Guidelines last updated 11/05/03
These are listing guidelines only. Before a cache is approved a volunteer
will review the page for inaccuracies, bad coordinates, and appropriateness
before posting the cache to the site. The physical cache site is not
verified. As the cache owner, you are responsible for the placement and care of
Prior to placing and submitting a cache you are expected to review the following
guidelines. In order to post a new cache and submit it for review you must
indicate that you have read the guidelines as required. Geocaching is a
constantly changing and evolving sport, and as a result these guidelines are
subject to change as the sport progresses. Please refer back to these
guidelines prior to cache placement to ensure that no changes have been
implemented that would adversely affect your planned cache placement.
First and foremost please be advised there is no precedent for placing
caches. This means that the past approval of a similar cache in and of
itself is not a valid justification for the approval of a new cache. If a
cache has been posted and violates any guidelines listed below, you are
encouraged to report it. However, if the cache was placed prior to the date
when a guideline was issued or updated the cache is likely to be
“grandfathered” and allowed to stand as is.
If your cache has been archived…
First please read the archival log for an explanation. It is a common practice
for the approvers to temporarily disable or even archive a submission while
they obtain additional details required for its approval. This doesn’t
necessarily mean that it won’t be listed. In order to ensure a prompt response
when responding to an archival note please click on the Approver’s profile from
the cache page and e-mail the approver through Geocaching.com. Replies
directly to cache notifications can be delayed considerably.
If you believe that your cache may be questionable, you are encouraged to add a
note to the cache page. For example, you could add an explanation in the “notes
to reviewer” section such as: "The train tracks running through this park are
inactive and have been converted to a rails-to-trails path." The reviewer will
read the note and take the information into consideration when approving the
cache. Rest assured that notes to reviewers will be removed before the caches
are posted. Most caches that are temporarily put on hold or archived are done
so due to a lack of information. Having all the relevant information up front
during the review process will help ensure a speedy approval.
If your cache has been archived and you wish to appeal the decision, first
contact the approver and explain why you feel your cache meets the
guidelines. Exceptions may sometimes be made, depending on the nature of
a cache. If you have a novel type of cache that “pushes the envelope” to
some degree, then it is best to contact your local approver and/or
Geocaching.com before placing and reporting it on the Geocaching.com web site.
The guidelines should address most situations, but Groundspeak administrators
and approvers are always interested in new ideas. If, after exchanging
emails with the approver, you still feel your cache has been misjudged, feel
free to post a message in the General Forums to see what the geocaching
community thinks. If the majority believes that it should be posted, then
Groundspeak administrators and approvers may review the listing and your cache
may be unarchived.
Table of Contents
Off-limit (physical) caches
Guidelines that apply to all cache types
Additional guidelines that apply to special cache types
Off-limit (Physical) Caches
By submitting a cache listing, you assure us that you have adequate permission
to hide your cache in the selected location. However, if we see a cache
description that mentions ignoring "No Trespassing" signs (or any other obvious
issues), your listing may be immediately archived.
Caches will be quickly archived if we see the following (which is not
Caches on land maintained by the U.S. National Park Service or U.S. Fish and
Wildlife Service (National Wildlife Refuges)
Caches that are buried. If a shovel, trowel or other “pointy” object is used to
dig, whether in order to hide or to find the cache, then it is not appropriate.
Caches placed on archaeological or historical sites. In most cases these areas
are highly sensitive to the extra traffic that would be caused by vehicles and
Caches hidden in close proximity to active railroad tracks. In general we use a
distance of 150 ft but your local area’s trespassing laws may be different. All
local laws apply.
Caches near or on military installations.
Caches near or under public structures deemed potential or possible targets for
terrorist attacks. These include but are not limited to highway bridges, dams,
government buildings and airports.
