What’s Geocaching? The Worldwide Hunt for Random Stuff

By Kathleen Clove
February 14, 2023

Step outside and test your mapping skills, maybe find a little funky swag. 

Who hasn’t dreamed of discovering buried treasure? Maybe you were one of those kids who dug up the backyard (if you were lucky enough to have a sibling or dog to blame). Or you had the cool parent who created a map for you and your friends to follow around the neighborhood. Yeah, the sticky slap hands you found weren’t as epic as a pile of cash, but honestly, they were a lot better than the rusty nails you found on your own. Revisit the thrill of the hunt by geocaching in Utah.

Intro to Geocaching

What is a geocache? In a nutshell (or a bento box?), it’s a hidden container you search for using GPS coordinates. They’re in suburbs and cities, under bridges and in parks — basically anywhere someone wants to place one.

How to Start

There are more than 100 geocaches in our state, mainly along the Wasatch Front and in Washington County. The coordinates are logged on and are available to anyone with a GPS. The quickest way to get started geocaching in Utah is to create a basic account with the free Geocaching app or online. Once registered, you can search for geocaches wherever you want to explore. 

Next, use your mad mapping skills to get to the proper longitude and latitude. GPS will put you within 15 feet. Follow the cache description and clues to pinpoint your search. You may need to reach around a rock, brush away some leaves or stand at a certain angle. Once you find it, do a little victory dance and revel in your brilliance. Then put it back exactly where it was.

You can log your experience online to keep track of your finds (and impress your friends). If it was a particularly tricky one, you can leave a clue for others, but that’s not required. Nothing too obvious, of course. The search should be just as fun for the next group as it was for yours.

When to Go

You can make geocaching the main event for the afternoon, or slip one into your vacation travel itinerary. Small diversions on a road trip to all of Utah’s national monuments can do wonders for keeping your passengers happy. Maybe even better than watching the same movie for the 14th time. Maybe.

What You’ll Find

The geocache container could be any shape or size: a film canister, a 5-gallon bucket, a butter dish, an ammo can. It’s usually metal or plastic (so probably not a butter dish). Inside you’ll find a logbook to leave your name and a friendly note for the next explorer — or the person who created the geocache in the first place. 

Before you get your 9-year-old hopes fired up, we’d better tell you now: You won’t be finding gold. Or sticky hands. Or nails. The loot is usually a small object such as a kid’s meal toy, keychain or pencil top eraser. But it’s really all about the quest, right?

You’re welcome to take the treasure you find — not the container — but you should definitely leave something equally fun/clever/valuable in return. Actually, leave something anyway, just to be nice. It could be a Utah Jazz sticker, a fridge magnet, a shilling. Whatever swag you think someone (especially kids) would like to find. Except food. No one wants a month-old peanut butter sandwich.

Equipment Needed

Geocaching doesn’t involve digging, so you can leave your shovel behind. You will need a GPS device or a GPS app and an adventuring spirit. That’s it. If you’ll be hiking for a while, prepare for that, but otherwise it’s just you and the satellites working in perfect harmony. Much easier than searching for a fugitive in a St. Patrick’s Day parade. And hopefully not as loud.

Create Your Own

If you’d rather be the hider than the seeker, create a geocache yourself. Keep in mind, you should check on it once and a while — just to make sure a raccoon didn’t eat it. A few other things to consider:

  • Use a sturdy, nonperishable container
  • Make sure it’s above ground (way above if you want, like, in a tree) 
  • Hide it at least 150 feet from railroad tracks, for safety reasons 
  • Keep off private property (unless it’s yours)
  • Include a pen and logbook
  • Add swag — no alcohol, explosives, knives or other items forbidden on an airplane, also for safety reasons

Upload the coordinates to the website, include a clue or two and you’re officially the cool one. 

Ready to start your adventure? Choose wisely. Oh, wait, didn’t someone already find the Holy Grail?