The 24 Best Spots For Gem Hunting In Washington In 2024

By Dr. Keith Jackson - Geology PhD

| Updated

The 24 Best Spots For Gem Hunting In Washington In 2024

By Dr. Keith Jackson - Geology PhD

Updated

Washington is a great place for gem mining adventure seekers, with plenty of opportunities to find rare and more common gems. Our state has a long and rich history of mining, and many of the sites are now open to the public.

Whether you’re a beginner or a seasoned gem miner, here are some of the best spots that you can explore. With a little bit of luck, a bit of skill, and a whole lot of fun, you’ll be sure to find some of the most valuable gems the state has to offer.

The best places to mine gems here are in the creeks, mines, parks, beaches, mountains, rivers, and ponds. Among our favorite places are the Hansen Creek Crystal Area, Monte Cristo Mines, Loon Lake Copper Mine, Klondike Gold Rush National Historical Park, and Rock’N’Tomahawk Ranch, which we have all covered in depth below.

How We Picked The Best Places For Gem Mining in Washington
In order to find the absolute best places in Washington for gem mining, we had to consider a lot of things. It can be really tough to find good information, so it took us a long time to put together a solid list like the one below. The main inputs to our recommendations are as follows:

  • The extensive local experience and understanding of our team
  • Input from several gem hunting groups and organizations
  • The accessibility of the mining locations
  • Safety and potential hazards when collecting
  • Private and public locations
  • A desire to include locations for both experienced gem hunters and those who are just starting out

Overall, we’ve been able to put together a great list that anyone can use to locate a lot of beautiful gems.

The Gemstones Found In Washington You Can Mine

Jasper is among the rare gems that can be found in Washington.

There is an unusually good selection of gems that can be found here. We have created guides to help you discover gem mines near you, because we know that each state is unique, and not everyone knows enough information on each of them. With the proper knowledge and a bit of good luck, you can uncover both rare and more common gems in this area.

Rare gemstones found in Washington

  • Agates
  • Amethyst
  • Jasper
  • Opal
  • Quartz

More common gemstones found here

  • Amber
  • Azurite
  • Bornite
  • Calcite
  • Carnelian
  • Chalcedony
  • Corundum
  • Cuprite
  • Diamond
  • Garnet
  • Hematite
  • Jadeite
  • Kyanite
  • Labradorite
  • Malachite
  • Pyrite
  • Pyrrhotite
  • Quartz
  • Realgar
  • Scorodite
  • Smithsonite

Our Favorite Places For Gem Mining In Washington

We came up with a list of the best gem mining places in our state for both adult and kids. For adults, these favorite places can provide the chance for some real gem hunting experience, while for kids, these locations can be the perfect choices to start discovering the wonders of gem mining.

Always Confirm Access and Collection Rules!

Before heading out to any of the locations on our list you need to confirm access requirements and collection rules for both public and private locations directly with the location. We haven’t personally verified every location and the access requirements and collection rules often change without notice.

Many of the locations we mention will not allow collecting but are still great places for those who love to find beautiful rocks and minerals in the wild without keeping them. We also can’t guarantee you will find anything in these locations since they are constantly changing. 

Always get updated information directly from the source ahead of time to ensure responsible rockhounding. If you want even more current options it’s always a good idea to contact local rock and mineral clubs and groups

Hansen Creek Crystal Area

At Hansen Creek Crystal Area, visitors can find an Amethyst like this.

Hansen Creek, WA 98045 United States

Hansen Creek is a popular destination located in the Cascade Mountains near the town of Index. The creek is known for its rich deposits of gems. Mining at this place dates back to the late 1800s, when prospectors first discovered deposits of gems in the area. For many years, local miners would search for gems along the banks of the creek and then sell their findings to rock shops and lapidaries throughout Washington. Today, you can purchase buckets of gem-laden dirt from local vendors and search for your own treasure.

The Types of Gems Found In The Hansen Creek

This location is rich in different kinds of gems, but it is known for having an abundance of the following:

  • Amethyst
  • Quartz

The Best Time To Visit Hansen Creek

The best time to visit this place is during the dry season, which runs from June through September. During this time, the creek is low and it is easier to search for gems along the creek bed.

Rock pick being used

The tools every gem hunter will need

When you're out looking for gems it's very important that you bring the right tools with you. You don't need a lot for most trips but there are a handful that are critical and will make your life a lot easier.

