Nature’s Bounty: Gem Trails in WA
Washington state’s most common gemstones are agates, jasper and geodes. It is also home to large collections of petrified wood fossils.
Washington is a state full of scenic views and rampant wildlife. It also has numerous mineral deposits. For those who are feeling stir crazy with the current times we are in, why not go rockhounding across some of Washington’s beautiful gem trails and take in the beauty of nature? It is an activity one can enjoy alone or in a group.
Here are a few of the trails in our state that aren’t restricted, fee-based or require a permit. The gem sites information listed below are either taken from “Gem Trails of Washington” second edition by Garret Romaine or from personal knowledge.
Six miles east of Oso is a site that offers many deposits. Such as nephrite jade, rhodonite, garnet and jasper. It is known to be the best location for finding jade in Washington. Notable sites to view nearby are boulder lake, a swimming hole and the railroad bridge. This site is visitable year round with camping options nearby.
Located two miles south of Mt. Vernon, near Big Lake, this gem site location offers deposits of quartz geodes, rhodonite and jade. It is open year round with camping grounds on site. Walker Valley also is known for its scenic yet bumpy 10 mile off-road vehicle trail which can make for a fun pit stop.
Nearby the previous site, there is a quarry a few miles down Lake Cavanaugh road that offers pink rhodonite and serpentine deposits. There is no camping at this site, however, so for people traveling far distances, it is best to stay at other sites nearby.
There are plenty of rocks to choose from at Stubbs Hill. This location has four different sites where jasper, petrified wood, leaf fossils and gold can be found. Jasper can be found in pebble form along the creeks near bridges at Cedar Pond. A two mile hike from there is Sultan River, a previously major hotspot for gold mining, where you can still find traces of gold. There isn’t any discernible place to camp nearby.
Near the Snoqualmie Pass, there is a deposit of high quality quartz, including amethyst and calcite. While the site of the cliffs is beautiful, the hike to get to this site is more rigorous with its steep incline. It is closed during the winter but offers camping nearby.
In Port Angeles Washington, rock hunters can find Orbicular jasper either bright red or maroon in color with white circles, they can be found in seams and require tougher tools like hammers and chisels to extract. At this site, there is mixed terrain consisting of cliffs and lower hills. There are also many notable locations nearby the site such as Sol Duc River and Hot Springs, as well as the Lake Crescent Lodge.
A peaceful site with an even landscape located in southwest Washington is Chehalis River. There you can find carnelian agate, jasper and samples of petrified wood. The waters here can get a bit mucky in the summer so while digging for rocks be sure to wash your hands. Newaukum River and Salmon Creek are also locations nearby that have deposits of carnelian agate. Camping grounds are located near Newaukum River.
On Crystal Mountain near Lions Rock, you can find more than just a ski resort. There are a variety of excellent-quality deposits you can discover. This includes agate, jasper, quartz, calcite, chalcedony and fluorescent stones. There are four quarry sites spread through the base to the top of the mountain. Most of these sites can be driven most of the way, for those who do not want to hike.
This gem site is located in Okanogan County, in the northern region of Washington. Along Happy Hill Road at Chiliwist Valley, you will find aventurine and several ore deposits. Aventurine found here is blue and green in color, in the form of quartz. At their No Moniker site you will primarily find gold ore, but secondarily copper, lead, zinc silver and molybdenum ore as well.
There are plenty of hidden gems in Washington, both figuratively and literally. Will you be able to find them?