New NPS Geocaching Policy Provides Opportunities for Outdoor Adventure

Geocaching, Virtual Caching and Letterboxing are GPS activities that offer significant recreational and educational value to visitors, including opportunities for a growing number of families to experience outdoor adventure in parks. The National Park Service recently released a policy review on GPS-based recreational activities in park areas addressing public outreach and education challenges, as well as monitoring and management policies.

The recreation community can aid the National Park Service in promoting appropriate GPS activities through your communications channels. GPS activities can have a positive impact on our parks if used to increase environmental education and awareness. Geocaching and other tech-based activities can boost the public’s interest in outdoor recreation and visits to our national parks. The recreation community can utilize the popularity and growing trend of GPS activities to further their goals in getting more Americans outdoors.

The Park Service does not have a policy explicitly allowing or prohibiting any GPS activities. Determinations will be made on a case-by-case basis. The National Park Service has seen successful GPS activities at Acadia National Park connected to their interpretation and education programs but are concerned with the potential hazards to sensitive environments. Most importantly, NPS seeks advance consultation with local managers before caches are created and publicized.

The policy review encourages virtual caching over geocaching, where the “treasure” is a point of interest rather than a physical object. Virtual caching is more likely to have participants remain on designated paths and trails and less likely for individuals to be in unapproved areas damaging the park environment.

For the full National Park Service Policy Review “GPS - based Recreational Activities in Park Areas”: Click here