Digging It! Best Places to Go Rockhounding

Got a budding geologist or paleontologist in the fam? Washington is a great state to be a rockhound—it’s a geological wonderland of active volcanoes, glaciers, rugged coastline and petrified forests. If you’re ready to get digging, read on to find out where you can crack open geodes and find crystals, dig through rock piles for hidden treasures and see meteorites that are outta this world!


photo: Helen Walker Green

Join a Rock Club
If your kiddo’s rock collection is growing as fast as a baby T-Rex, it might be time to join a local rock club. Kids can become Junior Rockhounds and even earn Future Rockhounds of America badges. Some of the cool things clubs offer include panning for gold, silversmithing and lapidary (that’s polishing and engraving rocks). Plus, clubs often go on field trips and some host annual rock and gem shows.


photo: Helen Walker Green

Check out these Seattle-area clubs:

Bellevue Rock Club
Cost: $7/year
Online: bellevuerockclub.org

Cascade Mineralogical Society -Kent
Cost: $30/family per year
Online: cascademineralogicalsociety.org

East KingCo Rock Club – Redmond
Cost: $20/Adults per year; $15/Seniors per year; Youth are Free with a paying adult
Online: eastkingco.org

Maplewood Rock & Gem Club – Lynnwood
Cost: $20/Adults per year; $45/family per year; $15/Students per year
Online: maplewoodrockclub.com

North Seattle Lapidary & Mineral Club
Cost: $10/Adults per year (plus $12 one time initiation fee); Youth are Free with a paying adult
Online: northseattlerockclub.org

West Seattle Rock Club
Cost: $3/Junior Rockhounds per year; $20/Adults for first year, $10/year thereafter
Online: westseattlerockclub.org


photos: Helen Walker Green

NW Rockhounds
This treasure trove of a store specializes in books, tools, specimens and jewelry for rock and mineral lovers, “dedicated to the joys of mineralogy and digging shiny things out of the ground.” NW Rockhounds opened its doors in 2015 and is known for organizing regular meet ups, workshops, talks, and rockhounding expeditions. When you go, look out for Honey Badger, the store’s friendly pooch who’s a real rockHOUND. Owners Lann and Juliet Kittleson say kids and dogs are always welcome!

NW Rockhounds
2720 N.E. 115th St.
Seattle, Wa 98125
Online: nwrockhounds.com

Hours: Mon.-Fri., 10 a.m.-8 p.m; Sat.-Sun., 10 a.m.-7 p.m.


photo: Helen Walker Green

Rockhound Fact: Our state gemstone is Petrified Wood.

Jerry’s Rock and Gem 
If you’re a rockhounding family, Jerry’s Rock & Gem is totally worth the drive to Kent. Presided over by a huge orange feline, Orion, it’s an amazing emporium of geological wonders – from meteorites and fossils to glittering crystals and gorgeous amber. Plus, there are tons of rocks and geodes to hunt through and pick out your own treasure. Psst! You can get a fantastic haul for under $15!

Jerry’s Rock and Gem
804 W. Valley Hwy.
Kent, Wa 98032
Online: jerrysrockandgem.com

Hours: Mon.-Fri., 10 a.m.-5:30 p.m; Sat., 10 a.m.-4:30 p.m.


photos: Jerry’s Rock and Gem Facebook page

Agate Designs
So much more than just a jewelry shop, this Pioneer Square store is like a museum full of geological wonders. Although not for tiny rockhounds, it makes our must-see list because families who can look-but-not-touch will be wowed! Agate Designs has all kinds of handpicked crystals, gems and minerals, plus 500-million-year-old fossils. Look out for their pooch Hutch (we sense a theme with rock shops here). And while you’re in Pioneer Square, head ’round the corner to Klondike Gold Rush National Historic Park.

Agate Designs
120 1st Ave. S.
Seattle, Wa 98104
Online: agatedesigns.com

Hours: Mon.-Sat., 10 a.m.-6 p.m; Sun., 11 a.m.-4 p.m.


photos: Agate Designs Facebook page

Rockhound Fact: Some minerals in Washington can’t be found anywhere else in the world, such as the Ellensburg Blue agate.

Klondike Gold Rush National Historical Park
Gold! Gold! Gold! Gold! screamed the headline of a Seattle newspaper on July 17, 1897. The Klondike Gold Rush was on, as thousands stampeded to the Yukon gold fields in Canada, hoping to find their fortune. Seattle was the last stop in civilization for prospectors heading north on steamers. At this museum (the only National Park in a building) you’ll learn all about the men, women and even children who headed for the Klondike. Plus, kiddos can take part in Junior Ranger activities and learn how to pan for gold. Perhaps, you’ll strike it rich here!

