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.
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.
"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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 to create a hole to place the cache, which you must provide to the reviewer and state on the cache page. A cache cannot require the finder to dig to reach the cache. See the Regional Geocaching Policies Wiki for details in your region.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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 them.
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 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.
"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]"
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.
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 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.
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.
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, or within 2 miles (3.2 km) of the final for Play anywhere and Reverse cartridges.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.