Wandering aimlessly along the Washington coastline, cascade mountains or high desert can easily turn anyone into a rockhound.
Glaciers, active volcanoes, lava flows, caves, and petrified forests…the state of Washington definitely has something to offer everyone when it comes to rock collecting sites.
And that’s exactly what we’re going to focus on in this article….where go rockhounding in Washington state. Here’s a list of the top 10 areas around the state that are known for being excellent rockhounding locations.
Rockhounding In Washington
1. Damon Point
Rockhounding enthusiasts are probably familiar with Oregon’s beaches as the US’s best place to rockhound for agates. Yet, Damon Point is Washington’s ‘hidden gem’ when it comes to agates. It happens to be a perfect place for birdwatching too, if you’re interested in that as well.
The Southwestern Washington coastal beach area is basically a sand spit that flows into Grays Harbor over a distance of two and a quarter miles. It receives agates washed out by the sea gracefully forming pebble beds that are the destination of agate lovers from all over the world.
Damon Point isn’t limited to agates. You can find granite, jasper, and smoothed basalt there as well, so you’re in for a treat! Yet, it’s the agates that are abundantly present there, and that’s definitely what this area is known for.
Pro Tip: Be well prepared when it comes to clothes and equipment when you go to Damon point. It can get cold and windy. The surface of the terrain isn’t the easiest to walk on as well. Rubber boots and a rubber coat would be perfect companions.
2. Blanchard Mountain
Spread over 4,500 acres, the Blanchard forest -also goes by the names Blanchard Mountain and Blanchard Hills- is one of the most remarkable rockhounding sites in the state of Washington.
Since 2007, the DNR has been actively working to protect the wildlife in the area, subsequently protecting fossils and minerals. That’s why you should have your Discover Pass ready with you when you go there.
The available minerals there are calcite, pyrite, siderite, quartz, and most importantly, Stilpnomelane, a strikingly beautiful black mineral that’s crystalized and occurs in a zone of green chert.
Stilpnomelane is an extremely rare and complex hydrous iron aluminosilicate that can only be found in iron-rich rocks and only in the form of small disseminated crystals. For these reasons, Blanchard Mountain is the home of Stilpnomelane in Washington, and a lot of rockhounds take a deep interest in it.
3. King County
While mountains are the first thing that comes to mind when you think about the combo (rockhounding and Washington), the Evergreen state has some hidden treasures in its lowlands. One of the most prominent sites for that is King County.
The superstar there is the Cadman quarry, a fifty-year-old quarry that’s situated with valuable minerals. Rockhounds love to go there for quartz and calcite mostly.
Calcite forms inverse rhombohedrons that are abundant in the Cadman quarry. The depth of the place allows for sharp-edged pieces to be formed deeply in there, which might be challenging for rockhounds when they try to extract them.
In the Eastern side of the Cadman quarry, quartz is abundant. It’s usually found in the form of blue agate. Another interesting area that contains various forms of quartz is the Cedar Ponds quartz deposit.
Pro Tip: The best spot to rockhound in Cedar ponds is two miles away from the parking area there, along the cliffside. Yet, you have to prepare for walking through dense vegetation till you reach the prominent dig sites. The area is overwhelmingly vast, so you might need to bring a map.
4. Walker Valley Geodes
Located in Skagit County, 9 miles east of Mr. Vernon, Washington, Walker Valley Geodes is Washington’s best destination for hounding geodes.
The area is rich in breathtakingly beautiful geodes that encompass clear quartz and/or purple Amethyst. Since they’re rare, finding purple Amethyst crystals is the primary purpose for rockhounds who aim to Walker Valley Geodes.
Pro Tip: The challenge here is not to find geodes but to extract them without ruining them. Use your rock hammer gently when digging the geodes out of their hard surrounding rock to avoid damaging them.
5. Ginkgo Petrified Forest
Petrified wood has been Washington’s state gem since 1975. Washington’s interior was fully made of swampy trees like oak, elm, and cypress in prehistoric times. Later on, some of these forests were preserved by lava flows, and they fossilized, producing the exotic petrified wood that Washington is known for now.
Ginkgo’s Petrified Forest is a state park that’s home to a collection of the rarest petrified wood specimens from 1932. The collection is preserved in an air-conditioned trailside museum that features more than 20 petrified logs.
As you probably know, rockhounding is banned in state parks, but we couldn’t help but mention the Ginkgo forest on this list. Hardcore rockhounds will pay the Ginkgo Petrified Forest Interpretive Center visit for the worth and scarcity of its elements.
6. Oak Harbor
Oak Harbor in Whidbey Island, Island County, Washington, is home to several types of jade. For instance, nephrite, a form of green jade that’s formed as a result of tectonic plates colliding. It’s mainly magnesium and calcium silicate intertwined in a solid fibrous structure. Nephrite is beautiful, insanely tough, and rare. One of the best places to find it is Oak harbor.
Pro Tip: Oak Harbor has a treasure hunting club that can be helpful in guiding you to the best digging spots. It’d be especially helpful if you’re a newbie to rockhounding.
7. Okanogan County
Located in the Northeastern part of Washington, mainly composed of high mountains and narrow valleys in between them, Okanogan County is known for mining. The county has been a center of mineral production since the fifties.
One particularly rich place in gems is the Last Chance mine. It literally oozes gemstones! Malachite, quartz, pyrite, and azurite. It also has vanadium, copper, silver, and gold. You name it, you find it!
Gold panning is a common activity there. Since you’ll typically only recover small amounts of gold, panning here is totally free, and there are no permissions required by the state.
Suction dredges aren’t allowed, though.
8. Rialto Beach
Rialto Beach is a preferred destination for many hikers and rockhounds. This pebble-covered coast that’s located 14 miles west of Forks, Washington, is rich in gray basalt, jasper, and quartz. People who go there for rock collecting are usually after Orbicular Jasper, whose vibrant orange color makes it stand out among the overall grayish rocks it sits on. The bright orange orb pattern is why they call Orbicular Jasper ‘Poppy Jasper.’
It is possible that you can find agates here as well, However, we won’t say this is the best gemstone to look for on Rialto beach. Beachcombing for poppy jaspers is way easier there!
Pro Tip: There are transparent remnants of mainland cliffs that have separated from land as a result of erosion long years ago called sea stacks. You can find these just right off the beach.
9. Port Orchard
If you’re after sea glass, then Harper Beach, port orchard, Washington, might be the destination you’re looking for.
The beach is loaded with sea glass in various quality levels and colors. There’s green, amber, white, and aqua sea glass.
In the southern part of the beach, there are grass-filled areas that seem to provide protection for the glass. Don’t give up easily; going through this grass will be rewarding when you manage to extract that sea glass stuck there.
As a result of long exposure to seawater, you’ll find that the older glass is frosted because of the water’s high Ph value. The presence of algae in the area might’ve played a role in the yellow/ greenish tint on the glass as well.
10. Ellensburg Area
The Ellensburg Blue Agate is the third rarest gemstone worldwide. To find them, head to Ellensburg Area in Kittitas County. There’s a 160-Acre land called Rock N’ Tomahawk Ranch, on the upper green canyon road. You pay $5, get a brief orientation session, and the place is yours to start rock collecting.
Pro Tip: The best time to do it is in the early summer days so that winter wind might’ve pushed the gems to the surface. In all cases, it’s a super rare gemstone, so don’t set very high expectations.
There you have it, the 10 best spots for rockhounding in Washington state. There’s an abundance for everyone in agates, jades, quartz, and definitely, the state’s proprietary, petrified wood!
Make sure to check the DNR rules and prepare for any required permits before you go. This is for your own safety and to save your time,