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Geocache Listing Requirements / Guidelines

Last Updated: April 22, 2014

Introduction

Prior to placing and submitting any and all geocaches, please read the following guidelines so that your geocache can be published promptly. If your geocache does not adhere to all of our guidelines, it may be placed on hold, temporarily disabled or permanently archived.

Use of Geocaching.com services is subject to the terms and conditions in our disclaimer. The geocache owner retains all responsibility for their geocache listings. Geocaching is a constantly changing and evolving activity and as a result these guidelines are subject to change.

At times a geocache may meet the requirements for publication on the site but the reviewers, as experienced geocachers, may see additional concerns not listed in these guidelines that you as a geocache placer may not have noticed. The reviewer may bring these additional concerns to your attention and offer suggestions so that the geocache can be published.

Please be advised that there is no precedent for placing geocaches. This means that the past publication of a similar geocache in and of itself is not a valid justification for the publication of a new geocache. If a geocache has been published and violates any guidelines listed below, you are encouraged to report it. However, if the geocache was placed prior to the date when a guideline was issued or updated, the geocache is likely to be grandfathered and allowed to stand as is.

Additionally, you may want to read the Help Center article called Geocache Ownership: A Long-Term Relationship; it's full of useful tips for geocache owners. The Help Center article called Review Process: Hiding a Geocache provides a technical explanation of what to expect during geocache submission.

If you need to make special arrangements for a novel idea, contact Groundspeak before placing and reporting the geocache on Geocaching.com. If you need to appeal the decisions of our reviewers, contact Groundspeak and categorize your message for the Appeals group. We look forward to assisting you.

Guidelines (Expand All)

I. PLACEMENT Guidelines: Placement guidelines govern the physical location of a geocache.

"When you go to hide a geocache, think of the reason you are bringing people to that spot. If the only reason is for the geocache, then find a better spot." – briansnat

The more geocaches that you have found, the better you will understand the various elements that make up a great geocaching experience. This knowledge will be invaluable when you place a hide, and likely make your geocache more enjoyable for the community. We encourage you to find at least twenty geocaches before you choose to hide one.

  1. Fundamental Placement Guidelines
    1. All local laws and documented land management policies apply.

      This refers to both the placement of the geocache and the journey required to reach it. Geocachers must not be required to cross any land with "No Trespassing" signs, or locally-defined markers that prohibit access.

    2. You assure us that you have the landowner's and/or land manager's permission before you hide any geocache, whether placed on private or public property.

      By submitting a cache listing, you assure us that you have adequate permission to hide your cache in the selected location. If you have permission to place a cache on private property, indicate this on the cache listing for the benefit of the reviewer and those seeking the cache.

      In the case of public property, permission can often be obtained from the agency or association that manages the land. Worldwide, there are many such agencies and organizations that regulate geocaching on their managed land. As the cache owner you are responsible for determining who to contact to obtain permission.

      Even if you are certain that geocaching is permitted on particular public property, ensure that you have followed any and all requirements established by the land owner or land management agency before placing the cache. There may be locations in which cache hides are inappropriate, even though not prohibited by local laws.

      If Groundspeak is contacted and informed that your cache has been placed inappropriately, your cache may be temporarily disabled or permanently archived.

    3. Geocaches are never buried, neither partially nor completely.

      If one has to dig or create a hole in the ground when placing or finding a geocache, it is not allowed.

    4. Geocache placements do not damage, deface or destroy public or private property.

      Caches are placed so that the surrounding environment, whether natural or human-made, is safe from intentional or unintentional harm. Property must not be damaged or altered to provide a hiding place, clue, or means of logging a find.

    5. Wildlife and the natural environment are not harmed in the pursuit of geocaching.

      Geocaches are placed so that plant and animal life are safe from both intentional and unintentional harm. In some regions geocaching activity may need to cease for portions of the year due to sensitivity of some species.

    6. Geocaches are not placed in restricted, prohibited or otherwise inappropriate locations.

      Additional regulations and laws that apply only to your country and region may further restrict cache placement. A cache may be disabled or archived if one or more of the following is true. Please note that the list is not exhaustive; there are many reasons why a cache may be disabled or archived.

