We present experiments involving the structural and frictional characterization of gold nanoparticles (AuNP) thermally deposited on highly oriented pyrolytic graphite (HOPG). The effect of thermal deposition amount, as well as post-deposition annealing on the morphology and distribution of gold on HOPG is studied via scanning electron microscopy (SEM) measurements, while transmission electron microscopy (TEM) is utilized to confirm the crystalline character of the nanoparticles. Lateral force measurements conducted via atomic force microscopy (AFM) under ambient conditions are employed to investigate the nanotribological properties of the gold nanoparticles as a function of normal load. Finally, the increase in lateral force experienced at the edges of the nanoparticles is studied as a function of normal load, as well as nanoparticle height. As a whole, our results constitute a comprehensive structural and frictional characterization of the AuNP/HOPG material system, forming the basis for nanotribology experiments involving the lateral manipulation of thermally deposited AuNPs on HOPG via AFM under ambient conditions.