FAQS: Geocaching in Minnesota
Q – What is the best resource for general geocaching questions?
A - General questions about geocaching can be found on this page, published by Groundspeak: http://www.geocaching.com/guide/ You can also ask questions about geocaching on the MnGCA Facebook page for a rapid response to your question on Minnesota geocaching. Veteran geocachers from Minnesota are great resources about MN geocaching specifically.
Q - Are there places in MN I can try geocaching?
A – Many state parks in Minnesota have GPSs available to check out just for the geocaches in their park, but the availability varies greatly. Try this page: http://www.dnr.state.mn.us/state_parks/geocaching/demo_parks.html.
Check out this webpage about the availability of GPSs in the Three Rivers Park District:. https://www.threeriversparks.org/activity/geocaching. Don't forget that geocaching can be as simple as downloading the Geocaching App on your cell phone. There is no fee to try finding the non-premium geocaches.
Q – Can you place a geocache anywhere in Minnesota?
A - The placer of the geocache must get permission to place a geocache from the land owner anywhere a geocache is planned. The geocache reviewers do NOT check the placement themselves. Still, a reviewer might tell you if a geocache is planned for an area known to need organizational or MN DNR permission of any kind. You cannot hide geocaches in Minnesota Protected Wildlife Areas. Get permission from the owner or organization responsible for the land before publishing the geocache. Be sure to feel comfortable with finding geocaches before placing any yourself and read all the Groundspeak rules ahead of time.
Q – Are their special outdoor activities in Minnesota that Geocachers should be aware of?
A – Yes, there are some limitations on Geocachers you should remember:
1) Hunting - Hunting is possible in MN from September to February. You should check the DNR website for specific information (http://www.dnr.state.mn.us/regulations/hunting/index.html). If there is a metro hunt scheduled, you should treat that as a reservation and geocache somewhere else. If a cache is on private hunting land - read the description carefully. Open hunting land is available for hiking during hunting season but wear bright orange and be very respectful of hunters. It is against the law (and dangerous) to interfere with a hunter.
2) Cross Country Skiing - Groomed trails are reserved for cross country skiers by law. Do NOT walk on, across, or get within 6 feet of a groomed cross country ski trail.
3) ATV Trails and Snowmobile Trails - It is not advisable to hike on these unless specifically stated it is legal to do so. There may be posted areas for snowmobiling only. The cache owner might help you out by stating if the geocache is on a restricted trail.
4) Horseback trails - Designated Horseback trails are reserved for horseback riding by law. Do NOT hike on these unless hiking is allowed by signage.
5) Biking Trails - Most biking trails allow hiking. Pay attention to signs saying otherwise.
6) "Hard water" geocaching – Minnesota has many island caches that are available in winter by walking on the ice to the island rather than via boating. This is not without risk if the season is warm or if a lake is spring fed. Cold weather does not mean the lake is safe enough to cross on foot.
Q - Are there any harmful plants in MN Geocachers should be aware of?
A - Avoid these plants:
1. Poison Ivy
2. Wild Parsnip
3. Stinging nettles
4. Grecian foxglove
5. Poison hemlock
This guide from the DNR shows images of these plants and what to do to avoid getting in their way. https://files.dnr.state.mn.us/destinations/snas/steward_materials/poisonous_hazardous_plants.pdf
Q - Are there any harmful animals MN Geocachers should be aware of?
A - These are the most notable animal life in Minnesota to be respectful of:
1. Mosquitoes – there are not as many mosquito-borne diseases in Minnesota compared to tropical areas of the world, but it is a good idea to protect yourself against their stings. This page talks about the known mosquito-borne diseases in this state: https://www.health.state.mn.us/diseases/mosquitoborne/diseases.html
2. Ticks – there are several types of wood ticks in Minnesota. The black-legged tick/deer tick is the one that carries Lyme disease. Your geocaching pet can also get Lyme disease, so have them immunized. There is no readily-available Lyme disease vaccine for humans, so use protection against ticks. https://www.health.state.mn.us/diseases/tickborne/ticks.html
3. Geese - Canada Geese can be aggressive near their offspring
6. Rattle snakes - typically bluff regions only in the Southeastern part of the state.
Q – Where can I find other Geocachers in Minnesota?
