Rockhounding Washington State is definitely something for a rock collector’s bucket list.
Aside from the crazy beauty of the state (trees, rivers, mountains, beaches) you can find an extraordinary variety of unique rocks and fossils.
Due to years of significant volcanic activity in the state, you’ll be able to hunt for and find agate, jasper, opal, and even gold nuggets.
You may also get lucky and find some gems, such as amethysts and garnets.
Don’t forget fossils (crinoids, clams, snails, corals) or petrified wood, which is the Washington state gem!
There are too many amazing sites to choose from in Washington for rock hunting. Literally, there are hundreds of sites. Hundreds.
Here is a collection of some of our favorite sites and some need-to-know details.
Rockhounding Washington (A Visitor’s Guide)
The information provided in this article by YesDirt.com is for informational purposes and is subject to change. Laws are updated. Accessibility guidelines and restrictions change. Be sure to confirm the land status and collection rules before you travel to an unfamiliar location or collect any material.
Rockhounding Washington Rules and Regulations
Experienced rock hunters know that it is important to check the laws where you are before you collect anything or try to take it home.
They also know how important it is to know exactly where you are when you are hunting.
Sometimes half the battle is just knowing if you are on public or private land, and if it is public, which government agency’s rules control.
In general, each public site is going to have some kind of rules for what you can pick up and take home, as well as how much of it. Know before you go.
Places where you cannot hound/hunt in Washington
In Washington, you cannot rockhound or fossil hunt on the following lands:
- tribal lands
- national monuments (like Mt St. Helens)
- national wildlife refuges
- national scenic areas
- national parks
Gold panning is not allows on State Trust lands.
Check out the Washington State Department of Natural Resources for the most up to date rules.
This interactive Minerals and Fossils of Washington map is also a great resource to ideas of where you can hunt and what you can find there.
We also want to specifically mention and ask you to avoid mines, mine tunnels, mine shafts, and mining claims, whether they are in good condition or abandoned.
If you aren’t running a risk of trespassing or theft, you might be risking your life, as old mines are extremely dangerous (think collapse). Please just avoid these, and keep your children out of them.
Special Rules for Fossils/Artifacts in Washington
For many reasons, as you see in many states, there are certain types of cool objects that you can’t pick up and take home.
Meteorites and vertebrate fossils cannot be collected without a permit, for example.
If you discover archaeological or historic artifacts (or anything that looks like it is Native American), not only should you not collect it and take it home, but you probably shouldn’t even mess with it, dig it up to look at it, or even touch it.
As our urban areas expand and swallow up rural spaces, more opportunities arise to stumble into these types of previously undiscovered sites of significant scientific value.
People don’t realize the damage that they do to the sites by satisfying their own curiosity.
Further, what you might be disturbing when you are poking around is a sacred space or burial ground.
Perhaps the site wouldn’t have scientific value, but it would certainly have spiritual, moral, and ethical implications to be digging in what is essentially a gravesite.
And if you are found messing around or doing any sort of damage to these types of sites (even as a casual tourist/prospector), you could be looking at criminal consequences.
Where to Rockhound in Washington State
Now that we have the preliminaries out of the way, here’s a few of our favorite spots that we think you should check out.
Washington Coastal Beaches
As in Oregon, the Washington coastline remains one of the easiest and most enjoyable places to hunt for beautiful rocks, petrified wood, and even sea glass.
While the coastline changes from year to year, you can always find agates and jasper on the beach, especially if you can time your visit right with low tide.
And if you find little or nothing, you can still enjoy the views and get in a good hike/walk.
Another thing to remember is that the Washington beaches are constantly pounded with waves and weather.
So even sites that seem very busy can still be good places to visit to hunt for rocks, as the beaches are constantly bringing in and taking out and moving material from the gravel beds around.
We think that you can find agates on just about any beach on the Washington coastline (like in the Olympic Peninsula), but here are a few well-known favorites:
- Rosario Beach
- Bowman Bay
- Glass Beach
- North Beach
- Moran Beach/Whidbey Island
- Rialto Beach
- Damon Point
- West Beach
- Griffiths-Priday Ocean State Park
- Grayland Beach
- Roosevelt Beach
- Westport Light State Park
- Twin Harbors
Side benefit to making the trip to the beaches is that you will also be able to hike, walk, take great pictures, and in general enjoy the landscape.
Washington Rivers and Creeks
While we gave some suggestions above for cool places to go on the Washington coast, we can generally recommend just about every waterway as a potential place to be able to find agates, jaspers, and other beautiful rocks.
For example, it is fairly common for folks even along the mighty Columbia River to find good-sized agates on rock beaches at the waters edge the line the river up and downstream.
The key to this is to find rock beaches that are more out of the way and are less picked over, as they do not change or refresh in quite the way that the beaches do.
