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The state of Washington is among the best places for rockhounding. It is filled with all kinds of geologic activity from petrified forests, glaciers, giant lava flows, caverns, active volcanoes, and caves. If you ever wondered where to go rockhounding in Washington state, practically everywhere is a hidden gem waiting to be discovered. But what can you find?
The best places for rockhounding in Washington State are the Horse Heaven Hills area, the Pacific Ocean beaches, stream gravels, rivers, the beaches around Olympic National Park, and the endless mines across the state. You can find obsidian, geodes, agates, opals, gold, fossilized wood, fossils, and more.
The official state fossil of Washington is the Columbian Mammoth, while the state gemstone is petrified wood due to its abundance. Most of it is found in the state’s eastern and western parts, particularly in the Columbia Plateau basalts or the Gingko Petrified Forest State Park in Vantage.
Where Can I Go Rockhounding in Washington State? Best Locations
There are no places better than the Pacific Ocean beaches or the gravels of rivers and creeks when it comes to rockhounding in Washington. Gold panning is common on the banks of rivers and creeks, while agates, jasper, quartz minerals, and other specimens are also found.
Let’s dive right in and see exactly what can you find in the best of these locations!
Pacific Ocean Beaches
If you want to do some beachcombing, then Shi Shi Beach is where you can find gold, platinum, or even iridosmine. The river gravels of Dungeness are abundant in agate or jaspers.
The Crescent Beach in northwest Washington is filled with agates, chert, and jasper. The beach gravels of La Push are noteworthy for agates and jasper, and the same goes for Sol Duc River, Ozette River, or Darrington.
When it comes to southwest Washington, the beaches, and the streams of Aberdeen, Moclips, Kalaloch, Queets, and Long Beach, you can find agate, jasper, chert, chalcedony, and quartz.
An excellent place for gem hunting is Mount Adams, located in Yakima County/Skamania County. Here you can find agates, carnelian, chalcedony, jasper, quartz crystals, geodes, and more!
It is a beautiful place with many sights to see, and enthusiasts will love the diversity that comes with it. Prepare your tools, and head to Mount Adams for a unique rockhounding experience!
The Horse Heaven Hills
When it comes to opalized wood and petrified wood, the Horse Heaven Hills in Central Washington is a must! Here, the abundance of these specimens is overwhelming.
The rivers and streams here are also very popular when it comes to gold panning; however, you can also find chalcopyrite and galena if you are lucky.
In Cowlitz County, in the southwest of Washington, there is a city named Kalama. The areas around this city are abundant in specimens that are sure of interest to rockhounds. Here you can find agates (fortification agate), carnelian, chalcedony, and beautiful and big geodes (amethyst geodes).
Part of the largest river in the Pacific Northwest region of North America, the Columbia River, runs through Washington, and some locations near it are great for collectors!
For example, in sand areas, you might find gold (placer) in the central parts, while also in the gravels and sand south of Vantage, you may find opalized wood or petrified wood. In the eastern parts, gold can also be found in the sands of Nespelem to Coulee Dam, Columbia River.
For agates, you can try the gravels near the river in the Ringold area. Southwest, in Camas, with a bit of luck, you might also find gold in the sandbars near the river.
Other Great Spots for Rockhounding in Washington
An honorable mention on our list is the Ginkgo Petrified Forest State Park in Vantage; however, few places allow specimens to be collected.
When it comes to quartz, amethyst, and even amethyst crystals, Cedar Ponds is the perfect area! Another rich place for finding quartz in Washington is King County, especially around North Bend.
Some of the most prized specimens are, however, located in Okanogan County. Along the Skagit River, or near Oak Harbor, the famous Washington jade can be found at Whidby Island.
BTW: Do you want to know more about rock and mineral identification? The books listed below are the best ones you can find on the internet (Amazon links):
- Smithsonian Handbooks: Rocks & Minerals
- Gemstone & Crystal Properties (Quick Study Home)
- Ultimate Explorer Field Guide: Rocks and Minerals (National Geographic Kids)
What Rocks Can be Found in Washington State?
Washington has plenty of valuable rocks that can be a great addition to any collector. You can find plenty of geodes, agates, chert, yooperlites, and obsidian in rare cases. Geodes are highly abundant in this state, so let’s see exactly where you can find them and others.
Geodes are plentiful in Washington, and they come in different variants. In Central Washington, you can find (blue agate) geodes at the Red Top Mt. and Teanaway Ridge, on both sides of the road. Chalcedony geodes can be found in Middle Fork Teanaway River or in its gravels. Blue chalcedony geodes are in Ellensburg.
Southwest Washington is the most abundant in geodes. You can find them in Kalama, Lucas Creek, area E of Adna, Centralia, in the regional stream and river gravels, Doty, in Chehalis River gravels, the Newaukum River gravels close to Forest, or in Toledo, in the river area and stream gravels.
