There are plenty of locations to hike near Los Angeles. Many people enjoy getting lost in nature and observing the world around them while they’re hiking. But what if you could also go for a treasure hunt?
Yes, that is right. There is more than just nature lurking out there waiting to be discovered. All you have to do is go geocaching.
Geocaching? What is that?
Okay—so, you’re not going to get rich from geocaching. It isn’t that kind of treasure hunt. Instead, you’re going to be using GPS coordinates to look for a hidden geocache box. Geocache boxes are usually metal or plastic containers of any size. You can geocache anywhere.
Inside the container, you’ll find small trinkets and a log of other people that have found that box. The trinkets can be anything. Foreign coins, plastic dinosaurs, old photos—anything that is relatively inexpensive. Some geocache boxes have specific themes. Once you find the box, you can swap a trinket and write your name on the log.
Why should I geocache?
Many people enjoy geocaching because it allows them to explore and discover new locations. Tracking GPS coordinates takes you to locations that you would otherwise never visit. And while you’re not tracking down actual treasure, looking for a physical box is still a fun challenge.
It can also help you connect to different people. Sometimes you’ll run into other people that are looking for the same box as you. This will either allow you to team-up with them or start a friendly competition. Some people even write little personal stories on the geocache logs, which can help you feel connected to people that you’ve never even met! Larger communities (such as LA) have plenty of geocache boxes hidden away.
What does geocaching have to do with hiking?
Geocache boxes can be found everywhere—outside of stores, hidden in caves, and, of course, on hiking trails. Geocaching can lead you to new trails that you didn’t even know existed. It is a good way to get out and do what you love, with the added challenge of finding a geocache box.
Another bonus of geocaching is it can add to your navigation skills. Knowing how to read a map or read GPS coordinates is a necessary skill for if you ever find yourself stranded in the wilderness while hiking. Even if you plan to stay on a well-marked trail, you never know trail damage might force you to go down an unmarked trail.
What do I need to do to start?
Getting started with geocaching is relatively easy. The first thing you’ll need is the coordinates of a geocache box. Using a search engine, search for “geocaching” and the area where you’re planning on hiking. This can help locate the coordinates of a box in that area. If you’re hoping to stay close to Los Angeles, try starting your search in a national park.
Once you have the coordinates, you’re going to need a navigation device to plug them into. Avoid using your phone, because if you lose service while on the trail, you won’t be able to finish tracking the box down. Instead, use a GPA with satellite reception, such as this one from Garmin.
Environmental impact/Leave No Trace
If you do it conscientiously, it is possible to geocache in an environmentally friendly manner. This article has some good suggestions for responsible geocaching.
Any other tips for geocaching beginners?
Something to keep in mind about geocaching is that the coordinates won’t take you to the exact location. The coordinates are meant to lead you to within 30 feet of the box, so once you reach the general area, you’re going to have to actively search for the box. You’ll have to look under rocks, check along riverbanks, and look for anything that looks out of place.
Many people try to disguise geocache boxes. They might make them look like a brick that is part of an existing wall or they might put them inside of something. While burying geocache boxes isn’t allowed, everything else is fair game.
If you’re struggling to find a box, make sure to check the hints. Geocache pages offer small hints that are meant to help you locate the box.
If you’re looking for ways to switch up your normal hiking routine, geocaching could be for you! Geocaching is a particularly fun way to make hiking more enjoyable for children, but it is also an activity that many adults will find challenging. Just make sure to return the box once you find it so that others can enjoy it!