Geocaching: A Guide to Finding Tacoma’s Hidden Treasures

All around Tacoma, there are hidden trinkets just waiting to be discovered. Geocaching is a game in which participants use coordinates to locate secret treasures. Items can be found in popular outdoor areas such as Point Defiance and Ruston Way. To get started, participants must first sign up for an account with Signing up is free and only takes a few minutes.

Next, participants can begin seeking out a geocache by entering their postal zip code into the geocaching search engine. It’s always a good idea for first-time participants to seek out a geocache labeled “beginner.” Difficulty and terrain are rated from 1-5 stars according to the effort required to find the cache. In order to locate the coordinates, participants will need a GPS device. Most smartphones have GPS capability. Keep in mind that coordinates are only meant to lead searchers to the general vicinity. In other words, the treasure may not be located in the exact spot that the GPS points to.

Occasionally, a cache is incredibly difficult to find. In this case, participants can use clues that are provided on the website. Often times, these clues are encrypted and the participant will have to decrypt the clue before being able to read it. Additional help can be found in the comments section where previous finders may provide helpful hints.

So what’s in a cache? Often times, a cache is a simple log-in sheet where participants can sign and date their name. However, sometimes a cache will include little trinkets. If the participant decides to take the trinket for personal keep, he/she must leave another trinket of equal or greater value. An example of this would be the “Beanie Baby exchange.” Participants of this geocache must bring a Beanie Baby to replace the one that they take in the cache.

Another possible find is what’s known as a “trackable.” These are small items that have codes etched into them. This code can be entered online and is used to track the item’s movement as it travels from location to location. It’s not uncommon to find a trackable that has traveled hundreds of miles during its geocaching lifetime.

To learn more about geocaching and to start finding treasures, visit the official website at


Photo illustration by Andy Cox.

Photo illustration by Andy Cox.

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