Washington is a fantastic state for rockhounding, both for its wide variety of minerals and its large number of prospective rockhounding sites. The state is divided by the Cascades, with beautiful ocean beaches noted for their agate hunting to the west, and large basaltic lava flows to the east which are largely responsible for much of the fossilized and petrified wood found in the region.
Due to the relatively recent and extensive volcanic activity in the area, Washington State is one of the best states in the entire U.S. for rockhounding. The basalt flows fossilized vast forests, creating enormous amounts of fossilized and opalized wood, and the void spaces left by gas pockets in the lava flows created countless agates and jaspers which are now highly sought after by rockhounds from all over the world.
The best places to rockhound in Washington are Pacific Ocean beaches, river and stream gravels, and countless mines found across the state. In particular, the beaches around Olympic National Park are famous for their beautiful agates, and the Horse Heaven Hills area produces many specimens of opalized wood.
|State Gemstone||Petrified Wood|
|State Fossil||Columbian Mammoth|
Rocks & Minerals Found in Washington State
Washington sports a wide variety of minerals, particularly minerals in the quartz family. Due to its relatively recent volcanic activity in the eastern part of the state, agates, jaspers, and fossilized wood are bountiful all across the area. Other desirable rocks and minerals such as geodes and opal are also are fairly common if you look in the right locations.
The most commonly found minerals in Washington State are:
- Quartz crystals
- Opalized wood
- Fossilized wood
If you’ve already found a rock and you’re not sure what it is, I would highly recommend checking out my Practical Rock Identification System. This bundle of information includes a book, videos, and online tools. It is, simply put, the most comprehensive and easy-to-understand rock identification system you’ll find anywhere.
Rockhounding Locations in Washington State
Important Disclaimer: I have not been to these locations myself, and I do not know if they are currently open for collecting. Use this resource as a guide to get you started. Follow posted signage and always get permission from the landowner to collect.
Through quite a bit of research and cross-referencing of available literature, I have compiled this list of some prospective locations in Washington which I would recommend to people looking to do some rockhounding. These are mostly comprised of old mining prospects, streams, and historically known rock and mineral collecting sites. For additional reading, I’d highly recommend these books you can find on Amazon:
Please remember that rock collecting locations are constantly changing. Specimens may become depleted from other collectors, the location may have been built on or altered, locality information in literature may be inaccurate, and property ownership may have changed hands. Though there are many locations listed here, this list is far from exhaustive. A location’s listing here is not a guarantee of accuracy. Be safe, never go underground, and make sure to get permission from the landowner to search for and collect specimens.
If you’re planning on heading to the field, make sure you have all the gear you’ll need! To get started, you can check out my recommended gear page which contains my full reviews for every Geologist’s favorite rock hammer and the best hiking backpack I’ve ever owned.
NOTE: All the locations listed in these tables are clickable, and will take you to the location on Google Maps.
For ease of reference, I’ll break up the state into the four regions shown on the map below. Each region will have its own list of rockhounding locations with an accompanying map.
Seattle & Northwest Washington Rockhounding Locations
The best places to go rockhounding in Northwestern Washington are the beaches of the Pacific Ocean and the gravels of the many regional rivers and creeks. The ocean beaches are famous for their agates, jaspers, and other quartz minerals, while the banks of the rivers and creeks are often panned for gold.
If you’re looking for rockhounding locations close to Seattle or Tacoma, unfortunately, your best bet will be to either check out the sites I list below in southwestern Washington or to travel to the Pacific Ocean beaches to do some beachcombing. You can also try the area around Denny Mountain where specimens of rock crystal (exceptionally clear quartz crystals) have been found. The Seattle and Tacoma metro areas aren’t well known for their rockhounding, although you may be able to find some interesting specimens along the shores of the Puget Sound.
|Location||Rocks & Minerals|
|Shi Shi Beach||Gold, Iridosmine, Platinum|
|Dungeness, in river gravels||Agate, Jasper (Orbicular)|
|Lake Crescent, 1 mi. NW of W end of lake||Jasper|
|Crescent Beach, area gravels||Agate, Chert, Jasper|
|La Push, area beach gravels||Agate, Jasper|
|Sol Duc River, in gravels||Agate, Chert, Jasper|
|Ozette River, in gravels||Gold (placer)|
|Sappho, in Sol Duc River gravels||Agate, Jasper (Orbicular)|
|Thunder Creek District, area mining dumps||Silver|
|Hamilton, S bank of Skagit River||Hematite, Gold (placer)|
|Darrington, area stream & river gravels||Gold (placer)|
|Gold Bar, sands along Skykomish River||Gold|
|Granite Falls, area gravels and streams||Gold|
|Monte Cristo, area mining dumps||Arsenic, Arsenopyrite, Azurite, Chalcopyrite, Malachite, Melaconite, Pyrite, Pyrrhotite, Realgar, Scorodite|
|Sultan, area mines & sands along river||Gold|
|Pasayten Wilderness, numerous mines||Gold, Pyrite|
|Denny Mt., W side above creek||Rock crystal|
|Money Creek, area lode mines||Gold|
|Issaquah, E side of Fifteen-Mile Creek||Amber|
Central Washington Rockhounding Locations
Central Washington is home to a plethora of fantastic rockhounding destinations. This part of the state boasts a wide variety of minerals to be found, equitably distributed throughout the region. The best places to rockhound in Central Washington are the sands and gravels of the many regional rivers and streams, as well as select mountainsides and hillsides. The Horse Heaven Hills area is particularly notable for its opalized wood and petrified wood. The rivers and streams of this part of the state are also very popular for gold panning.
