An Introduction to Geocaching

Sometimes even the most dedicated hiker could use some extra inspiration or a goal beyond simply taking a walk. If this sounds like you, it might be time to give geocaching a try. It is a fun and easy (at least to start) way to add a little zest to your hike.

Geocaching is a treasure hunt of sorts. A cache is hidden in a park, forest, city or even on private property. The cache's location is registered on a geocaching website like geocaching.com. You go out and find the cache, sign the logbook and perhaps take and leave a trinket. Pretty easy, huh? So where are the caches and how do you start?

According to geocaching.com, there are nearly 890,000 active (maintained) caches around the world. There are five caches within one mile of my Minneapolis house and nearly 30 within two miles. The metro area has hundreds.

To begin geocaching, you have two options. The most popular is to use a Global Positioning System (GPS) receiver. Using satellites, GPS determines your location and can direct you to any location you input. Caches are always listed with latitude/longitude or Universal Transverse Mercator (UTM) map coordinates. Enter these coordinates into your receiver and hike, bike, drive, etc. to the cache.

If you're not ready to invest in a GPS receiver, you can still hunt for caches. Geocaching.com also places the location of many caches on a Google map. Using the additional instructions, you can find many simply by following the map (although this gets harder when they are in big parks or forests with limited roads).

Ready to go?

  1. Go to www.geocaching.com.
  2. Create a free account.
  3. Enter your zip code into the box and find a cache near you.
  4. Put the coordinates into your GPS receiver or just look at the mapped location.
  5. Head outside, find the cache and sign the logbook (if you wish).
  6. Leave the cache as you found it.

Geochacing can grow into both a complex and social activity. For example, caches have difficulty levels. Some are easy to find, some are in tough geographical positions (thick woods, swamps, under bridges) while others may require you to crack codes or solve puzzles before you can find them.

For the more group-oriented, active geocachers can report their finds on the website and follow others' successes. In addition, organizations like the Minnesota Geocaching Association provide events and activities to meet with other geocachers. It is estimated that there are hundreds of thousands of geocachers around the world. Will you be next?


Minneapolis Hiking Examiner Don Begalle began hiking as a kid in Michigan's Upper Peninsula and has been wandering the forests, mountains and deserts for 20 years.

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