Cache-ing the National Park Spirit

Katherine RivardPursuits
Students exploring a broken down barge while using GPS to try and find a geocache hidden somewhere at Kobuk Valley National Park
Kobuk Valley National Park — National Park Service

When you visit searching for new national parks to explore, you can query based on state or activity. From scenic drives to whitewater rafting, the activity list includes a variety of new sports and hobbies to try, including geocaching. Not quite sure what that is, or perhaps even how it’s pronounced? We’ve created the following geocaching (pronounced: “geo-cashing”) guide to get you started.

What is Geocaching?

Geocaching is a modern-day scavenger hunt. Find hidden -- not buried -- treasures using GPS devices or a free smartphone app. Millions of geocaches are hidden all around the world, including at parks like Keweenaw National Historical Park and Mississippi National River and Recreation Area. Please note, however, many national parks prohibit the sport to protect fragile environments and historical and cultural areas. Those that do participate may have specific rules, so be sure to check the park page or speak with rangers before starting your adventure.

Where Can You Try Geocaching?

Three children engage in geocaching on the Captain John Smith Chesapeake National Historic Trail

Geocaching at Captain John Smith Chesapeake National Historic Trail

National Park Service

Complete a geo-tour when you visit the expansive Captain John Smith Chesapeake National Historic Trail. The trail winds through six states on the East Coast and is home to almost 40 geocaches. Make your way along five rivers while learning all about the life and times of John Smith just as he explored the same area 400 years ago. The main difference? He didn’t have a GPS.

Midwesterners and visitors enjoy the wide array of activities at Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore, from horseback riding to swimming. Those who want to explore the area further can take advantage of the park’s geocache locations coordinated by the Chellberg Farm/Bailly Homestead Trail system. Make your way through the forest and take in the maples, oaks, and beeches or follow the Little Calumet River before checking out the historic Bailly Homestead and Chellberg Farm.

Arizona’s Petrified Forest National Park opens its metaphorical doors to the geocache community with both EarthCache sites and physical caches. EarthCaches are virtual caches where you can learn facts about Earth or new information about a unique geoscience feature, while physical caches include a container and a log book. Before or after you’ve completed your geocaching adventure, be sure to enjoy the park’s Painted Desert Rim Trail and stop in the Visitor Center to watch the park film!

Tips and Reminders

Two people geocaching at Petrified Forest National Park
National Park Service

Geocaching is a fun way to explore different areas of our national parks, but remember that not all parks allow geocaching and the placing of unauthorized caches in a national park is prohibited. Similarly, authorized geocaching efforts are only permitted during park operating hours.

Finally, be a courteous member of the geocache community by returning physical caches to their exact locations so that other visitors may also participate.

Scavenger hunts aren’t just for kids! Geocaching is one way to bring back the excitement of scavenger hunts in combination with your love of parks and GPS skills. To get started, check with your nearest park or head to to see what parks are participating near you!

Start a Conversation

This question is for testing whether or not you are a human visitor and to prevent automated spam submissions.
Stay Inspired
Connect with the parks you love. Sign up to receive the latest NPF news, information on how you can support our national treasures, and travel ideas for your next trip to the parks. Join our community.