Going on a treasure hunt with your kids is easier than you think! Geocaching is a worldwide scavenger hunt that has people of all ages using GPS devices to find caches, which are hidden containers holding log books to sign and usually toys and trinkets. Many “hiding spots” are right here in metro Atlanta!
My 5-year-old son Liam and I were introduced to geocaching by Park Ranger Toft at Red Top Mountain State Park. He helped us set up an account on geocaching.com and download the Geocaching App on my smartphone. The app showed us thousands of registered hidden caches within the park. Who knew? We picked a low-difficulty hunt and were on our way.
Liam, armed with our GPS device, led Ranger Toft and me with three goals: count down the feet, keep the arrow pointing up, and find the hidden cache container. Our hunt led us to a pile of downed trees, and after a bit of searching through hollowed branches, we discovered a hidden military ammunition container. Victory! Inside the cache we found a notepad where we logged our names. Then we picked our prize: an orange plastic centipede, which we replaced with a small toy we brought along. (One of the main rules of geocaching is to put something into a cache if you take something out.)
What a thrilling family activity! Not only did our geocaching adventure lead us to an amazing state park, it also taught my son GPS and directional skills. Most importantly, it opened my son’s eyes to hidden treasures in the world. Caches can be anywhere. Many families geocache wherever they go and we think we will, too.
– Valerie Shepherd
If You Go
Red Top Mountain State Park
50 Lodge Rd. SE, Cartersville
More than 50 other Georgia State Parks have registered caches
Hours: Anytime during regular park hours
Cost: Free; parking $5
What is it? It’s like searching for pirate’s treasure! Geocaching is an outdoor activity that anyone can participate in. Use a GPS-enabled device – even a smart phone works – to reach a set of GPS coordinates, and then find a geocache (container) hidden there. The cache may have an assortment of mini-treasures, and you can pick your prize.
How did it start? In 2000, when precisely accurate GPS coordinates became available to the public, an Oregon man started the game by hiding a first stash of items for other to find. The hobby, similar to letterboxing, became popular as people online learned about the treasure hunt.
How do you begin? Visit a cache listing website like geocaching.com or opencaching.com – both are free - and search for caches in your area. Caches are ranked by degree of difficulty, so you can adjust for the ages in your group. Grab your GPS device and go!
Where are caches hidden? Anywhere outdoors! Caches can be found in parks, on trails, or even outside businesses.
What are the rules? If you take an item from a cache, replace it with something else, like a small inexpensive toy. Replace a cache exactly where you found it. Report any issues with cache conditions on the website where you found it listed.
Can we hide a cache? Hiding a geocache and registering it can be fun as well, but it’s best to find several caches before creating one. With experience, you’ll know more about cache types and how to hide one.