Klondike Gold Rush National Historical Park
319 2nd Ave. S.
Seattle, Wa 98104
Online: nps.gov/klse

Hours: Daily, 10 a.m.-5 p.m.
Cost: Free


photo: Klondike Gold Rush National Historic Park Facebook page

Rockhound Fact: Did you know that our state fossil is the Columbian Mammoth (Mammuthus columbi)? They stood about 13-feet tall and weighed as much as ten tons. And their large molars are the most common fossils found in Washington. You can visit one of these guys, the South Lake Union Mammoth, at the Burke Museum.

Burke Museum of Natural History & Culture
Burke Museum paleontologists discovered our state’s first ever dinosaur fossil a few years ago on the shores of the San Juan Islands. You can see Washington’s dinosaur fossil (an 80-million year-old femur bone from a two-legged meat-eating dinosaur) and much more at this fascinating museum on the UW campus. Better yet, get a membership and you can go behind the scenes of the Burke to get a taste of being a paleontologists or geologist. Psst! The Burke offers awesome summer camps, too!

Burke Museum of Natural History & Culture
4331 Memorial Way N.E.
Seattle, Wa 98195
Online: burkemuseum.org

Hours: Daily, 10 a.m.-5 p.m.; First Thursday of each month, 10 a.m.-8 p.m
Cost: $10/Adults; $8/Seniors (65 & older); $7.50/Youth (5-18) and Students with ID; 4 & under and UW students, faculty and staff Free; First Thursday of each month Free


photo: Burke Museum of Natural History & Culture Facebook page

Rock & Gem Shows
Each year, several Seattle-area clubs put on awesome rock and gem shows where you can ooh and ah at the cool displays and get plenty of hands-on experiences with geological treasures. Shows usually offer kids’ activities and a chance to learn skills like blacksmithing, silversmithing, jewelry making and, of course, the lapidary arts. You can also bring your own mystery rocks to be identified. So get polishing and check out these local shows coming up. Psst! The Mineral Council has a great list of all 2016 northwest shows.


photos: West Seattle Rock Club via Facebook

2016 Seattle Rock & Gem Shows

East KingCo Rock & Gem Show
Pickering Barn
1730 10th Ave. N.W.
Issaquah, Wa 98027
Online: eastkingco.org/show

Dates: March 5-6, 2016
Hours: Sat., 10 a.m.-6 p.m.; Sun., 10 a.m.-5 p.m

North Seattle Lapidary & Mineral Club’s 62nd Annual Rock and Gem Show
Lake City Community Center
12531 28th Ave. N.E.
Seattle, Wa 98125
Online: northseattlerockclub.org/shows

Dates: March 19-20, 2016
Hours: 10 a.m.-5 p.m.

West Seattle Rock Club 50th Annual Rock Show
Alki Masonic Temple
4736 40th Ave. SW
Seattle, Wa 98116
Online: westseattlerockclub.org/gemshows

Dates: April 23-24, 2016
Hours: 10 a.m.-5 p.m.

Bellevue Rock & Gem Show
Vasa Park
3560 West Lake Sammamish Pkwy. S.E.
Bellevue, Wa 98008
Online: bellevuerockclub.org/showinfo

Dates: October 22-23, 2016
Hours: Sat., 10 a.m.-6 p.m.; Sun., 10 a.m.-5 p.m

Maplewood Rock & Gem Club Show
8802 196th St. SW,
Edmonds, Wa 98026
Online: maplewoodrockclub.com/calendar

Dates: November 12-13, 2016
Hours: Sat., 9 a.m.-5 p.m.; Sun., 10 a.m.-5 p.m


photos: Helen Walker Green

Rockin’ Books
For more rockhounding inspiration, check out Gem Trails of Washington by Garret Romaine. It’s full of great info on the best gem, fossil and mineral trails for the whole family. If your kiddo is fascinated by coprolites (dinosaur poop), we recommend Jurassic Poop by Jacob Berkowitz. And another book we love is Julie the Rockhound by Gail Langer Karwoski. It tells the story of a girl who finds a shiny quartz crystal and learns to dig for gems. There are tons of rockhounding books for kids and grownups; be sure to check out your local library or bookstore. Happy rockhounding!

Do you have a family of rockhounds? Tell us about your rockhounding adventures in the Comments below!

— Helen Walker Green