TIP: Rivers in Washington State are full of beautiful rocks. Do you know what rocks you can most often find in and near rivers? Check out the most common types of rocks you can find in rivers in the article below:
Ten Most Common Types of Rocks You Can Find In Rivers
Agates are plentiful in the eastern part of Washington, especially the beaches around Olympic National Park. In the northwest, you can find agates in the river gravels of Dungeness, the area gravels of Crescent Beach, La Push, in the gravels of Sol Duc River, or Sappho.
When it comes to Central Washington, agates are found in the Cle Elum area, in the gravels of Middle Fork Teanaway River, and the western part of Bickleton, while in the eastern parts of Washington, agates are abundant in the area gravels near Columbia River, in Ringold.
You can find chert in the northwest regions of Washington. Chert is abundant in places such as in the gravels of the Crescent Beach area or in the Sol Duc River gravels. In the southwest region of Washington, you can find chert in the area of beach gravels of Queets.
What Gemstones Can Be Found in Washington State?
Gem hunters will be pleased to know that in Washington, you can find opals, fire opals, amber, carnelian, and in rare cases, even pearls. Here are some of the best locations to find gemstones in Washington!
The best places to find common opal and fire opals in Washington are in the central and eastern areas. Common opal can be found in the gravels, excavation areas, or diggings in Waterville.
Both common and fire opals can be found in the lava outcrops northwest of Mondovi. The lava outcrops in Pullman are filled with fire opals.
Amber is quite rare, even when it comes to Washington. However, there is a place in northwest Washington where you can find it. Search for amber on the E side of Fifteen-Mile Creek, in Issaquah.
TIP: Amber is one of my favorite gemstones because of its beautiful orange-yellow color. Do you know the value of amber and which varieties are the rarest? Find out all about the value of amber in the article below:
How Much is Amber Worth? Costs per Carat and More!
Carnelian is abundant in Washington. This semi-precious gemstone can be found in Bickleton, Central Washington; however, southwest Washington is the most productive.
Here, you can find carnelian in places such as Kalama, Sightly, area E of Adna in Lucas Creek, McCoy farm near Adna, Centralia, Doty, Pe Ell, the Mt Adams area, or north of Holcomb in Green Creek.
What Minerals Can be Found in Washington State?
Minerals are abundant in Washington, as you can find various specimens such as jade, opalized wood, fossilized wood, chalcedony, gold, and perhaps even turquoise.
Gold is found in many places throughout the state, but here are some of the best locations and minerals that you should hunt for in Washington!
Jade is quite rare to find in Washington; however, with a bit of luck, you might just spot it.
Jade can be found near Oso, in Deer Creek, the rocky exposures in Bridgeport, the Nooksack River, Whidbey Island near Keystone Ferry Terminal, Clallam Bay beach, or near and around Port Townsend beaches.
Gold is abundant in Washington; you can pan for it in many places.
Near Seattle and the northwest region of Washington, you can find gold on Shi Shi Beach, gold (placer) in the gravels of Ozette River, Hamilton, S bank of Skagit River, the area stream and gravels of Darrington, Skykomish River, or the gravels of Granite Falls.
In Central Washington, you can find gold in the Columbia River, Liberty Creek, Mary Ann Creek, or the American River. In Eastern Washington, gold is found in the gravels of the Clarkston area, Snake River, Gold Creek, or in the Marcus area placers.
Southwest Washington is also abundant in gold, in places such as Brush Prairie, in area sands, or in Camas, in Columbia River sandbars.
TIP: Nothing in this world is impossible, and finding gold in your backyard is rare but can never be ruled out. Check out how to possibly find gold in your backyard in the article below:
Guide: PRO Tips On How to Find MORE Gold in Your Backyard
Probably the most famous location for finding opalized wood in Washington is the Horse Heaven Hills area.
In Central Washington, you can also find opalized wood in the Petrified Forest State Park, where it is permitted, the gravels and sands south of Vantage, the area draws, hillsides of Mabton, the southern side of Mount Rattlesnake, or in the south of Cairn Hope Peak.
In eastern Washington, the best location to find opalized wood is in the Grand Coulee area. You can also find it in Mattawa, the Saddle Mountains area, or in the lava area outcrops of Moses Coulie.
Since Washington had a good amount of volcanic activity, even relatively recently, fossilized wood is plentiful all across the state. A type of fossilized wood, namely petrified wood, can be found in the Petrified Forest State Park and can be collected in certain places.
The gravels of Vantage, Columbia River, hillsides of Mabton, Rattlesnake Mountain, and Cairn Hope Peak are also significant central Washington areas to look for fossilized or petrified wood.
Southwest Washington is also great for finding them, in places such as Lucas Creek, McCoy Farm near Adna, Centralia, Doty, or in the regional rivers and steam gravels of Pe Ell.