There may be some exceptions. If your cache fits within one of the above areas,
please explain in notes to the reviewer section of the cache page. For example,
if you are given permission to place a cache on private property, indicate it
in the notes for the benefit of both the approver and people seeking out the
In addition, there may be local regulations already in place for certain types
of parks in your region (state parks, county preserves, etc.). There are many
local caching organizations that would be able to help you out with those
regulations. If your area does not have a local caching organization
please contact your local approver for information on regulations. If you have
complied with special regulations by obtaining a permit, please state this on
your cache page or in a ‘note to the reviewer’.
If the Geocaching.com web site is contacted and informed that your cache has
been placed inappropriately, your cache will be archived or disabled and you
will be contacted with any information provided by the individual or
organization who contacted us.
Cache sizes for all caches that have a physical container.
Micro (35 mm film canister or smaller, typically containing only a logbook)
Regular (Tupperware-style container or ammo can)
Large (5 gallon bucket or larger)
This is the original cache type consisting of (at a bare minimum) a container
and a logbook. The cache may be filled with objects for trade. Normally
you'll find a Tupperware-style container, ammo box, or bucket filled with
goodies, or smaller container ("microcache") too small to contain items except
for a logbook. The coordinates listed on the traditional cache page are
the exact location of the cache. A container with just an object or codeword
for verification may NOT be approved if the cache does not also include a
There are many variations to multi-stage caches. The most common is that
in which the first cache or waypoint contains or provides coordinates to the
next location. Another popular variant is a series of multiple waypoints,
each of which provide partial coordinates for the final cache’s position.
Please provide the coordinates of all waypoints in the “note to reviewer”
section of the cache report form when submitting a multi-cache. The reviewer
will delete the text prior to approval.
Offset caches are a variation on multi-caches. They are listed as a
multi-cache when selecting a cache type. They are not found by simply
going to some coordinates and finding a cache there. With the offset cache the
published coordinates could be of an existing historical monument, plaque, or
even a benchmark that you would like to have your cache hunter visit. At this
spot, the hunter looks for numbers or information already appearing on the
marker or on some part of the marker or site (geocachers NEVER deface public or
private property). The geocacher is then able to manipulate these numbers
using instructions posted on the cache page to continue the hunt.
Mystery or Puzzle Caches
The “catch-all” of cache types, this form of cache often involves complicated
puzzles that you will first need to solve in order to determine the
coordinates. The only commonality of this cache type is that the coordinates
listed are not of the actual cache location but a general reference point, such
as a nearby parking location. Unless a good reason otherwise can be provided,
the posted coordinates should be no more than 1-2 miles away from the true
cache location. This allows the cache to show up on the proper vicinity
searches and to keep the mileage of Travel Bugs that find their way into the
cache reasonably correct.
If you choose to submit a cache of this type please give as much detailed
information as possible to the approver when you submit the cache. The
approver may still need more information before approving the listing. Please
cooperate with these requests.
Letterboxing is another form of treasure hunting that uses clues to direct
hunters to a hidden container. Each letterbox contains a stamp which is
the signature for that box. Most letterboxers have their own personal
stamps and personal logbooks. They stamp the letterbox logbook with their
personal stamp, and use the stamp contained in the letterbox to “sign” their
Letterbox hybrids are a mixture of letterbox and geocache. They should
contain a signature stamp that stays with the box, and they must conform to the
guidelines for traditional caches and therefore must contain a logbook.
They must be referenced by latitude and longitude, not just clues.
Whether or not the letterbox hybrid contains trade items is up to the owner. In
most cases personal stamp and personal logbook are not necessary to be a seeker
of a letterbox hybrid.
A virtual cache is an existing, permanent landmark of a very unique and
compelling nature. The seeker must answer a question from the landmark and
verify to the cache owner that he was really there. Note, however, that new
virtual cache proposals are only approved if they meet the all of conditions
listed in the guidelines below. The reward for these caches is the
location itself and sharing information about your visit. Although many
locations are interesting, a virtual cache should be out of the ordinary enough
to warrant listing as a unique cache page.
