Visitor Activity Guidelines
Date of Approval: September 2007
Description of Activity
Geocaching © Parks Canada
Geocaching is an outdoor activity that is similar to a treasure hunt. The goal of the activity is to find hidden containers known as caches or geocaches using a portable satellite navigation device called a Global Positioning System (GPS) receiver. Individuals who practice this activity (generally referred to as cachers or geocachers) place a cache in an outdoor location and post the cache's latitudinal and longitudinal coordinates on the Internet. Other geocachers then use their GPS devices to download the coordinates and cache descriptions from the Internet in order to find the caches. Once the participant has found the cache, they may log their findings on the Internet.
There are a number of different types of caches. Physical caches include a logbook, pencil, and trade items 1 (small objects left in the caches for geocachers to trade with one another – e.g. toys, key chains, etc.). Another type of cache is an earth cache, which highlights an area’s unique natural features. More information regarding different types of caches and geocaching in general can be found at:
Geocaching is an activity that can occur at national historic sites, national parks and national marine conservation areas managed by Parks Canada. While geocaching is embraced by Parks Canada at the national level, it is important to note that the activity may not be permitted at all of Parks Canada’s locations.
Where the activity is encouraged, additional guidelines could be developed in order to meet location-specific needs. For more information regarding geocaching at a specific Parks Canada location, individuals should contact the selected historic site, park or marine conservation area directly.
These guidelines set out a basic national direction for geocaching at Parks Canada’s national historic sites, national parks and national marine conservation areas. Geocachers at Parks Canada locations must also comply with international rules and standards for geocaching. These can be found at:
- When placing or seeking a cache, geocachers must travel on marked and maintained trails or in publicly accessible areas (e.g. picnic areas) at all times. All caches must be accessible from the trail or the public area. If marked and maintained trails do not exist, geocachers must check with Parks Canada staff at the selected historic site, park or marine conservation area to discuss where a cache may be placed.
- Trade items are not permitted in caches. Instead, a message or story about the cache’s specific location or about the national historic site, park or marine conservation area in general is included. These messages will encourage a focus on the special natural or cultural features of the cache location. Removing trade items will also help prevent a cache from containing items that may attract wildlife. However, a historic site, park or marine conservation area can choose to act as an intermediary so that the geocachers can obtain or leave trade items.
- Geocachers pay all applicable fees. (This list is available at http://www.pc.gc.ca).
- Caches are placed so that they do not disturb natural (e.g. vegetation, soil) and / or cultural resources.
- Caches are permitted in zone II, III, IV and V areas in national parks 3. Individuals should contact Parks Canada staff directly for more information about zoning in a specific national park.
- Geocachers are required to meet with Parks Canada staff at the selected historic site, park, or marine conservation area to discuss the proposed location of their cache and to obtain an authorization seal prior to placing a cache. In preparation for this meeting, geocachers are required to complete a cache information form. [Word (25 KB) PDF (12 KB)]
- Cache containers will:
- Be watertight;
- Be made of material that will withstand wind, rain, frost, and other natural elements;
- Be as small as possible;
- Be neutral-coloured so that they do not stand out in the natural environment.
- Cache containers that have been used for food are not permitted as odours could attract wildlife.
- Caches should include the following:
- A logbook (in a sealable bag to protect it from humidity),
- A pencil and pencil sharpener, and
- A note for finders [Word (34 KB) PDF (31 KB)] that includes the following:
- An educational message about the cache’s specific location or about the historic site, park or marine conservation area in general,
- A clear message directing finders not to leave trade items in the cache and providing the rationale as to why (to prevent a cache from containing items that may attract wildlife),
- Instructions for people who find the cache by chance,
- The cache’s coordinates to confirm that the correct cache has been found, and
- Parks Canada staff contact information and the cache owner’s name and/or screen name and contact information in the event that the cache is in need of maintenance or needs to be removed from its location.
The Staff Orientation Guide for Geocaching at Parks Canada provides specific information for managing geocaching at national parks, national historic sites and national marine conservation areas. It includes direction for staff regarding placing, finding, archiving and monitoring caches, as well as direction for management of unauthorized caches.
The Public Information Page for Geocaching at Parks Canada provides specific information for geocachers regarding how to find and place caches in Parks Canada’s national historic sites, national parks and national marine conservation areas.
Parks Canada wishes to thank everyone who participated in the consultation to develop these guidelines. The involvement of various groups - including the geocaching community - was instrumental in finding a creative approach to offering geocaching in Canada’s national historic sites, national parks and national marine conservation areas in a manner that respects natural and cultural resources, promotes understanding and helps facilitate memorable visitor experiences.
1 Trade items are not permitted in caches placed in national historic sites, parks and marine conservation areas managed by Parks Canada. Instead, an educational message about the cache’s specific or general location is included.
2 Geocachers are also encouraged to visit the Leave no Trace website at http://www.leavenotrace.ca. This website offers helpful principles for planning safe and environmentally respectful outdoor recreation activities.
3 There are five zones in Parks Canada’s zoning system for national parks: Zone I (Special Preservation), Zone II (Wilderness), Zone III (Natural Environment), Zone IV (Outdoor Recreation) and Zone V (Park Services) areas.
Parks Canada Welcomes Geocachers: Come Explore With Us!