      1. If your cache is reported by the land owner or land manager as being an unwanted intrusion, Groundspeak will respect the wishes of the land owner or manager.
      2. The cache placement is in an area that is highly sensitive to additional foot and/or vehicular traffic including, but not limited to, archaeological sites, historical sites and cemeteries. Note that some cemeteries permit cache placement.
      3. The cache is on property belonging to a railroad. In the United States we generally require a distance of 150 ft (46 m) from active tracks. Local laws may vary.
      4. The cache is problematic due to its proximity to a public structure, including and not limited to, highway bridges, major roadways, dams, government buildings, schools, military installations, hospitals, airports and other such locations.
    7. Physical elements of different geocaches should be at least 0.10 miles (528 ft or 161 m) apart.

      A physical stage is defined as any waypoint that contains a physical element placed by the cache owner, such as a container or a tag with the next set of coordinates. Non-physical caches or stages, including reference points, trail-head/parking coordinates and/or a virtual stage waypoints, are exempt from this guideline. Additionally, within a single multi-cache or mystery/puzzle cache, there is no minimum required distance between physical elements. The graphic below shows a few examples of what is and is not acceptable in terms of cache saturation. EarthCaches are exempt from this guideline as they do not have physical waypoints.

      Groundspeak may further restrict cache listings in areas where cache saturation becomes a concern.

      Cache Saturation Examples

      Acceptable Unacceptable
      This is acceptable because the stages of a single cache with multiple physical elements may be less than 528 feet (161 m) apart. Diagram of a cache with multiple physical stages that are less than 528 feet apart This is unacceptable because physical locations of the two separate caches are less than 528 feet (161 m) apart. Diagram of two caches with multiple physical stages that are less than 528 feet apart
      This is acceptable because all physical locations of the two separate caches are more than 528 feet (161 m) part. The blue waypoint can be closer than 528 feet because there is nothing physically placed at the location. Diagram of two caches with non-physical stages that are less than 528 feet apart. This is unacceptable because physical locations of the two separate caches are less than 528 feet (161 m) apart. Diagram of a cache with multiple physical stages in conflict with a traditional cache
      • Physical stage with something placed by the cache owner
      • Non-physical stage with no physical elements placed by the cache owner
      • Traditional cache
    8. Geocaches are allowed in space, on other planets and in spacecraft.

      We have published and will continue to publish cache listings in outer space, such as in the International Space Station or on Mars.

  2. Other Placement Considerations
    1. Select an appropriate location and container.

      Think about how your container and the actions of geocachers seeking it will be perceived by the public. Although your cache will be hidden with landowner or land manager permission, concerned passersby who are unaware of geocaching, may view people searching the property as suspicious. Containers that could be perceived as a bomb or another dangerous item should not be placed. To reduce the risk of your cache being perceived as dangerous by non-geocachers, and being permanently archived by Groundspeak, use common sense when selecting hiding places and containers.

      Please carefully read our Geocaching.com Disclaimer. Groundspeak is not in any way responsible or liable for caches or their placement. All aspects of your cache and its placement are your responsibility, and you may be held liable for any resulting consequences.

    2. Label your geocache.

      To avoid confusion and alarm when a cache is discovered accidentally, clearly label it as a "geocache" and include the GC code on the outside of the container. Transparent containers help to show that the contents are harmless. If the container has any military markings, we recommend permanently covering these or removing them. Include a printed "cache note" inside your cache to explain what it is and to provide a brief description of geocaching.

II. LISTING Guidelines: Listing guidelines cover the requirements that you, as a geocache owner, need to adhere to in order for your geocache to be successfully published on Geocaching.com.

Before a geocache is published on the website, a volunteer reviewer will look at the page for compliance with these guidelines. The physical geocache site is not verified. As the geocache owner, you retain all responsibility for your geocache listings and you are responsible for the placement and care of your geocache.

  1. Listing Guidelines for All Geocaches
    1. Technical Requirements
      • Listings must contain accurate GPS coordinates.

        You must visit the cache location and obtain the coordinates with a GPS device. GPS usage is an integral and essential element of both hiding and seeking caches and must be demonstrated for all cache submissions. Projecting waypoints from a specific location already defined by set of coordinates is permissible. For geocaches that include additional waypoints see the guidelines specific to those cache types.

      • Geocache listings that require additional website registration, installs or downloads are generally not publishable.

        Cache listings that require a cacher to visit another website will not be published if the finder must create an account with, or provide personal information to, the other website. In the interest of file security, caches that require the installing or running of data and/or executables will likely not be published. The use of memory sticks and similar devices is not permitted.

        Certain files (specifically .TXT files, .PDFs and all audio files) may be acceptable inclusions on cache listings in the interest of allowing greater cache creativity. These downloads must adhere to all geocaching guidelines and include the following text above the link:

        "Alert: You are about to download a file that contains further details needed to find this geocache. As the cache owner, I represent that this file is safe to download although it has not been checked by Groundspeak or by the reviewer for possible malicious content. Download this file at your own risk. [insert link here]"
    2. Geocache Maintenance
      • Owner is responsible for geocache listing maintenance.

        As the owner of your cache listing, your responsibility includes quality control of all posts to the cache listing. Delete any logs that appear to be bogus, counterfeit, off-topic or otherwise inappropriate.

      • Owner is responsible for visits to the physical location.

        You are responsible for occasional visits to your cache to ensure it is in proper working order, especially when someone reports a problem with the cache (missing, damaged, wet, etc.), or posts a Needs Maintenance log. Temporarily disable your cache to let others know not to search for it until you have addressed the problem. You are permitted a reasonable amount of time – generally up to 4 weeks – in which to check on your cache. If a cache is not being maintained, or has been temporarily disabled for an unreasonable length of time, we may archive the listing.

        The region in which a cacher is considered able to maintain caches responsibly will vary from person to person. A cacher who has previously logged caches within a wide range of their home may be considered able to maintain a geocache 200 miles (322 km) away. However, someone whose geocaching activities have primarily been within 25 miles (40 km) of home may not be able to maintain a geocache this far from home. This factor is determined at the discretion of the cache reviewer or Groundspeak.

        Because of the effort required to maintain a geocache, please place physical caches in your usual caching area and not while traveling. Caches placed during travel will likely not be published unless you are able to provide an acceptable maintenance plan. This plan must allow for a quick response to reported problems, and might include the username of a local cacher who will handle maintenance issues in your absence. Alternatively you might train a local person to maintain the cache. Document your maintenance plan in a Note to Reviewer on your cache listing. This should include contact information of the maintainer. The note will auto-delete on publication.

    3. Geocache Contents
      • Geocache containers include a logsheet or logbook.

        For all physical caches, there must be a logbook, scroll or other type of log for geocachers to record their visit.

      • Contents are family-friendly.

        Explosives, fireworks, ammunition, lighters, knives (including pocket knives and multi-tools), drugs, alcohol and any illicit material should not be placed in a cache. Geocaching is a family-friendly activity and cache contents should be suitable for all ages.
        If someone other than you places an inappropriate item in a cache that you own and this is reported, the cache may be temporarily disabled. As the cache owner, you may be asked to remove the questionable item before the cache listing is re-enabled.

      • Contents are appropriate for outdoor life.

        Food items or scented items are inappropriate and disallowed. Animals have a keen sense of smell and have been known to destroy containers to get to these items. Items that may melt in the heat, such as crayons or lip balm, or expand in the cold, such as liquids, should also be excluded from caches.

    4. Solicitation and Commercial Content
      • Geocaches do not solicit for any purpose.

        Cache listings perceived to be posted for religious, political, charitable or social agendas are not permitted. Geocaching is intended to be an enjoyable, family-friendly hobby, not a platform for an agenda. Cache pages cannot require, and should not strongly encourage, the placement of new caches. This is considered an agenda and the listing will not be publishable.

      • Commercial geocaches are disallowed.

        Cache listings perceived as commercial will not be published. A commercial cache listing has one or more of the following characteristics:

        1. It has overtones of advertising, marketing or promotion.
        2. It suggests or requires that the finder go inside a business, interact with employees and/or purchase a product or service.
        3. It contains links to businesses, agencies, commercial advertisers, charities, or political or social agendas.
        4. It contains the logo of a business or organization, including non-profit organizations.
        5. It contains the name of a business or commercial product.
    5. Geocache Permanence
      • Geocaches are placed for the long term.

        Cachers will expect your cache to remain in place for a realistic and extended period of time. Therefore, caches that have the goal to move (traveling caches), or temporary caches (caches hidden for less than 3 months or for one-time events) will not be published.

    6. Submitting a Geocache Listing
      • Placing a large number of geocaches to be published on the same date requires advanced planning.

        Submit the cache listings at least ten days in advance of the requested release date. Post a Note to Reviewer on the cache listings requesting that the caches be published on the date specified. Reviewers will strive to accommodate reasonable requests. Caches placed in connection with an event must be left in place after the event. See "Geocache Permanence" above.

      • Geocache must be in place before you enable the listing.

        Your cache should be in place and ready to be found at the time your cache listing is enabled online. If the cache is not ready for seeking, disable your cache listing so that it won't appear in the review queue and post a Reviewer Note explaining special circumstances, such as awaiting permission from a land manager.

      • Communicate with your reviewer.

        If you believe that special circumstances may affect whether or not your cache listing is published, post a Reviewer Note on the cache listing. This note will auto-delete on publication.

  2. Additional Listing Guidelines for Specific Geocache Types. Not all geocache types have additional guidelines, and guidelines that cover all geocaches still apply. For all cache types that have multiple stages, physical elements (tags, containers, or any physical addition to the location) must be added to the listing as Additional Waypoints.

    1. Traditional Caches

      A traditional cache consists of at least a container and logbook and is located at the posted coordinates.

    2. Multi-Caches

      The coordinates posted at the top of the cache listing are for the first stage of a multi-cache. Provide the coordinates of all subsequent stages of the multi-cache by using the Additional Waypoints feature. If you do not want the coordinates for the additional stages displayed to the public, mark them as "hidden." Only the cache owner, reviewers and Groundspeak lackeys can view hidden coordinates.

    3. Mystery/Puzzle Caches

      The information needed to solve this type cache must be available to the general community and the puzzle should be solvable from the information provided on the cache page.

      For many caches of this type, the coordinates listed are not of the actual cache location, but a general reference point, such as a nearby parking location. The posted coordinates should be no more than 1-2 miles (2-3 km) away from the true cache location. This allows the cache to show up on the appropriate vicinity searches and means that the mileage of Trackables passing through the cache will be reasonably accurate. Add the final set of coordinates and any additional waypoints to the cache listing before submitting for review.

      Before you submit the cache listing, post a Note to Reviewer with an explanation of how the puzzle is solved. This log will auto-delete on publication.

      A challenge cache is a variation of a puzzle cache that enhances the geocaching experience. It will typically require the cacher to meet a reasonable and positive Geocaching-, Waymarking- or Wherigo-related qualification. If you are thinking of creating such a cache, please review the additional specifications in our Knowledge Book article.

      Note: Cache owners creating a mystery/puzzle cache will select "Unknown" from the cache types on the cache submission form.

    4. Letterbox Hybrids

      This cache type pays homage to an older form of scavenger hunt. A Letterbox Hybrid must include significant GPS usage for at least part of the hunt. Letterbox-style clues may be used to guide seekers to the container, but only if the clues are accompanied by coordinates specific to the hide. The container for a Letterbox Hybrid must include a stamp, which stays with the geocache and may be used by letter-boxers to stamp their personal letter-boxing book. The cache can be logged without using the stamp.

    5. Wherigo™ Caches

      If a cartridge is used as a requirement or means to find a cache, it is considered a Wherigo cache, regardless of whether it also has a puzzle or multi-cache element. The cartridge must reside at Wherigo.com. Cache saturation applies only to physical containers and not virtual elements like those that make up a Wherigo cartridge. A device that can play Wherigo is not considered special equipment, so the special equipment attribute is not required for this cache type. Learn more about Wherigo™.

    6. Event Caches

      Event Caches facilitate the social aspect of geocaching. They are organized by geocachers and are open to other geocachers. Events should take place at the posted coordinates and must include both a start time and end time. Events with several elements, a sequence of events, or events that are near the same time or location and intended for the same audience should be submitted as a single event. Additional waypoints may be added to the event listing for the locations of event activities.

      Events must be submitted at least two weeks prior to the event date. Events are usually published no more than three months prior to the event date. Events may be published up to six months prior if an overnight stay is expected by attendees or if the event is designed to attract geocachers from beyond the local area. After an event has occurred, the listing is to be archived by the geocache owner.

      An Event Cache should not be set up for the purpose of gathering geocachers for a geocache search. If an event is already organized outside of the geocaching community or it will happen without a Geocaching.com listing, it is likely not an Event Cache. Examples include concerts, fairs, sporting and scouting events.

      Event Caches, like other geocaches, will only be published if they meet the commercial cache guideline. Geocache owners can include basic information about the location on the geocache page, even if it is a commercial location. Event listings may request donations or charge a fee to cover legitimate costs of the event. A list of sponsors, without logos or URLs, may be on an event listing. Event listings may only mention sales of event-related Geocaching.com trackables. Listings may include a link to a non-commercial event landing page. Attendees may be required to register at a separate registration page.

    7. Mega-Event Caches

      Mega-Events are (you guessed it) large-scale geocaching events that are usually held annually. Most Mega-Events begin as regular Event Caches, and then once there is documented attendance of over 500 geocachers, Mega-status may be awarded by Geocaching HQ. In consideration of the significant resources we devote to publicizing the Mega-Events, Geocaching HQ reserves the right to deny or retract publication of Mega-Events sponsored by other commercial geocache listing services, as well as parent and affiliated companies, unless written permission has been granted in advance by Geocaching HQ.

      To learn more about Mega-Events and how to get your event to Mega-status, check out the Mega-Event Help Center Article.

    8. Giga-Event Caches

      Giga-Events are the natural extension of Mega-Events. These are the rarest of all event types. After attendance of over 5000 geocachers is documented at a particular Mega-Event, Giga status may be awarded by Geocaching HQ. And just like Mega-Events, Geocaching HQ reserves the right to deny or retract publication of Giga-Events sponsored by other commercial geocache listing services, as well as parent and affiliated companies, unless written permission has been granted in advance by Geocaching HQ.

      To learn more about Giga-Events and how to get your event to Giga-status, check out the Giga-Event Help Center Article.

    9. CITO Event Caches

      Cache In Trash Out events are gatherings of geocachers to improve parks and other cache-friendly places. Examples of CITO-appropriate activities include tree-planting, trail-building, removing invasive species and removing trash from a designated location. Other organizations sponsor similar activities. These external events could be adapted or developed to meet our cache submission guidelines. To be published on Geocaching.com external events will need to designate a portion or section of the larger event to be by geocachers for geocachers.

    10. EarthCaches™

      Groundspeak partners with the Geological Society of America to administer this educational cache type in which cachers visit a unique and specific geoscience feature. Additional guidelines and rules are listed at EarthCache.org. For additional guidance about EarthCache development, see our Knowledge Book articles.

    11. Virtual and Webcam Caches have been grandfathered.

      Virtual caches and webcam caches are no longer available as options for new listings on Geocaching.com. Caches of these types that existed prior to November 2005, often referred to as grandfathered caches, are exceptions to this rule and may still be active. New listings similar to these cache types can be created as waymarks at Waymarking.com.

      If you currently own a virtual or webcam cache, you must maintain the cache listing and logs, respond to inquiries from cachers, and must check the physical location periodically. Abandoned caches will likely be archived by Groundspeak. Grandfathered caches will not be unarchived.

III. LOGGING Guidelines: Logging Guidelines cover the requirements that must be fulfilled in order to log a find.

  1. Logging of All Physical Geocaches

    Physical caches can be logged online as "Found" once the physical log has been signed.

    An exception is Challenge Caches, which may only be logged online after the log is signed and the challenge tasks have been met and documented to the cache owner as per instructions on the published listing. Other than documenting a Challenge Cache, physical caches cannot require geocachers to contact anyone.

    For physical caches all logging requirements beyond finding the cache and signing the log are considered additional logging requirements (ALRs) and must be optional. Cache finders can choose whether or not to attempt or accomplish such tasks. This is a guideline change that applies to all logs written since April 4, 2009. If you own an existing cache with mandatory additional logging requirements, we request that you:

    1. Review your own cache listing to see if the ALR can be made into a simple, optional task, or whether it must be removed altogether.
    2. Edit the text of your cache listing and, if necessary, contact a reviewer to change the cache type.
    3. Cease deleting logs based on ALRs.
  2. Logging of Non-Physical Geocaches
    1. EarthCache Logging Guidelines

      EarthCaches are designed to be educational, so visitors will be asked to log an aspect of their visit that demonstrates they have learned something at the site. Unlike physical caches, where "additional logging requirements" are optional, an EarthCache requires geocachers to comply with all instructions in order to log the cache online. See EarthCache.org for more comprehensive EarthCache logging guidelines, including that photographic logs must be optional for all EarthCaches.

    2. Virtual Cache Logging Guidelines

      A cacher must visit the location of the virtual cache site to log the cache online. Logging a virtual cache requires compliance with the requirements detailed on the cache listing. These logging requirements could include emailing the cache owner to provide the required answers or posting photographs. Neither answers to questions nor hints should be placed in the logs, even if encrypted.

    3. Webcam Cache Logging Guidelines

      A webcam cache can only be logged with a photograph taken from the webcam associated with the cache page.

    4. Event Cache Logging Guidelines

      Any Event Cache (including Mega, Giga and CITO Events) can be logged online if the geocacher has attended the event. Event Cache owners can request that cachers sign a logbook, but this is optional and cannot be a requirement for logging an Event Cache.

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