Note: Physical caches are the basis of the activity. Virtual caches were
created due to the inaccessibility of caching in areas that discourage
it. Please keep that in mind when submitting your cache
Reverse Virtual (Locationless Caches)
Locationless caches are a variation of virtual caches, but with no specific
location to visit. Instead, the cache hunter is instructed to search for
an object that meets certain criteria and report its coordinates. Many
times the seeker is also asked to provide an original photograph of the
location to provide proof of visitation.
In the future these will have their own section, but currently there is a
moratorium on new locationless
These are caches that use existing web cameras placed by individuals or agencies
that monitor various areas like parks or road conditions. The idea is to get
yourself in front of the camera to log your visit. The camera must provide a
photo detailed enough to identify the cacher. The cameras must update at
reliable intervals so geocachers can log their visit.
Note: When submitting a webcam cache you must submit a photo of yourself
taken by the webcam used for the listing as an example to show that the images
will be identifiable. If you request that the geocacher hold their
GPS up overhead when the photo is taken, then please have your GPS held over
your head in the example photo.
Event caches are gatherings for geocachers by geocachers to discuss
geocaching. After the event has passed, the event cache is
archived. While a music concert, a garage sale, a ham radio field day or
an orienteering event might be of interest to a large percentage of geocachers,
such events are not suitable for submission as event caches because the primary
focus of these events is not geocaching and the primary attendees are not
geocachers. In addition, an event cache should not be set up for the sole
purpose of drawing together cachers for an organized hunt of another cache or
caches. Such group hunts are best organized using the forums or an email
For geocaching events that involve several components, such as a day-long group
cache hunt that also involves a seminar and dinner, only a single event cache
covering all components should be submitted.
CITO Event Caches
The idea of Cache In Trash Out (CITO) came about in the fall of
2000 as a way for geocachers to contribute to the beautification of our local
parks and lands. You may find more information about the CITO program at
The CITO event cache category was added to differentiate cleanup events from
other types of event caches. Use this category when you are asking
geocachers to show up on a particular day to pick up litter at a park, remove
piles of junk near a popular waterfront, etc. Do NOT use this category
for a physical cache that is placed in an area that is need of cleanup – just
mention the CITO opportunity on your cache page.
If you have an event you feel fits within the spirit of this unique category,
yet are still unsure, please seek permission before submitting.
Guidelines that Apply to all Cache Types
You as the owner of the cache must visit the site and obtain the coordinates
with a GPS. If time allows take several reading at different times over a few
days and average the results. This will help you achieve greater accuracy on
For all caches that include multiple waypoints please post a note to approver
with the coordinates of all waypoints in the “notes to reviewer” field on the
cache submission form. This text will be removed prior to posting.
Note: Exceptions to the following guidelines may occasionally be made depending
on the novel nature and merits of a cache. If you have a cache idea you believe
is novel, contact Geocaching.com before placing and reporting it on the
Geocaching.com web site.
The cache owner will assume all responsibility of their cache
For all cache types please be sensible when choosing your location for cache
placement. Please be aware of what may be a perceived to a non geocacher as
dangerous or questionable behavior. For example, suspicious looking
characters wandering about near an elementary school. The land may be
public property, but keep in mind what is on the other side of that property
line. Also, clearly label your physical containers on the outside with
appropriate information to reduce the risk of your cache being perceived as a
danger to those that are unaware of our sport.
At times a cache may meet the listing requirements for the site but the
approvers, as experienced cachers, may see additional concerns that you as a
cache placer may not have noticed. As a courtesy, the approver may
bring additional concerns about cache placement to your attention and offer
suggestions before posting. But as the cache owner you are responsible
for placement and care of your cache.
Before submitting your report you must visit the location to obtain accurate
coordinates with a GPS.
The responsibility of your listing includes quality control of posts to the
cache page. Delete any logs that appear to be bogus, counterfeit, off topic, or
not within the stated requirements.
