Guide to Geocaching Road Trips
Written By: Bonnie Gringer
Road trips have been a fun way to explore the country for years, but it can be hard to come up with new ways to pass time in and out of the car. Not everyone enjoys hiking, fishing, or camping. However, one idea for a road trip takes the form of a real-life treasure hunt. Geocaching road trips may not be well-known, but they’re a fantastic way to have an adventure in a short amount of time.
Geocaching is an activity that takes place in neighborhoods, park trails, beaches, and forgotten stretches of land. Thanks to geocaching’s popularity, most people can find a geocache within a few miles’ drive of their location, though some might find that there are caches right in their neighborhood. The rules of the game are simple. The player, or geocacher, logs into a geocaching website to locate a geocache they’d like to find. The coordinates of this cache are provided, sometimes along with some sort of coded clue. The coordinates can be entered into a GPS device, and the geocacher must then use the GPS to hunt down the physical location of the cache. Once it is located, the geocacher can sign the cache logbook, a record of who found it, and replace the cache.
Geocaching was created in 2000, after the global GPS system was given an upgrade and opened to private citizens. A computer consultant named Dave Ulmer was the first to take advantage of this new technology for a treasure-hunting game. By the end of May, the term “geocaching” had been created, and by September, Geocaching.com was created to spread the excitement and allure of the game to new individuals. Since the ownership and operation of GPS technology isn’t intuitive to everyone, Geocaching.com also laid out the rules of the game and the details of what players would need to participate.
Hunting for a geocache requires only a website visit and a GPS device, but making a cache is more complex. There are more than a dozen different types of geocaches, ranging from a traditional geocache, which is usually a box or container with a logbook and swappable tokens, to a puzzle cache, in which the geocacher must solve a series of riddles to obtain the final coordinates of the cache. The location of the cache must be considered and determined based on accessibility, legality, and impact on the surrounding environment. Once a location has been chosen, the physical cache can be prepared.
A geocache container should be sturdy enough to withstand outdoor elements. It needs to be clearly marked as a geocache to avoid confusion by well-meaning trash collectors and public workers. Many caches contain small trinkets, which may be swapped in exchange for something of equal or greater value by the geocacher. Once the cache is placed, it should be logged and submitted to Geocaching.com, where it will be entered into the global record of geocaches for other people to find.
Finding a geocache, even by car, is simple. Enter the GPS coordinates of the desired cache into a GPS-capable device, like a smartphone or a navigation system. Drive or walk to the location indicated, and search for the cache. If traveling by car, it may be possible to find several geocaches on the same day.
Whether it’s a one-off stop on the way to somewhere else or a dedicated drive to find as many caches as possible, geocaching is a fantastic way to get the whole family involved in an outdoor activity. On longer road trips, virtual caches (things like large sculptures or distinctive billboards) can be seen from the car and logged as a find without ever having to slow down. The best part about geocaching is that it can be whatever a geocacher needs it to be. Large, small, near, or far, there’s a cache for everyone and for every type of road trip.
Choosing a GPS
- Handheld GPS Buyer’s Guide (PDF)
- Choosing a GPS: Understanding the Types (PDF)
- A General Guide to GPS Operation and Purchase (PDF)
Using Your GPS for Geocaching
- A Beginner’s Guide to Geocaching (PDF)
- Steps for Geocaching: Guided Exercise (PDF)
- Geospatial Science: Geocaching With a GPS (PDF)
- Paperless Geocaching: Software, Tools, and Process
- Questions About GPS and Geocaching (PDF)
- How to Get Started in Geocaching
Finding a Cache
- Let’s Go Geocaching! (PDF)
- Exploring West Virginia Through Geocaching (PDF)
- How to Find a Geocache (PDF)
- Geocaching (PDF)
- Locating a Geocache (PDF)
- Geocaching for Kids (PDF)
- Ranger Rick Geocache Trails
Making a Cache
- Creating a 4-H Geocache (PDF)
- Family Fun: Make a Geocache Trail
- Create a Dinosaur Train Geocache Trail
- How to Create a Geocache Container
GPS Tracking Sites and Organizations