Discovering Geocaching: NPS and Chesapeake Conservancy launch GeoTour

by Patrick G. Smith, Communications and Partnership Coordinator, Chesapeake Conservancy

There is a new way for adventurers to discover the Chesapeake’s special places. The Find Your Chesapeake GeoTour® is the combined effort of the National Park Service (NPS), Chesapeake Conservancy, and volunteers with the Maryland Geocaching Society and the Northern Virginia Geocaching Organization. The trail has over 60 cache locations on eight Chesapeake rivers in Maryland, Pennsylvania, Delaware, and Virginia. The FYC GeoTour is the third partner collaboration, building on the success of geotrails along the Star-Spangled Banner and the Captain John Smith Chesapeake national historic trails.

Geocaching is a worldwide phenomenon in which participants use a handheld GPS, or smartphone, to plot map coordinates to locate a hidden treasure or “cache.” Searching for a cache is akin to going on a treasure hunt and can involve visits to multiple locations within a park to collect clues and solve riddles. Shovels are forbidden—geocaches are never buried. Caches are typically watertight with lids that snap locked and are clearly identified with an official geocache sticker.

The purpose of the FYC GeoTour is to introduce families to special Chesapeake places and introduce at least one great cool fact.  Some of the locations are well-traveled, and other site locations are well off the beaten path. All of the sites are featured on and engage visitors with interpretive and educational programming showcasing the history and natural environment of our national treasure, the Chesapeake Bay. Participating sites on the FYC GeoTour include national parks, state and county parks, museums, and nonprofit water trail organizations.

A collectible and highly coveted challenge coin, known as a “geocoin,” is awarded to the first 350 geocachers to locate at least 20 geocaches, record their secret code words in the official passport, and log their finds on Within a week of the GeoTour’s launch, dozens of completed passports were sent in by eager cachers who had earned the coin. Their activity logs revealed what the FYC GeoTour experience meant to them. Comments included: “I had never been down this path and enjoyed the vista this cache took me on … Thanks for another reason to come here and enjoy nature,” and, “It gets me to explore and visit places I otherwise wouldn’t have thought of and the awesome people I meet ‘on the trail’ are an added bonus.”

There are over 3 million active geocaches worldwide, hidden in 191 countries, and on all 7 continents. The odds are there is probably one close to you right now!

Learn more and download a passport:

Send Cache Swag for the Santa Fe Trail

The Santa Fe Trail Association invites other trail organizations to participate in its GeoTour by sending “swag” (not printed materials) that cachers can trade out, such as pins, badges, pens, stickers, pencils, labels, and bracelets, to: Joanne VanCoevern, Santa Fe Trail Association, 4773 N. Wasserman Way, Salina, KS 67401.

Unless otherwise indicated, all material in Pathways Across America is public domain. All views expressed herein are perspectives of individuals working on behalf of the National Trails System and do not necessarily represent the viewpoint of the Federal agencies.

Geocachers traveled from Ohio, Virginia, Delaware, and Maryland to the Zimmerman Center for Heritage, a National Park Service contact station for the Captain John Smith Chesapeake National Historic Trail, in Wrightsville, PA, for the launch of the Find Your Chesapeake GeoTour® on June 9, 2018. Eight geocaches are located close by, including a “letterbox” geocache on the grounds of the center, and a multi-stage geocache at Native Lands County Park directly behind the center. Photo Credit: Chesapeake Conservancy