As the cache owner, you are also responsible for checking on your cache
periodically, and especially when someone reports a problem with the cache
(missing, damaged, wet, etc.). You may temporarily disable your cache to
let others know not to hunt for it until you have a chance to fix the
problem. This feature is to allow you a reasonable time – normally a few
weeks – in which to arrange a visit to your cache. In the event that a cache is
not being properly maintained, or has been temporarily disabled for an extended
period of time, we may archive or transfer the listing.
When you report a cache on the Geocaching.com web site, geocachers should (and
will) expect the cache to be there 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 events) may not be
approved. If you wish to hide caches for an event, bring printouts to the event
and hand them out there.
We realize that it is possible that a planned long-term cache occasionally
becomes finite because of concerns with the environment, missing or plundered
caches, or the owner’s decision to remove the cache for other valid
reasons. Please do your best to research fully, hide wisely, and maintain
properly for a long cache life.
The approvers use a rule of thumb that caches placed within .10 miles (528 feet
or 161 meters) of another cache may not be listed on the site. This is an
arbitrary distance and is just a guideline, but the ultimate goal is to reduce
the number of caches hidden in a particular area and to reduce confusion that
might otherwise result when one cache is found while looking for another.
On the same note, don't go cache crazy and hide a cache every 600 feet just
because you can. If you want to create a series of caches, the site approvers
may strongly encourage you to create a multi-cache.
Placing Caches on Vacation / Beyond Your Maintainable Distance
Placing caches on vacation or outside of your normal caching area is
unacceptable and these caches may not be approved. As the cache owner you are
obligated to be in a position to manage your caches, and caches placed on
vacation require someone else to maintain them for you. It is not uncommon for
areas to be cleared, trails to be blocked or closed, objects used for virtual
or multi-caches to be moved or removed, etc. You must be able to react to
negative cache logs and investigate the location quickly. Please be
responsible. This guideline applies to all types of caches including virtual
The territory in which a geocacher is able to maintain caches responsibly will
vary from one person to the next. An active geocacher who regularly
visits areas hundreds of miles apart can demonstrate their ability to maintain
a cache 100 miles from home. A geocacher whose previous finds and hides
are all within 25 miles of their home would likely not see their cache listed
if placed 250 miles away from their home.
If you have special circumstances, please describe these on your cache page or
in a note to the approver. For example, if you have made arrangements
with a local geocacher to watch over your distant cache for you, that
geocacher’s name should be mentioned on your cache page.
Use your common sense in most cases. Explosives, fireworks, ammo, knives
(including pocket knives and multi-tools), drugs, alcohol or other illicit
material shouldn't be placed in a cache. As always respect the local laws.
Geocaching is a family activity and cache contents should be suitable for all
Food items are ALWAYS a BAD IDEA. Animals have better noses than humans,
and in some cases caches have been chewed through and destroyed because food
items (or items that smell like food) are in the cache. Even the presence
of mint flavored dental floss has led to destruction of one cache.
If the original cache contents list any of the above items or other questionable
items, or if a cache is reported to have the questionable items, the cache may
be disabled, and the owner of the cache will be contacted and asked to remove
the questionable items before the cache is enabled.
Commercial Caches / Caches that Solicit
Commercial caches attempt to use the Geocaching.com web site cache reporting
tool directly or indirectly (intentionally or non-intentionally) to solicit
customers through a Geocaching.com listing. These are NOT permitted.
Examples include for-profit locations that require an entrance fee, or
locations that sell products or services.
Solicitations are also off-limits. For example, caches perceived to be posted
for religious, political, or social agendas may not be listed. Geocaching is
supposed to be a light, fun activity, not a platform for an agenda.
Some exceptions can be made. In these rare situations, permission can be given
by the Geocaching.com web site. However, permission should be asked first
before posting. If you are in doubt, ask first.
Additional Guidelines that apply to special cache types
Note: All information listed above will apply to these cache types.
These are additional guidelines that are cache type specific.