We get asked a lot about the equipment we use. Over the years we've found a handful of tools that we recommend to both new and experienced gem miners which we outline in great detail in our complete rockhounding equipment guide. These are quality options that also happen to be relatively inexpensive.

Below are the basic tools that make your life so much easier and save you a ton of time. Check out the full guide to see everything we recommend bringing. One quick note, as an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases but we try very hard to only recommend gear we would use ourselves and often recommend brands you can't find on Amazon.

At a minimum you should have:

1 - Sturdy rock hammer: The Estwing Rock Pick is our standard

2 - Rugged chisels: Try Kendo' 3-piece Chisel Set

3 - Compact shovel: The Koleiya 28-inch shovel works well

4 - Rock screen pan: The Wazakura Soil Sieve Set fits the bill

5 - Eye protection: DeWalt Safety Glasses are cheap and comfortable

6 - Head protection: Malta's Safety Helmet has been our go-to

7 - Jewelers lens with at least 20x magnification: Jarlink's Jewelers Loop is perfect

The gem-finding books that we use most

There are also a few books that have been extremely helpful in the search for gems. These books have great recommendations and tips:

National Audubon Society Field Guide to Rocks and Minerals: North America 

Northwest Treasure Hunter's Gem & Mineral Guide 

Earth Treasures: The Northwestern Quadrant 

We provide links to find these tools on Amazon but some can also be found at your local hardware stores. For more recommendations check out the link to our full tool guide above.

Monte Cristo Mines

An Azurite-Malachite gem found in Washington

Monte Cristo, Snohomish County, WA

The historic Monte Cristo Mines is located in the North Cascade Mountains. The mines were first discovered in 1891 by prospectors looking for a potential source of gold and silver. For over a decade, miners extracted ore from the mine, but the returns were not enough to sustain operations. In 1912, the mine was abandoned and has since become one of our state’s most popular sites for gemstone mining. Today, when you visit here, you can search for different kinds of gems, while experiencing a piece of history of the area.

The Types of Gems Found In The Monte Cristo Mines

This place features different kinds of gems, but it is rich in the following:

  • Azurite
  • Malachite
  • Pyrite
  • Pyrrhotite
  • Realgar
  • Scorodite

The Best Time To Visit Monte Cristo Mines

If you want to visit the Monte Cristo Mines, the best time would be during the summer months of June, July, and August. During summer, the weather is typically warm and dry, making it ideal for outdoor activities such as gem mining. Additionally, the days are longer during this period which allows for more daylight hours to explore the mines.

Loon Lake Copper Mine

Springdale Mining District, Stevens Co., WA

Loon Lake Copper Mine is an abandoned copper mine that was in operation from 1896-1933. The area around Loon Lake is rich in various gemstones, and although the copper mining operations ceased in 1933, you can still find gemstones near the old mining sites and streams. There are several commercial gemstone prospecting areas nearby that offer guided tours as well as a chance to search for gems on your own.

The Types of Gems Found In The Loon Lake Copper Mine

This place abounds in different kinds of gemstones, but the following are its most abundant resource:

  • Azurite
  • Bornite
  • Cuprite
  • Malachite
  • Pyrite
  • Quartz

The Best Time To Visit Loon Lake Copper Mine

Summer months are warm and dry, making it the ideal time to search for gems. Because of this, the best time to visit Loon Lake Copper Mine is during the summer months, which typically runs from June through August.

Klondike Gold Rush National Historical Park – Great for kids

A staff of Klondike Gold Rush National Historic Park showing a kid how to pan for gold

319 Second Ave S. Seattle, WA 98104

Klondike Gold Rush National Historic Park is a part of the U.S. National Park system that preserves and interprets the history of the Klondike Gold Rush of 1897-98. Located along the waterfront in downtown Seattle, you can explore a variety of exhibits and activities related to this exciting period in American history. One of the most popular activities here is gold panning. You can learn about the process of gold panning and try your luck at finding “gold” in a replica sluice box right onsite.

The Types of Gems Found In The Klondike Gold Rush National Historic Park

In this location, gold extracted through panning is the most abundant resource.