A - MNGCA events are great places to meet other Geocachers you may only have seen in "signature form". Events in Minnesota approved by Groundspeak are also great choices. Visit our Events page to find them. Be sure to log on the event's geocache site page and indicate if you are coming in advance as this helps the event organizers know how many people to expect.
Q - How dog-friendly is MN?
A - Leashed dogs are allowed in MN State Parks. Cities do vary but most do allow dogs in their parks. If you want a specific city's policies, check the webpage of the city you are visiting.
Q - Special SWAG considerations in MN geocaches?
A - General SWAG guidelines can be found on geocaching.com. Remember that Minnesota will experience freezing temperatures, so SWAG items that can freeze or get ruined if damp should be avoided. Pens are fun but they don't work well in freezing temperatures. SWAG that rusts will usually rust in a geocache that can become damp.
Also, food should never be left as SWAG. Animals will find it (and probably destroy the cache in the process). In general, anything that goes in your mouth is probably a bad idea as a SWAG choice.
Q - Any logging etiquette geocachers should be aware of?
A – Geocaching.com has a great official blog page on logging etiquette: https://www.geocaching.com/blog/2019/06/geocaching-etiquette-201-finding-and-logging/
If a geocache has been placed in violation of Groundspeak rules (such as trespassing or breaking the law to get the cache) use the "Needs Archived" Log. The reviewer will get this log and respond to it. This is not a common choice.
If a geocache is broken, damaged, or obviously missing, log "Report a Problem with this Geocache" on the website page of the geocache in question. There are several choices there, like "container is broken", "log is full", "cache might be missing", and "other". You can also write a note to tell others what you found or send a note to the cache owner explaining what you found (the last note to the owner isn't made public but is a nice gesture).
The DNF (Did not Find) log is used when you didn't find it (for whatever reason). This is a good default if you are new to geocaching and aren't sure it is really missing. A number of these in a row will help the cache owner see it is time to check on the geocache.
Try logging more than "TFTC" (Thanks for the Cache). People who come after you and the owner might like it if you share a funny story about the find, wildlife you saw on the way, who you were with, or why you wanted to find that particular geocache. Share your experience without giving away the details on the hidden location of the container or what it obviously looks like. This is part of being in the geocaching community – and it is fun!
Don't post photos of, or log details about, a unique cache container or any specifics of the actual hide location. Logs often contain vague and useful hints, but be cautious of making comments that give the hide away too readily. (Example: Say "I needed to improvise a tool of the trade (TOTT) and was able to make the grab" DO NOT say "I found a long stick with a forked end which enabled me to lift it down off of that limb").
Logs should be encouraging to the cache owner as well as other players, and never overly critical. Constructive critique, as well as genuine concerns should be addressed via a private message—unless you are intending to warn other cache hunters of an immediate concern in the cache area, such as the presence of insects, construction, dangerous conditions (flooding, mudslides, sinkholes, and the like), etc.
Photos can be great additions to a log as long as they don't give too much away.
Q - When can I hide a geocache myself?
A - Groundspeak will allow to you hide a cache whenever you want as long as it meets the placement guidelines (http://www.geocaching.com/about/guidelines.aspx). In general, it is recommended to wait until you have found a wide variety of caches before hiding one yourself so you are comfortable with the many nuances of hiding a cache.
Don't forget that the cache owner is responsible to make sure they have permission from the land owner to make a hide. County property tax websites and websites for city parks and recreation areas are generally the quickest way to determine ownership and local geocache placement rules.
Even if you get permission from the owner or organization, there are rules about "distance-placing" in geocache hides. If you want a start on where to hide a geocache, look on the map on this page (https://www.geocaching.com/hide/planning.aspx) and avoid places where red circles exist.
There is no guarantee you can hide a geocache outside of the circle, though, and some park systems have other rules about the distance between geocaches.