Virtual and Reverse Virtual (or Locationless) Caches
These are special categories of caches that ask the seeker to find a
pre-existing item to log. While previous guidelines for these categories were
somewhat loose to encourage innovation, it is now appropriate to add
Some earlier postings do not meet these clarified guidelines, although they are
allowed to stay as grandfathered caches. They will not be considered as
justification or as precedents for future submissions.
The overall intent for virtual and reverse virtual caches is to focus on the
unique as opposed to the commonplace or mundane.
If after reading the guidelines below you believe you have a compelling reason
why your potential posting should be listed, please state your rationale
clearly in a note to the approvers.
Note: Physical caches are the basis of the activity. Virtual caches were
created due to the inaccessibility of caching in areas that discourage
it. Please keep in mind physical caches are the prime goal when
submitting your cache report.
A virtual cache is a cache that exists in a form of a permanent object at a
location that was already there. Typically, the cache “hider” creates a virtual
cache at a location where physical caches are not permitted. The reward for
these caches is the location itself and sharing information about your visit.
Prior to considering a virtual cache, you must have given consideration
to the question “why couldn’t a microcache or multi-cache be placed
there?” Physical caches have priority, so please consider adding a micro
or making the location a step in an offset or multi-stage cache with the
physical cache placed in an area that is appropriate.
Virtual Cache Posting Guidelines
1. A virtual cache must be a physical object that can be referenced through
latitude and longitude coordinates. That object should be semi-permanent to
permanent. Objects in motion (such as people, vehicles) generally do not
qualify as a virtual cache, unless that item can be adequately tracked and
updated on the Geocaching.com web site. (For example, a link to a tracker for a
vehicle might be acceptable, but contact your local approver first before
posting it as a virtual cache to work out the details.) If I post the cache
today, someone else should be able to find it tomorrow and the next day.
A trail is a trail, a beach is a beach, a view is a view; but a
trail/beach/view is NOT a virtual cache. A cache has to be a specific distinct
GPS target - not something large like a mountain top or a park, however special
those locations are.
2. A virtual cache must be novel, of interest to other players, and have a
special historic, community or geocaching quality that sets it apart from
everyday subjects. Since the reward for a virtual cache is the location, the
location should “WOW” the prospective finder. Signs, memorials,
tombstones or historical markers are among the items that are generally too
common to qualify as virtual caches. Unusual landmarks or items that
would be in a coffee table book are good examples. If you don't know if it is
appropriate, contact your local approver first, or post a question to the
forums about your idea.
3. There should be one or more questions about an item at a location, something
seen at that location, etc., that only the visitor to that physical location
will be able to answer. The questions should be difficult enough that it cannot
be answered through library or web research. The use of a "certificate of
achievement" or similar item is not a substitute for the find verification
4. An original photo posted to the cache log can be an acceptable way to verify
a find, or an email to the owner with valid answers for the question or
questions. In NO cases should answers be posted in the logs, even if encrypted.
Virtual Cache Maintenance Guidelines
Although the virtual cache is not something you physically maintain, you must
maintain your virtual cache's web page and respond to inquiries and
periodically check the location. You should also return to the Geocaching.com
web site at least once a month to show you are still active. Virtual caches
posted and "abandoned" may be archived by the site. The poster will
assume the responsibility of quality control of logged “finds” for the virtual
cache, and will agree to delete any “find” logs that appear to be bogus,
counterfeit, off topic, or not within the stated requirements.
Virtual Cache Logging Guidelines
Logging a virtual cache find requires compliance with the requirements stated
by the poster, including answering the required questions by e-mail to the
poster, providing original photos if so requested, etc. Answers to questions,
hints or clues should not be placed in the logs, even if encrypted.
There is currently a moratorium on locationless caches. No caches will be
posted until functionality is available to better serve this unique category.
Locationless Cache Logging Guidelines:
Without exception, logging a locationless cache find requires (real)
coordinates. Logs without coordinates will be deleted.
Persons logging a “find” are expected to comply with the requirements stated by
the poster, including remaining on topic, providing original photos if so
requested, and providing a level of descriptive detail consistent with the