Geocaching has become a popular hobby in the United States and worldwide, and it’s easy to see why; the combination of nature walks and treasure hunting is addictive! Appalachian geocaching, in particular, has become extremely popular, adding a new spin to already-popular hikes and locations along the Appalachian Trail. Haven’t heard of geocaching? Read on to learn about it!

What is geocaching?

Coined by Matt Stum in the year 2000, “geocaching” originates from the Greek geo, meaning “earth,” and the French cache, or “a collection of items stored in a hidden place.” Geocaching is a recreational activity that takes place in the great outdoors, and has been drawing people back into the woods for a good old-fashioned treasure hunt. Cachers provide GPS coordinates to certain locations, both remote and easily accessible, then make them available to other cachers, who go searching for the location they provided. As if the accomplishment of climbing to the top of a mountain was not enough, small film canisters, ammo boxes, and water proof caches are tucked away in remote locations nearby, just waiting for people to discover what’s inside. Most people use their phones to insert specific latitude and longitude coordinates to find the cache, or to at least get close, then have fun searching for the precise location of the cache.

But it is not only about the treasure at the end of the path, it is about the journey to get there. Geocaching can take you many places, be it scaling rock faces, trotting along a beginner’s trail, climbing steep mountains, or stopping in small Appalachian towns, all the while enjoying the beauty of nature.

Why did geocaching become so popular starting in the early 2000s?

The economic recession in the early 21st century left Americans with less funds for recreational activities such as shopping, dining, and large excursions. As a result, people reverted to nature as an inexpensive hobby. Since the advent of humanity, nature has always provided us with sustenance and opportunities for adventure. However, it was not only the lack of funds for urban adventure that led millions of millennials into the woods. In May of 2000, GPS had a revolutionary improvement. This advancement of the global positioning system allowed users to engage and control selective availability, enabling them to pinpoint their exact location and other select locations. The White House announced that anyone could use GPS to isolate “the location of items left behind for later recovery”, thus sparking the origin of geocaching.

There is only one rule for geocaching – to pass on the adventure.

If you find something in a container and decide to take it, you must also leave something behind for the next adventurer. Hikers have found everything from one-hundred-dollar bills and wedding rings, to books, art, and home-made crafts. Geocaching has even lead people on a quest to see such beautiful and strange sights as natural wonders, a parking meter in the middle of the woods, or interactive puzzles.

The best part is, since caches are found everywhere from deep woods and mountaintops to city outskirts and paved paths, it is an activity that nearly anyone can participate in! This makes it great for individuals, couples, and families alike. Next time you plan on going hiking, camping, picnicking, or taking a trip to an Appalachian town, see what geocaching opportunities are nearby!

Are you ready to venture out and find your treasure? Here are some Appalachian Geocaching locations!

Favorite West Virginia Appalachian Geocaching Locations:

Devil’s Kitchen near Morgantown: N 39° 38.196′ W 079° 48.952′

A House on a Hilltop near Harpers Ferry: N 39° 19.561′ W 077° 44.143′

WV Civil War Trail – The 35th Star near Charleston: N 38° 20.128′ W 081° 36.677′

Allegheny Trail near Waiteville: N 37° 30.226′ W 080° 27.267′ is one of the most popular sites to get you started.