Make sure that the water you enter is not too deep or swift to walk in safely.
Other ideas for creeks/rivers to check out for rock hunting include:
- Cedar River
- Hansen Creek (one of the most popular places to hunt for amethyst)
- Solo Creek
- Hardscrabble Lake
- Snoqualmie River
- Satsop River
- Bear Creek
- Quillayute River
- Lewis River
The further off the beaten path (main roads) you can get, the better chance you’ll have of finding something cool. Plus you won’t be stumbling over people while you hike.
I recently visited Crescent Bar, Washington, and collected some quartz!
Rock Hunting Under Stumps on Red Top Mountain
Red Top Mountain is a fairly well-known agate collecting area not far from Cle Ellum, Washington (100 miles or so east of Seattle).
This site is on USFS land, but the roads are decent enough that you can get up to the site without four-wheel drive (assuming no major rain or snow events).
Unlike hunting in the more exposed eastern part of the state, the drive up to Red Top Mountain is well forested and green, with lots of decent views (and sometimes deer or even herds of sheep).
Once you park, you can start digging near the car, or you can hike up to the established digging beds, check out the fire lookout (or stop anywhere to dig in between).
Bring some basic tools (hammer and chisel, shovel, spray bottle with some water to see clean to see what you’ve dug up), and a way to bring the rocks back (backpack, buckets, etc).
Due to the rock chips that can fly, some people like to wear protective glasses and work gloves.
While some places are good for surface hunting, this spot is better known for what you can find beneath the surface.
This is a great place to dig for geode crystals, as well as jasper and agates of all kinds of colors.
If you get up there, try digging around the base and underneath the roots of old stumps.
Sometimes you’ll only find small pieces, but other times you can find pieces weighing several pounds.
Unique Finds Blanchard Mountain/Blanchard Hill
Ever heard of stilpnomelane?
This is a phyllosilicate mineral, which often looks like biotite.
It was originally found in the Czech Republic, and now can be found in only a few places in the world, including Blanchard Hill, Washington, aka Blanchard Mountain.
There are several colors of stilpnomelane, but on Blanchard Mountain (not far from Bellingham, about 80-90 miles north of Seattle) the color black it is most often found crystalized as shiny rosettes, usually tucked in with green chert and white quartz veins.
People love to collect this unique mineral to take home and cut up, and shine up, for display, for art projects, and for jewelry.
This is the type of rockhounding generally done with hammers and chisels, gloves and protective eyewear.
Rather than digging into the dirt, you’ll be hammering into the rocky walls of the mountain. It’s challenging work, and a little dangerous.
Bruised knuckles and small cuts are a likely side product. The chert around the stilpnomelane is brittle, and tends to shatter.
But if you find some to take home, you’ll have a unique specimen that very few other rockhounders will have in their own collections.
Digging for Gems Robertson Pit, near Shelton, Washington
Robertson Pit (about 30 miles northwest of Olympia) is a quarry owned by Green Diamond Resource Company, which manages forest land in multiple US states.
With a Recreation Access Permit, you can enter the natural area, and find natrolite, calcite, and analcime, among other specimens.
While you can dig where you like, some more experienced rockhounds do their hunting in the walls (where you can see many weathered pockets exposed).
We find ourselves wary of recommending that people just walk up to a rock wall and start hanging away, as very enthusiastic work can dislodge loose material and bring it down on top of you or someone else.
If you are into gem hunting, other rockhounders suggest: Green Ridge, Rainy Mine, Rock Candy Mountain Road Cut, and Doty Hills.
Petrified Wood at the Gingko Petrified Forest/Wanapum Recreation Area
While you can’t take any petrified wood you spot at the 7,000 acres that is the Gingko Petrified Forest State Park, you’ll definitely learn to identify what it is and what it looks like.
The reason we recommend checking this place out is that we recommend it to everyone!
It is just such a unique place, that also happens to offer camping, hiking, and boating opportunities.
In general, we don’t recommend that people invest or spend much (if any) money to enjoy rockhounding. Much of what you need to know you can access online.
That being said, when you are planning on going out into the woods or off the cell-tower grid, you are going to need to have information in hard copy.
If you are experienced and know where you are going, simply having a physical map of the area where you are driving/hiking can make all the difference.
If you are a beginner (or unfamiliar with the area), we suggest that you check out a book called Gem Trails of Washington.
(This is an Amazon affiliate link. As an Amazon affiliate, I may earn from qualifying purchases at no additional cost to you).
Written by an avid rockhounder and geologist, this particular publication has easy to understand maps with collecting locations all throughout Washington, some of which you won’t find mentioned on the internets.
We’ve created an ultimate guide to gifts for rockhounds with helpful links directly to Amazon to make looking for and checking out potential gifts quick and review easy!
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