Many areas all around the country are open to the public for mineral collecting. Many are free and some charge a small fee. You can find places near you by checking with the local rock shop. They may have a book of maps for the state you are in. A search for 'mineral collecting+the name of the state you are interested in' will usually return some good leads'. You can also find mineral lists and locations for many locales here.

Mines can be very dangerous places when not maintained, so be aware of what is around you. Is that huge rock about to slide down? What about that tree that someone has been digging under? Quarry walls erode over time and large chunks of rock can fall at any time and for no apparent reason. This is true of old tunnels also. You should never enter a tunnel unless you are with someone who is an experienced miner and knows what to look for. Always remember that safety comes first. Also be aware of the people around you. If someone is down slope from you then you don’t want to be tossing rocks out behind you.

Start with the dumps. This will give you an idea of what was found and perhaps a nice specimen or piece of gem rough that was overlooked by the miners.  If you are working around big rocks, be careful as they can slide or fall and cause injury.

Of course it is always helpful to know a bit about the mine’s history. Also a list of know minerals from the locale will help with identification.

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When digging in popular areas, it is often a good idea to dig down into the dump a ways. Often the top foot or so of gravel has been gone through several times. Digging deeper into the dumps may get you to less studied material.