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Emerald Village NC Black Light Tour – A Spectacular Journey

Tucked away in the quiet mountains of Western North Carolina, just off the Blue Ridge Parkway near Little Switzerland NC, you can experience a truly amazing natural display.  The Emerald Village NC Black Light Tour is unlike anything else around: Hyalite Opal showing off in all its glowing brilliance ... in the dark!

Emerald Village Gem Mine

Many don't realize, but there was a gold rush in Western North Carolina many years ago, and mines sprouted up all over, and especially in the area where Emerald Village is today.  Emerald Village contains 12 mines, and the Bon Ami cleaning agent was produced at Emerald village for many years.

Guests at Emerald Village NC can pan for gems and gold, take the Emerald Village NC Black Light Tour, visit the three-story museum, and more. Emerald Village is open every day from April 1st through October 31st and is located 3 miles from the Little Switzerland exit on the Blue Ridge Parkway.

Hyalite Opal at Emerald Village

Hyalite Opal at Emerald Village NC Black Light Tour glowing green under black light

All Photos by the author, Philip Kay

There are several reasons why this mineral and event are special and deserve a visit but, two in particular stand out:

While hyalite opal in its natural state doesn’t appear to be much to look at, mostly just a clear buildup that seems pretty boring and is seemingly just a part of the rock it’s on. However, despite its average and mundane appearances, it hides an amazing feature: when exposed to UV light it glows green!

This is caused by it being ever so slightly radioactive, but don’t fret, its not enough for you to worry about and the only negative side-effect of visiting is that you will want more time here!

Now, I said there were two reasons, so what’s the other? In a word- Location. Normally, hyalite opal is mostly found at gem shows, online, and occasionally in small quantities in privately owned or active mines and not somewhere you can easily visit.

However, the Bon Ami mine has the largest naturally forming deposit AND is the only publicly accessible underground mine where you can see hyalite opal in the world!  

Enter the Emerald Village NC Black Light Tour ..

The Emerald Village NC Black Light Tour

Mine Cave Glowing under Black Light at the Emerald Village NC Black Light Tour

When you think of a “mine” you probably conjure up images of a labyrinth of tunnels and caves and think of being in small, enclosed areas.

But this mine is different.

As you enter the mine site to start the Emerald Village NC Black Light Tour, you find yourself standing in the middle of a single, large, excavated cavern.

Once inside, you can walk among some relics of a mining age that’s long past- see the old mining carts and read the information and history posted around the mine while you wait for the show to start.

Old mine cart in the Emerald Village Mine

One thing you will notice, however, is that while the space is very large and open, it seems plain and unassuming. That is until the lights go out… Then the view goes from ordinary, to pitch black, to a new sight: a mesmerizing world of green!

Throughout the mine there are tour guides with hand held lights giving visitors a better look at certain deposits and giving those around an in-depth presentation of the area, formations, other sights to note, as well as answering questions.

While Emerald Village NC Black Light Tour alone is worth going to see, it doesn’t just end once you’ve seen the inside of the mine.

Once you have seen the inside and start making your way out and back to the entrance, tour guides are posted along the way to point out other deposits and spots where more previously hidden sights are now illuminated by black light.

This includes other minerals, more opal, and even a form of moss that glows blue!

Other Things to do Nearby

Mine Cart in the Emerald Village Mine

Emerald Village is actually a collection of buildings and during the day they offer plenty of activities such as gold panning, gem mining, a museum, and more.

Just remember, the stores all close in the evening and there is a bit of downtime between those activities and when the mine store opens back up for the black light show.

In the meantime, Little Switzerland and Spruce Pine are close by, so there is plenty of other nearby places to visit during a trip to the area.

Tips for visiting:

Here are some tips to help make your visit to Emerald City Gem Mine, and specifically the Emerald Village NC Black Light Tour more enjoyable!

  • It is underground (the temperature can get chilly, especially later at night), bring a jacket.
  • Be careful when moving about, especially once the lights have been switched over, there are
    tracks and some uneven ground.
  • Get there a few minutes early, after you check in, you can look around the gift shop and then
    go explore the museum area attached to it.
  • If you bring a camera or try to take pictures with your phone, remember to turn the flash off.
    With it on, you won’t get a good shot of the green glow!
  • This event only takes place on 10 Saturday evenings though the months of May-October and
    normally sells out well in advance, so some planning and looking ahead may be necessary if you
    want to come see this.

Where is Bon Ami Mine?

Bon Ami Mine is located at Emerald Village NC  

The Bon Ami Mine is located in Emerald Village, Mitchell County, North Carolina and is the mine used for the Emerald Village NC Black Light Tour. It is a former feldspar mine that was operated by the Whitehall Company from 1924 to 1950.

The mine is now open to the public for tours, and it is a popular destination for gem hunters.

The Bon Ami Mine is known for its deposits of hyalite opal, a type of opal that is found in this area. Under shortwave ultraviolet light, the hyalite opal in the mine glows a vivid lime green. The effect is stunning, and it has made the Bon Ami Mine a popular destination for photographers and mineral collectors.

In addition to the hyalite opal, the Bon Ami Mine also contains other minerals, including feldspar, quartz, and mica. The mine is open for tours, and visitors can explore the tunnels and learn about the history of mining in the area.

How do I get to Emerald Village?

Emerald Village Mine is located just off of the Blue Ridge Parkway, about 3 miles from the Little Switzerland exit (milepost 334). To get to the mine from the Parkway, follow these directions:

  1. Take the Little Switzerland exit (milepost 334).
  2. Loop back around and go back underneath the Parkway on Chestnut Grove Road.
  3. Go one mile and turn left onto McKinney Mine Road.
  4. Follow McKinney Mine Road for 2 miles and Emerald Village Mine will be on your right.

Final thoughts on the Emerald Village NC Blacklight Tour

The Emerald Village Blacklight Tour is a unique and unforgettable experience that is sure to amaze and delight visitors of all ages. The tour takes guests on a journey through the Bon Ami Mine, where they can see the brilliant colors of the Hyalite Opal under ultraviolet light.

Other minerals, such as Feldspar and Manganapatite, also glow under black light, creating a stunning and otherworldly scene.

The tour is led by knowledgeable guides who share interesting facts about the mine and the minerals that are found there. Visitors also have the opportunity to take photos and videos of the glowing minerals.

The Emerald Village Blacklight Tour is a great way to learn about the natural beauty of North Carolina and to experience something truly unique.

The details:

What is it? Hyalite opal black light tour
Where is it? Emerald Village/Bon Ami Mine near Little Switzerland, NC
When is it? 10 Saturdays a year between May-October. Check the website for dates and
How much? Ages 5-12: $10, 13+: $20

About the author

Philip Kay is a native of North Carolina and has spent the last 15 years living in Western North Carolina in one capacity or another; from attending and graduating Western Carolina University in Cullowhee, to living and working in Asheville, to now living and working in rural Mitchell County.

He is an adventurous photographer specializing in landscapes, nature, and astrophotography and his photos have been displayed as far away as Berlin and Amsterdam. While he has had a camera in his hand since he was just a young boy, he took up the professional level calling and started PKayPhoto as a way to escape the pressures and stress of an extremely demanding job and now advocates for others to do the same.

The world is a beautiful place; I’m glad I get to see it twice- once by viewing it first hand and again through the lens of my camera.


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