be found on their websites under recreation regulations. Most of the time you will have to reach out to a park supervisor or park staff for specific metal detecting permit requirements and procedures.
Can you metal detect in New Hampshire State Parks and forests?
You are allowed to metal detect in state parks and forests on beaches and within 25 feet of picnic tables and park pavilions. As stated above, if there is a historic site, cemetery, or native American site, you are not allowed to metal detect.
By all accounts, reaching out to park management to directly ask about metal detecting permission is highly recommended. There are several parks in the state known to be friendly to metal detector use as long as permission is requested ahead of time and holes are properly maintained.
Each park can issue individual rules on Metal Detecting. It’s important to review the park’s website and guidelines for any updates and changes. For specific details on each park check out the official website nhstateparks.org to get updated contact information.
New Hampshire City Guidelines for metal detecting
Below are the rules and guidelines provided by some of the major cities in New Hampshire. Any direct references to local regulations will be accompanied by a direct link.
Other information without links has been verified through direct outreach to city parks and recreation departments. I’ve personally reached out via email and phone to each municipal parks and recreation team and every person I spoke with was happy to help me get the correct information I needed.
While I hope to provide valuable insights into rules throughout these communities, these rules can change especially if people damage the parks through bad digging practices. It’s always a good idea to reach out to the local parks and recreation department or law enforcement for clarification before detecting on public property.
Manchester, New Hampshire
Metal detecting is not allowed on water works owned property unless you obtain written permission. Source >
After direct outreach to the City of Manchester Parks and Recreation Department, they confirmed Metal Detecting is not allowed in city parks and other city properties.
Nashua, New Hampshire
Concord, New Hampshire
Metal detecting is not allowed in Concord city parks. Source >
Rochester, New Hampshire
Metal detecting is prohibited in Rochester, NH city parks, and public properties due to the disruption of the ground/soil. This was confirmed through outreach to the Rochester Parks and Recreation at RochesterRec@rochesternh.net
Keene, New Hampshire
Metal detecting is not allowed near city water resources
There are currently no formal regulations for metal detecting on dry city parks in Keene. After speaking with Keene’s Parks and recreation team, they are ok with detectorists using the parks but ask for everyone to reduce soil disturbance and follow leave no trace principles.\
You can find updated contact information for the City of Keene Parks and Recreation department on their city website or by calling 603-357-9829
Portsmouth, New Hampshire
There are no available resources outlining metal detecting rules on the city’s website. All accounts online point to no metal detecting being allowed on Portsmouth-owned property and city parks. This is the only city mentioned in state regulations and without direct permission and coordination with local authorities, you cannot metal detect here.
To contact the City of Portsmouth Parks Department you can find their contact information on their website “Linked Here”
Laconia, New Hampshire
Lebanon, New Hampshire
There’s a bit of a catch-22 in Lebanon. While the use of a metal detector is technically allowed in city parks, digging is prohibited. For that reason, you can more or less consider metal detecting banned on city-owned properties and parks in Lebanon.
On Lebanon conservation lands, you are able to use a metal detector and dig as long as there is no historic site present in the area. It’s also requested that use follow strict leave no trace best practices while digging on these properties to prevent firm regulations prohibiting digging on these lands as well.
If you have any questions about metal detecting in Lebanon or if you would like to confirm these rules you can contact Paul Coates at firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling 603-448-5121.
Best Public Places to metal detect in New Hampshire
Overall, New Hampshire is a fairly restrictive state when it comes to metal detecting. Most cities disallow or discourage the use of metal detectors and so does the state outside of the clearly defined locations outlined above.
When searching for locations you’re limited to one national forest and state lands with beaches or picnic/pavilion areas. Keep in mind most beaches are not owned by the state so cross-reference your locations with the state’s provided map.
White Mountain National Forest
The largest area to metal detect in the state, White Mountain National Forest is a prime area to explore with a detector. Outside of public beaches, this location has the lowest barrier to entry to get started.
While you’re allowed to go metal detecting in national forests, it’s a good habit to still reach out for clarification and written permission. You can contact the forest team through this form. It does clearly state that the inbox isn’t monitored daily so plan ahead if you just want to operate through email. Otherwise, a phone number is also provided for a quick contact option.
While in a national forest you’ll need to follow ARPA rules, here’s a link to review those regulations.
Located on the central New Hampshire coast, Hampton Beach is a popular summer destination for locals and tourists alike. The beach stretches for more than three miles and offers a wide variety of activities, including swimming, sunbathing, fishing, and boating.
Visitors can also enjoy the many shops and restaurants that line the Boardwalk, or take a short drive to the nearby Seabrook Nuclear Power Plant. With its beautiful sandy beaches and abundant amenities, Hampton Beach is the perfect place to relax and enjoy the summer sun.
This high foot traffic creates an abundance of lost items. A well-timed trip after a long weekend would help cut down on the crowd while increasing your chances of finding that lost ring.
North Beach is a beautiful sandy beach directly adjacent to Hampton Beach. North Beach is open to the public from Memorial Day weekend through Labor Day weekend. During these months, the beach is lifeguarded and there are restrooms and showers available for use. Outside of these months, the beach is still open to the public but there are no lifeguards on duty and the restrooms and showers are closed.
Ellacoya State Park
A beach, picnic tables, and pavilions all provide a good amount of ground that can be covered in the park. The local popularity of the park makes it a good location to visit after holidays and busy weekends.
Pawtuckaway state park
There is a beach and pavilions that fall within the state guidelines for metal detecting on state-owned land. To inquire about metal detecting in other parts of the park reach out to the park’s office for more details and to request written permission.
The website for the Pawtuckaway mentions the beach reaching max capacity early in the morning during popular weekends and holidays. If you’re hoping to hit the beach, I suggest going during a non-holiday weekend or during a weekday to avoid the crowds.
Metal detecting clubs and groups in New Hampshire
Streeters Treasure Hunting
This group has the largest yearly metal detecting meetup in the state that will be going for its 30th year in 2023. This event lasts for up to 5 days depending on the ticket you purchase (a 3 and 5-day option is available) and allows you to join the group on private property you otherwise couldn’t access. Information on the yearly event
This group also has a Sunday meetup that you can RSVP to and pay a small fee to attend. Information about these meetups can be found here: Streeters Sunday Metal Detecting Meetups
Website Link: https://www.streeter.org/society-summer-fun-sundays/
Granite State Treasure Hunting Club
The oldest registered club of its kind in New Hampshire, the Granite State Treasure Hunting Club meets monthly and hosts regular events. You can sign up on their website for more information and gain access to their organized event calendar. This club also offers training to help you better use your detector and other equipment.
Website Link: https://www.gsthc.org/