Eastern Washington Rockhounding Locations
Eastern Washington boasts quite a few notably rockhounding destinations. The streams and rivers of this part of the state are well known for their gold placer deposits, and there are countless old mining dumps where a wide variety of minerals can be found. The Grand Coulee area is particularly notable for its opalized wood specimens, and there are several areas including Bald Butte where rockhounds can hope to collect their own quartz crystals.
Southwest Washington Rockhounding Locations
Southwestern Washington is perhaps the best region of the state in which to go rockhounding. Much like Oregon, this part of the state is especially famous for its agates and jaspers found along the Pacific Ocean beaches. In fact, many quartz family minerals can be found across Southwestern Washington including agate, jasper, amethyst, carnelian, chalcedony, and petrified wood. The Pacific Ocean beaches are the best places to rockhound, but for more diverse specimens including amethyst geodes you can check out the other locations on this list including and Mt. Adams.
Where to Find Agates in Washington
Agates are some of the easiest to find and most enjoyable specimens sought by rock collectors. The Pacific Northwest is world-famous for its agates, particularly along the beaches of the Pacific Ocean. A determined collector can likely find agates on nearly any ocean beach in Washington, but there are certainly some that are better than others. Beyond the ocean beaches, there are many rivers and streams throughout Washington where fantastic agate specimens can be found.
These agates form when the void spaces left by air pockets in cooling basalt lava flows are subsequently filled with microcrystalline quartz. This gradual process often produces beautiful banding and interesting patterns. The colors vary depending on the various impurities which precipitate into the void space along with the silica. After the basalt flows are weathered away, the exceptionally hard agates are left behind and transported in fast-moving water.
The best places to find agates in Washington are:
- Rialto Beach
- Long Beach
- North Beach
- Ocean Park
- Crescent Beach
- Damon Point
- La Push
- Glass Beach
- Whidbey Island
- Cle Elum
Tip: Check out my Complete Rock Tumbling Guide to make your rocks and gemstones really shine!
Where to Find Geodes in Washington State
Geodes are some of the most popular and attractive rock specimens sought after by rockhounds, and for good reason. They are a blast to find and even better to crack open to see what treasures they hold inside. Fortunately for you rockhounds in Washington, there are several places in the state when you can go to find your own. These geodes can be filled with a variety of minerals including chalcedony, agate, and amethyst. For more information on the Walker Valley geode location, I would highly recommend this site.
The best places to find geodes in Washington State are:
- Walker Valley Geode Location
- Red Top Mt. and Teanaway Ridge
- Middle Fork of the Teanaway River
- Ellensburg, N of town
- Lucas Creek, area E of Adna
- Centralia, regional stream and river gravels
- Chehalis River near Doty
- Toledo, in river gravels
- Newaukum River, near Forest
Where to Find Fossils in Washington State
Washington is home to a wide variety of fossils, ranging from ancient plants to mammoth bones (the mammoth happens to be the state fossil). Some of the most commonly found fossils are clams shells which have been opalized or fossilized and turn up along the shores of beaches and rivers. Quality fossil digging sites are hard to find in the state, but luckily there are a few locations that a open to the public where rockhounds can go with the hope of discovering their own quality specimens.
The best places to find fossils in Washington State are the Stonerose Interpretive Center & Eocene Fossil Site and the Ginkgo Petrified Forest. To see fossils on display I would recommend checking out the Burke Museum. For a wealth of information about the types of fossils found in Washington State and their localities, you can check out Fossils in Washington from the Washington Department of Natural Resources.
Where to Find Jade in Washington
Luckily for rockhounds, Washington State is one of very few places where jade can be found in the U.S. Even so, jade is pretty rare and can only be found in a select few locations and will likely require some dedication and luck. If you get particularly lucky you might unearth something as spectacular as an 8-ton nephrite jade boulder.
The best places to search for jade are:
- Deer Creek, near Oso
- Bridgeport, in rocky exposures
- Nooksack River
- Whidbey Island, especially near Keystone Ferry Terminal
- Clallam Bay beach
- Port Townsend beaches
Washington State Rockhounding Laws & Regulations
One of the most common questions rockhounds have is whether or not they are allowed to collect at a certain location. It is the responsibility of each rockhound to obtain permission from a landowner to search and/or collect on a piece of property.
The ownership and status of land can and does change frequently, making it impossible to document accurate information on this page. However, I have compiled a list of resources here so that you may investigate and obtain permission for any locations (found here or elsewhere) for yourself.
Public Land Resources
I have written entire articles which cover the rockhounding laws and regulations for nearly every type of public land you can think of. I encourage you to check them out if you are curious about the legalities of rock and mineral collecting.
- Rockhounding on Public Land: Laws and Regulations
- Can You Collect Rocks in State Parks? All 50 States Answered
To determine what type of public land a particular location is on, I would recommend starting with the Washington Department of Natural Resources State Trust Lands Map and the Washington Non-DNR Major Public Lands Portal.
Private Land Resources
As with most states, each county in Washington will have records of who owns each piece of property. Unfortunately for rockhounds, the law in most states prohibits them from publishing their names or contact information online. You can usually get the landowner’s name and address by visiting the county records office. In Washington, I would recommend starting with the County Assessor‘s office.
Sources & Further Reading
The locations and information contained in this article are primarily derived from academic papers, online resources, and other outside sources. If you would like to read some of the source material for yourself I have listed them below. The majority of these locations are my interpretation of Robert Beste’s A Location Guide for Rock Hounds in the United States. Other sources include: