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Geocaching Guidelines

Illustration of a map

Introduction

Geocaching HQ has developed these guidelines in collaboration with the international community of volunteers and geocachers since September 2000. Together, we review and adapt the guidelines as the world changes and the game evolves. Following the geocaching guidelines is important to protect the game and the environment in which we play. With these guidelines we aim to balance the needs and rights of the geocaching community, land managers, and the environment to ensure that geocaching can be enjoyed for years to come.

We encourage you to find at least 20 geocaches before hiding one. The more variety of geocaches you find, the better you will understand how to create an enjoyable experience for other geocachers. Find additional guidance about hiding caches in our Help Center.

For publication, geocaches must follow these guidelines and any applicable Regional Geocaching Policies.

When you submit a geocache page for review, a member of the global team of community volunteer reviewers (also known as reviewers) will check it against these guidelines. Community volunteer reviewers are geocachers, like you, who volunteer their time to support the game of geocaching and the geocaching community.

Geocaching HQ and community volunteers are not in any way responsible or liable for caches or their placement. All aspects of your geocache and its placement are your responsibility, and you may be held liable for any resulting consequences. Use of Geocaching HQ services is subject to our Terms of Use and Privacy Policy. These guidelines are subject to change.

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, Charter Member
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Geocache location

Obey local laws

All local laws and land management policies apply. This refers to both the placement of the geocache and the journey required to reach it. Do not place caches in a location that requires or encourages geocachers to trespass or pass markers that prohibit access.

Get permission

By submitting a cache page, you agree that you have all necessary permissions from the landowner or land manager to hide your geocache at that location.

If we receive complaints or become aware that a cache is in an inappropriate location, even if not prohibited by law, it may be disabled or archived.

  • Public
    • In the case of public property, you must get permission from the agency or association that manages the land. As the cache owner, you are responsible for determining who to contact to get permission.
    • Even if you are certain that geocaching is permitted on particular public property, make sure that you follow any requirements established by the landowner or land management agency before you place the cache.
    • As community volunteer reviewers become aware of geocache placement policies for a certain location, they may add them to the Regional Geocaching Policies Wiki.
  • Private
    • If you have permission to place a geocache on private property, indicate this on the cache page for the benefit of the reviewer and those seeking the cache. A community volunteer may ask you to provide contact information of the person giving permission.

Choose location wisely

Check for minimum distance

Geocache containers and physical stages of different geocaches must be at least 0.1 miles (528 feet or 161 meters) apart.

A physical stage is any object placed by the cache owner, such as a container or a tag.

There is no minimum required distance for

  • Non-physical stages, including reference points, trailheads, parking coordinates, and virtual stages.
  • Physical stages within the same Multi- or Mystery cache.
  • EarthCaches and Virtual Caches as they do not have physical waypoints.

Geocaching HQ may further restrict geocaches in areas where geocache saturation becomes a concern.

This graphic shows examples of minimum geocache distance.

Learn how to check for minimum distance.

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

Must be accessible

  • Long term
    • Hide your cache to have a long life.
    • Temporary caches intended to stay active for fewer than three months will not be published.
    • Caches intended to move will not be published.
  • Availability
    • Caches must be available most of the week.
  • No contact required
    • Caches cannot require geocachers to contact the cache owner or anyone else.

Do not bury

Do not bury geocaches, either partially or completely. You must not create a hole in the ground to place or find a geocache.

The only exception is if a property owner gives explicit permission, which you must provide to the reviewer and state on the cache page. See the Regional Geocaching Policies Wiki for details in your region.

Do not damage property

  • Do not damage, deface, or destroy public or private property, especially archaeological or historical sites, when you place your cache.
  • Do not place caches in a location that requires or encourages geocachers to damage, deface, or destroy public or private property, especially archaeological or historical sites.

Do not harm plants, animals, or environment

Do not harm plant or animal life when you place your cache. Do not place caches in a location that requires or encourages geocachers to harm plant or animal life. In some areas, geocaching activity may need to cease for portions of the year due to sensitivity of some species.

Stay away from restricted areas

Do not place geocaches in restricted, prohibited, or otherwise inappropriate locations. Some areas have additional regulations and laws that further restrict geocache placement. Geocaching HQ staff or a community volunteer may temporarily disable or permanently archive the cache page if any of the following is reported. (This list is not comprehensive.)

  • A landowner or land manager reports the geocache.
  • The geocache is in an area that is sensitive to additional foot or vehicular traffic. Examples may include archaeological sites, historical sites, and cemeteries.
  • The geocache is on railroad property or right of way. See the Regional Geocaching Policies Wiki for details in your region.
  • The geocache is problematic due to its proximity to a public structure. Examples include highway bridges, major roadways, dams, government buildings, schools, military installations, hospitals, airports and other areas defined in the Regional Geocaching Policies Wiki.
  • Locations that strongly encourage or require access through restricted locations.

Explore outer space

With permission, geocachers may place caches in space, either on other planets or in spacecraft.

Illustration of a geocache container

Geocache container

Choose container wisely

The container must hold the logbook. The ideal container is waterproof.

To avoid confusion or suspicion if your cache is found by a non-geocacher, follow these tips where possible:

  • Label your container as a geocache.
  • Choose a transparent container to show that the contents are harmless.
  • Include "instructions for finders".
  • Do not place containers that could be perceived as bombs or other dangerous items.
  • If the container has military markings, permanently cover or remove them.

Geocache contents

Must include logbook

For all physical caches, there must be a logbook for geocachers to record their visit. The logbook must be

  • Physical
  • Replaceable
  • Easy to sign
  • Enclosed within a container

Examples: Notebook, paper scroll.

Family and outdoor friendly

Geocaching is a family friendly and outdoor friendly game. Cache contents must be suitable for all ages and suitable for the outdoors.

Do not place any of the following items in caches:

  • Illegal material
  • Dangerous material, such as explosives, ammunition, lighters, knives, drugs, or alcohol
  • Edible or scented items
  • Items that can melt, such as crayons or lip balm
  • Items that can expand in the cold, such as liquids
Illustration of a geocache logbook

Geocache page

Submission and review process

Before submitting a cache page

  • Get accurate GPS coordinates.
    • GPS usage is an essential element of hiding and seeking caches.
    • The cache owner must visit the geocache location to get accurate coordinates with a GPS-enabled device.
    • For at least part of the search, the cache must require finders to navigate with a GPS-enabled device to specific coordinates necessary to finding the cache. See this article for examples.
  • Place your geocache.
  • Don't hide caches far from home.
    • Vacation/holiday caches are usually not published because they are difficult to maintain. It's best to place physical caches in your area so you can respond quickly to maintenance needs. In rare circumstances a vacation cache with an acceptable maintenance plan might be published.
  • Plan ahead.
    • If you want your cache to be published on a specific date, please allow enough time for you and the reviewer to work through possible issues. Keep in mind that it can take several days after each change before the reviewer has time to look at your cache page. Reviewers will strive to accommodate reasonable requests. Use a Reviewer Note to communicate with your reviewer.

During review

  • After you submit a cache page, a community volunteer reviewer will check the cache page against these guidelines and regional policies. The reviewer does not visit the physical geocache location as part of the review process.
  • The community volunteer reviewer may offer suggestions if there are additional concerns not fully documented in these guidelines.

Communicate with your reviewer

  • When you submit a cache page for review, add a Reviewer Note. Describe your geocache location, container, and how it is hidden. The more information you give, the fewer questions will need to be asked and the faster the review process will go.
  • You and your reviewer should communicate by posting Reviewer Notes. Reviewer Notes appear as logs on the unpublished cache page and are emailed to the address in your account. Reviewer Notes are automatically removed when the cache is published, along with any photos attached to it.
  • If you wish to appeal the reviewer’s decision, contact Geocaching HQ. Choose the Appeals category for your message.

No precedents

There are no precedents for placing geocaches. Past publication of a similar geocache is not justification for publication of a new geocache. If a geocache was published that you feel violated the guidelines, you may report it. However, the existing geocache may have been placed prior to a guideline change, and may be grandfathered.

Cache page content

No agendas

Cache pages perceived to promote an agenda or highlight a cause will not be published. Geocaching is a fun, family-friendly game, not a platform for promoting a cause. Agendas are often religious, political, social, or charitable, but aren't limited to these. Also, cache pages cannot require or encourage players to place more caches.

No commercial content

Cache pages perceived as commercial will not be published. Commercial content includes any of the following characteristics

  • Overtones of advertising, marketing, or promotion
  • Suggests or requires the finder do any of the following
    • Go inside a business
    • Interact with employees
    • Purchase a product or service
  • Name, links, or logos of the following
    • Businesses
    • Commercial products
    • Competing games or cache listing services
  • Links or logos of agencies and organizations (including nonprofit organizations), unless needed for permission

See examples and exceptions in the Help Center.

Geocaching HQ may make exceptions to the commercial guidelines for GeoTours and trackable promotions.

Family friendly

Geocaching is a family-friendly game. Cache page contents, including description and name, must be suitable for all ages.

Downloads

A cache page that requires one or more of the following will generally not be published:

  • Using memory sticks and similar devices
  • Installing files or executing programs

See the Help Center for examples and exceptions. Allowed 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 details needed to find this geocache. As the geocache owner, I ensure that this file is safe to download. It has not been checked by Geocaching HQ or by the reviewer. Download this file at your own risk. [insert link here]"

Website registration

A cache page that requires one or more of the following will generally not be published:

  • Create an account with another website.
  • Provide personal information to another website (excluding email address and username).

Cache owner responsibilities

Maintain cache page online

To keep the online cache page up-to-date, the cache owner must

Maintain geocache container

To keep the geocache in proper working order, the cache owner must

  • Visit the geocache regularly.
  • Fix reported problems (such as replace full or wet logbook, replace broken or missing container).
  • Make sure the location is appropriate and change it if necessary.
  • Remove the geocache container and any physical stages within 60 days after the cache page is archived.

Cache owners who do not maintain their existing caches in a timely manner may temporarily or permanently lose the right to list new caches on Geocaching.com.

Changes after publication

If you make changes to your cache page or container after publication, and it no longer complies with guidelines, your cache may be disabled or archived.

Physical caches

For all geocache types with multiple stages, the additional physical or virtual stages must be added to the cache page as Additional Waypoints.

  • A physical stage is a waypoint where the cache owner has placed an item, such as a container or a tag.
  • A virtual stage is a waypoint where the cache owner has not placed an item. Geocachers gather information at virtual stages to help them find or complete the cache.

For physical caches other than challenge caches, any additional logging requirement (ALR) beyond finding the cache and signing the log must be optional. Caches can be logged online as "Found" after the geocacher has visited the coordinates and signed the logbook.

Traditional Caches

A Traditional Cache consists of at least a container with a logbook and is located at the posted coordinates.

Multi-Caches

A Multi-Cache includes at least one stage in addition to the physical final stage. The posted coordinates are a stage of the Multi-Cache. At each stage, the geocacher gathers information that leads them to the next stage or to the final container. The final stage consists of at least a container with a logbook. Learn more about Multi-Caches.

Mystery Caches

Mystery Caches can have many different designs. For most Mystery caches, the posted coordinates are not the actual cache location. Geocachers must often solve a puzzle in advance to determine the next stage or the final coordinates. The cache page must provide information to solve the puzzle. The information to solve the puzzle must be publicly available.

The final stage consists of at least a container with a logbook.

Final coordinates must be less than 2 miles (3.2 km) from the posted coordinates. Learn more about Mystery Caches.

A challenge cache is a variation of a Mystery Cache. Official guidelines to hide a challenge cache are located in the Help Center.

Letterbox Hybrids

In contrast to classic Letterboxing, a Letterbox Hybrid requires GPS usage for at least part of the search. A Letterbox Hybrid consists of at least a container with a logbook and a stamp. Letterbox Hybrids can be logged without using a stamp. The stamp stays with the geocache. Letterbox-style clues may be used to guide cachers to the container. Rules about the distance between the final coordinates and the posted coordinates are defined by the underlying cache type: Traditional, Mystery, or Multi-Cache. Learn more about Letterbox Hybrids.

Wherigo® Caches

A Wherigo cache requires a Wherigo cartridge to find a cache container with a logbook. The cartridge must be hosted on Wherigo.com and the cache description must include a link to the cartridge. Wherigo posted coordinates must be the same as the “Start at” coordinates on Wherigo.com. Exceptions

  • "Play anywhere" cartridges
  • "Reverse" cartridges
  • Cartridges that start at a later waypoint
  • Cartridges used for geo-art

For these exceptions the posted coordinates must be within 2 miles of the final.

EarthCaches and Lab Caches

EarthCaches™

Geocaching HQ partners with the Geological Society of America (GSA) to oversee the EarthCache program. Visit the GSA website for the official EarthCache guidelines.

An EarthCache consists of an earth science lesson that requires a visit to a unique geological feature. EarthCaches do not have containers or logbooks. Further guidance can be found in the Help Center.

Lab Caches

A Lab Cache is an experimental geocache type. Learn more about Lab Caches in the Help Center.

Geocaching events

Event Caches

An Event Cache is a gathering of geocachers, focusing on the social aspect of geocaching. It is organized by geocachers, for geocachers and those interested in learning the game.

Submission timeline

  • Submit your Event Cache page for review 3 month - 2 weeks before the event date.
  • An Event may be published up to six months in advance if an overnight stay is expected or if the event is designed to attract geocachers from beyond the local area.

Event requirements

An Event Cache

  • Takes place at the posted coordinates
  • Includes start and end times
  • Lasts at least 30 minutes
  • Cannot be set up for the sole purpose of finding geocaches
  • Cannot be added to an existing non-geocaching event, such as meet-ups at concerts, fairs, sporting events, and scouting events
  • Can require attendees to register at a separate registration page

An Event Cache must meet the commercial cache guidelines, with the exception that Event Cache pages can include

  • The business name, if the Event is at a commercial location
  • A list of sponsors, without logos or website links
  • Requests for donations, or entrance fees to cover legitimate costs of organizing the event
  • Limited mentions of sales of items trackable at Geocaching.com, but no other products

Event stacking

Submit events as one single event if your event has one of the following

  • Several elements
  • A sequence of events
  • Events that are near the same time or location
  • Intended for the same audience

Additional waypoints may be added to the Event Cache page for the locations of event activities.

Event location

Events cannot be held in or near transportation centers such as

  • Airports
  • Cruise ship ports
  • Train stations

Logging Event Caches

  • Any Event Cache (including Mega-, Giga- and CITO Events) can be logged online if the geocacher has physically attended the event.
  • Event Cache attendees are not required to sign a logbook.

Mega-Event Caches

A Mega-Event Cache is a geocaching event that is attended by 500+ people. Event hosts must apply for Mega-Event status in advance. An Event Cache page will receive the Mega-Event icon upon qualification. Official guidelines and Mega-Event application.

Giga-Event Caches

A Giga-Event Cache is a geocaching event that is attended by 5000+ people. Event hosts must first apply for Mega-Event status in advance. An Event Cache page will receive the Giga icon upon qualification. Official guidelines and Giga-Event application.

CITO Event Caches

Cache In Trash Out® (CITO) events are gatherings of geocachers to improve parks and other cache-friendly places. CITO event cache pages must include a start and end time and last at least 1 hour.

Some examples of CITO-appropriate activities:

  • Removing trash
  • Planting trees
  • Building trails
  • Removing invasive plants

We encourage geocachers to partner with organizations who have experience hosting these types of cleanup efforts. When partnering with an organization, the event must have a separate sign-in area so geocachers can meet before they start the work. A CITO event to clean up after a geocaching event will not be published.

Grandfathered cache types

Virtual and Webcam Caches are grandfathered cache types. You cannot submit new Virtual or Webcam Cache pages, but you can find those that remain active.

If you currently own a Virtual or Webcam Cache, you must maintain the cache page and logs, respond to inquiries from geocachers, and check the physical location periodically.

A Virtual Cache can only be logged online if the geocacher has visited the cache location and completed the logging tasks. For privacy reasons, geocachers are not required to post a photo of themselves. Read more about Virtual Caches.

A Webcam Cache can only be logged with an image taken directly from the associated webcam feed. Read more about Webcam Caches.