When it comes to chalcedony, in Central Washington, you can find it in places such as in the gravels of Middle Fork Teanaway River, in Ellensburg, Liberty, or you can go to southwest Washington.
Here, you can find chalcedony in Kalama, Lucas Creek, Centralia, in the Chehalis River gravels near Doty, the gravels of Pe Ell, Lebam gravels for Willapa River, in the beach gravels of Long Beach or Ocean Park, or in Green Creek north of Holcomb, and Mt Adams area.
TIP: Do you like rocks that look wet? Many people like it when the rocks look wet. But do you know how to achieve this? Check out these 7 simple ideas on how to make your rocks look wet in the article below:
7 Simple Ideas: What to Put on Rocks to Make Them Look Wet
What Crystals Can be Found in Washington State?
Crystals are a bit rare to find in Washington; however, there were some instances where the diamond was found. Apart from this, there are also plenty of places where one can find quartz crystals or even amethyst.
When it comes to diamonds, there is no exact location to find them; however, they occur randomly in association with volcanic rock. You might discover diamonds in such areas in Washington.
Amethyst can be found in eastern Washington in the area of gravels, and streams, of Newport. The southwest of Washington is, however, the richest in amethyst.
You can find amethyst in places such as Washougal, Kalama, Clay City, or the Mt. Adams area. Most Pacific Ocean beaches are abundant in amethyst geodes.
When it comes to quartz crystals, the best place to find them in Washington is on Denny Mountain. In Central Washington, you can find them in the gravels of Tunk Creek.
Eastern Washington is the richest in quartz crystals. You can go and hunt for them in places such as Lyman Lake, Loon Lake Cooper Mine, Chattaroy, the gravels of Little Spokane River, or Bald Butte.
In southwest Washington, you can find quartz in the beach gravels of Long Beach and Ocean Park or in the Mt Adams area.
TIP: Quartz has a lot of different varieties. How many of them do you know? Find out more about all quartz varieties in the article below:
Complete List of Quartz Varieties: Know Them All!
Where to Find Fossils in Washington State?
There are various types of fossils to be found in the state of Washington. We’ve already talked about fossilized wood. It is predominantly found in the eastern and western parts of Washington, especially in the Columbia Plateau basalts.
However, the Gingko Petrified Forest State Park in Vantage is the best place for viewers to admire these ancient tree remnants. Let’s see what other types of fossils you can find in Washington!
Agatized Fossil Shells
Let’s start with agatized fossil shells. They are found predominantly in the southwestern parts of Washington. If you search in the road cuts and gravels at Willapa Hills, you might just find them. You can also try the gravels situated in the Lebam region.
Plenty of ancient plants and dinosaur bone fossils can be found throughout Washington. The most common fossil is probably fossilized clamshells. However, there is a particular animal that has been crowned the official state fossil of Washington due to its predominance, namely, the Columbian Mammoth.
Over 40 such specimens have been discovered throughout the state. It inhabited this region in the Pleistocene Epoch about 1.6 million years ago, and it probably went extinct around 10,000 years ago.
The most common mammoth fossils found in Washington appear to be large molar teeth. Plenty of such specimens have been discovered in the western part of the state, on the Olympic Peninsula.
TIP: Did you know that fossils are often found in sedimentary rocks? And do you know why? Find out the answer in the article below:
Fossils Can Be Often Found in Sedimentary Rocks & Here’s Why
FAQ about Rockhounding in Washington State
Still did not find the answer to your answers about rockhounding in Washington State? Find frequently asked questions in the section below:
What is the State Gemstone of Washington?
Petrified wood is the state gemstone of Washington since 1975. These specimens grew during the Miocene Epoch, between 12 to 5 million years ago. These trees grew near volcanoes, and when they erupted, they preserved the wood through different processes.
What is the State Fossil of Washington?
The Columbian Mammoth is the official state fossil of Washington since 1998. These giant animals roamed here 10,000 years ago and as far back as 1.6 million years ago. They stood thirteen feet tall or more and weighed around ten tons. Plenty of fossilized large molar teeth can be found in the western portion of the state.
The state of Washington is a fantastic place for rockhounding, beachcombing, and gem collectors. The state unveils its richness in its abundance of gemstones, minerals, crystals, and fossils. Plenty of areas allow visitors to collect these specimens, and some require you to have a permit.
If you ever visit Washington, don’t miss out on collecting geodes, petrified wood, and jade, or even try your luck at gold! You won’t regret it, as you will indeed find amazing and unique specimens wherever you may roam!
BTW: Check out this amazing metal sign (Amazon link) which is perfect for everyone who loves rockhounding in Washington State!
TIP: And it’s rockhounding time now! But do you know what tools you need for rockhounding? Check out the list of all needed tools and equipment for rockhounding in the article below:
The Complete Guide: All Tools You Need for Rockhounding