The Best Time To Visit Klondike Gold Rush National Historic Park

The best time to visit Klondike Gold Rush National Historic Park is from May to September. During this time of year, the weather is warm and the water levels are low, which makes it easier for visitors to search for gold. The park also offers ranger-led gold panning activities during the summer months.

Rock’N’Tomahawk Ranch – Great for kids

Pieces of Ellensburg Blue Agates found in Rock'N'Tomahawk Ranch

2590 Upper Green Canyon Rd, Ellensburg, WA 98926

Rock’N’Tomahawk Ranch is a family-run gem mining facility that has been in operation since the early 1990s. You can expect to learn about the history of the land, search for gems and minerals, and even purchase some of your finds if you wish. You can choose from two different gem mining experiences: dry washing or wet panning. With dry washing, you will use a sluice box to collect dirt from an area that is known to contain gems or minerals. Meanwhile, with wet panning, you will use water to separate heavy materials from lighter ones so that gems or minerals can be found more easily. Both methods will allow you to find a variety of gems and minerals in the area.

The Types of Gems Found In The Rock’N’Tomahawk Ranch

This place has different gemstones that can be found in the region, but it is visited by people from different parts of the country and the world for the Ellensburg Blue Agate.

The Best Time To Visit Rock’N’Tomahawk Ranch

The best time to visit Rock’N’Tomahawk Ranch is during the summer months, when the weather is warm and the days are long. These days are perfect for outdoor activities such as gem mining.

Other Great Options For Real Gem Mining in Washington

Kyanite is among the common gems that can be found in the region.

Washington is rich in gemstones, and these are not exclusive to the places we have listed above. Aside from our favorite locations, there are other great places that can provide adults with real gem hunting experience. Below are some of them.

  • Bellevue – Agate, Amethyst, Calcite, Diamond, Kyanite, Labradorite, Quartz
  • Boulder Creek – Agate
  • Cherry Creek – Jasper
  • Green Creek – Agate, Carnelian, Chalcedony, Jasper
  • Tower Hill Monroe – Agate, Jasper
  • Ellensburg – Ellensburg Blue Agate or Washington Agate
  • Money Creek – Jasper
  • Cedar Ponds – Amethyst, Quartz
  • Sol Duc River – Agate, Jasper
  • Red Top Mountain – Blue Agate
  • Tunk Creek – Corundum, Quartz
  • Chattaroy – Garnet, Quartz
  • Pullman – Opal
  • Salmon Creek – Agate, Jasper
  • Lucas Creek – Agate, Carnelian, Chalcedony, Jasper
  • Mt. Adams – Agate, Carnelian, Chalcedony, Jasper, Quartz

The Top Public Gem Mining Locations in Washington

A Corundum gem that can be found in the state

For families who are wanting to expose and introduce their children to gem mining, here are some of the best family-friendly places to successfully do so.

  • Rock Creek Wildlife Area – NF-1701, Goose Prairie, WA 98937
  • Shi Shi Beach – Shi Shi Beach Rd, Clallam Bay, WA 98326
  • Crescent Beach – 2860 Crescent Beach Rd. Port Angeles, WA 98363

Washington Gem Mining Laws And Regulations

The state has some general regulations pertaining to the use of public lands for recreational activities, including gem mining through the Washington Department of Natural Resource (DNR). In general, DNR requires that all persons wishing to use public lands for recreational gem mining must obtain a valid permit from their office. Additionally, you must adhere to all local, state, and federal laws when using public lands for recreational activities. This includes following all applicable rules and regulations regarding your activities on public lands.

You should also be aware that some areas of public land may be closed to mineral extraction or prospecting due to environmental protection concerns or other reasons. Additionally, you should always make sure you are aware of any special rules or restrictions in place in a particular area before beginning searching for gems.

For more information on the state’s gem mining laws and regulations, visit the Washington Department of Natural Resource link above.

Additional places to mine for gems in nearby states

Once you’ve visited each of the locations we mentioned above, visit the guides we created for our recommended areas to look for gems in the bordering states:

If you have any recommendations we haven’t covered, please leave them in the comments below!

About Dr. Keith Jackson - Geology PhD

Keith Jackson is an avid rockhound who is constantly exploring new sites to expand his collection. He has worked as a professional Geologist for over 20 years and holds a PhD in Geology from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, a Masters Degree in Geology from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, and a Bachelors Degree in Geology from the University of Connecticut.

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