If you thought childhood treasure hunts were fun, then geocaching may be the outdoor activity for you.
Best described as a hiking treasure hunt, geocaching combines healthy fun in nature with technology. Armed with clues and GPS coordinates, hikers search for “caches,” or hidden containers, throughout Pennsylvania and the world.
The basic idea is to locate the geocache outdoors and then share your experiences online. Caches are hidden in parks, towns, forests, mountain ranges -- all sorts of places. Clues about their whereabouts are shared at the geocaching website.
Type the coordinates provided to you on the website into your GPS, and off you go.
Once you find the hidden box, it’s customary to sign the log and leave a trinket behind.
Caches in Pennsylvania state parks and forests
Geocaches can be found in many of Pennsylvania’s 121 state parks, and all of the 20 state forest districts. Placing them does require a permit as outlined in the DCNR’s Guidelines for Placing Caches (PDF).
DCNR offers programs and guided activities on geocaching throughout the year on the DCNR calendar of events.
There are a number of geotrails, or caches along a path, in Pennsylvania, including one located in the South Mountain landscape.
Ranger Rick Geotrails, sponsored by the National Wildlife Federation, includes clues to help kids figure out which Ranger Rick character was there first. Check in online after your adventure to see if you guessed correctly.
Be Prepared for Geocaching and Leave No Trace
It’s a good idea to bring water, snacks, and clothing for the weather. Most geocaches contain a pen or pencil for signing the log book, but occasionally you will need to have something of your own to write with.
Follow the GPS coordinates until you are within about 25 ft. of the geocache, then start to use your eyes. Look for signs of something out of place, such as:
Stacked tree limbs
A geocache may be hiding there. Use the hints and recent log posts on the geocache’s online listing to help you. The names of geocaches are often clues as well.
Geocachers have a good reputation for being conscientious in terms of litter and site compaction, and caring for natural places. Try not to disturb wildlife or their habitats while you geocache. If you are quiet, you might see some unexpected things.