Colorado was built on the backs of 19th Century gold prospectors. But did you know you can still prospect for gold in and around Denver ... for free?

Gold mining is no joke. Every year, Colorado gold mines continue to pull hundreds of thousands of ounces of gold out of the ground. But did you know that you can pan for your own gold, too, and for free?

Here are four places that even you can pan for gold in the Denver area.

Arapahoe Bar Gold Panning Park

Located in Wheat Ridge, the Arapahoe Bar is a favorite place for Denver prospectors to spend a summer (or even winter) afternoon. In 2013, the City of Wheat Ridge decided to formally allow recreational gold panning in the creek, so anyone can show up and try their hand at pulling gold out of the Colorado soil.

There are a few gold prospecting rules that are strictly enforced, which you can find HERE. Simply follow the rules and be courteous to other miners and park-goers, and you'll be good to go!

Clear Creek

Located off Highway 6, just west of Golden, between Tunnels 1 and 3, Clear Creek Canyon is another great place to get some gold panning in! Once you get west of the city and into the foothills, most of the really gold-rich areas have already been claimed or placed off limits for other reasons. But there is a stretch of Clear Creek where you can legally prospect for gold.

Now, it's not the easiest spot to get to -- especially if you bring a lot of gear along -- but it's worth the effort. As you drive west from Golden on Highway 6, you'll come to the first tunnel and then a small parking area. You'll have to walk down the bank toward the creek, but anywhere between the tunnels is fair game for prospecting.

Clear Creek Canyon Park

You can also pan in Clear Creek inside of Clear Creek Canyon Park. Plus, not only does the area allow for gold panning but sluicing and suction dredges (up to four inches in diameter), too. They do have a few important rules that you should read up on before you start panning!

Cache Creek

The Cache Creek Prospecting Site is currently managed by the Federal Bureau of Land Management, so the public can use it recreationally. Before it came under BLM control, though, Cache Creek was home to a private commercial mining operation and it was really profitable.

And, since it is currently BLM land, there are rules in place for casual prospectors. 

Honorable Mention: Fairplay Prospecting Park

I know, I know. I said we would cover the four best free places to pan for gold in Colorado. And, we did. But here's a fifth option that will only cost $10 per day!

If you want to pan or sluice in Fairplay, you need to pay for a permit -- which you can buy at a number of local establishments. That's a steep price, especially for not being able to dig in the river. But if there is one thing Fairplay is known for, it's gold.

What do you think? Have you had any luck panning for gold in Colorado? Tell us where in the comment section below!

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