If you and Fido have yet to experience the phenomenon that is geocaching, we’re here to let you in on the secret. Geocaching--commonly referred to as the world’s largest treasure hunt--burst onto the scene in 2000, after the U.S. government made GPS signals available to civilians. Soon after, a growing community of would-be Indiana Joneses began hiding boxes of trinkets called geocaches at random locations. As of 2019, there are more than 3 million active geocaches scattered across the globe. Using a GPS-equipped smartphone or standalone GPS tracker and coordinates from the official Geocaching website, you and your trusty four-legged sidekick can embark on a cross-country adventure to unearth untold riches. What are we waiting for? Let’s go geocaching!
1. Not “Rin-Tin-Tin”
Daytona Beach, FL - This cache pays tribute to a dog named Brownie, who lived in Daytona Beach from 1940-1954. As the story goes, a stray pup wandered onto Beach Street one day looking for a loving home. The local business owners dubbed him Brownie and adopted him as their own. Brownie wore a small box attached to his collar that residents and tourists would fill with spare change which was used to buy treats and pay vet bills. After his passing, a statue and gravesite were built in Riverfront Park to commemorate Brownie The Town Dog. Once Fido finds Brownie, you can score credit for the cache.
Enjoy a restful night’s sleep just steps from the ocean at Little Beach Cottage, which has a fully fenced backyard. Nearby Sloppy Joe’s offers dog-friendly outdoor seating and a menu featuring delicious surf and turf.
2. E.T. Highway
Rachel, NV - When you’re not photographing aliens sunbathing on the rocks outside Area 51, you and your pooch can geocache your way down the Extraterrestrial Highway between Crystal Springs and Rachel in Nevada. There are a reported 1,500 caches hidden along the north side of E.T. Highway. Start your quest near the giant metal alien statue at the not-at-all-suspicious-looking Alien Research Center.
If you and Fido survive your treasure-hunting trek without being abducted by little green men, treat yourselves to a stay at the Little A’Le’Inn in Rachel.
3. Nidus (The Nest)
Mobile, AL - Located in USS Alabama Battleship Memorial Park, this craftily concealed cache can be found by searching for a “very big bird” nesting in the park. Leashed pups are allowed to assist in locating the nest, explore the park grounds and visit the on-site War Dog Memorial. However, only service dogs are permitted to tour the battleship. Admission to the park is $15 per adult, and parking costs $4.
Geocaching can work up an appetite! You and Fido can wash down spicy Mexican eats with a refreshing drink on the covered patio at OK Bicycle Shop before nesting for the night at Candlewood Suites Mobile Downtown, located across the river from the park.
4. The Sword in the Stone
Woodbury, MN - This forest treasure allows you and your furry liege to reenact the legendary tale of pulling mighty Excalibur from its rocky perch. Assume the position behind the granite slab, grasp the hilt with a firm grip and pull thy blade from its stone sheath. If you prove worthy enough, the saber will slide free, revealing the contents of the cache. While you’re at it, you can even knight Fido on the spot!
Bring Sir Pants-A-Lot to La Quinta Inn & Suites by Wyndham St. Paul Woodbury, where two pets stay for no additional fee. La Quinta serves up a complimentary breakfast feast and also welcomes dogs in the spacious outdoor seating area at Lakes Tavern and Grill, famous for its Furious Fish Fry.
5. Auto Art
Erie, PA - For a truly unique geocaching experience, drop by the backyard museum at Schaefer’s Auto Art. You and your canine investigator can ogle the steampunk-esque oddities constructed from recycled metal and used car parts, including a Volkswagen Beetle turned eight-legged arachnid, a giant bumblebee with a sedan for a head, and the American flag billboard made of license plates. To log the cache correctly, follow the instructions on the Geocaching website.
Continue your stay in Erie by booking a pet-friendly cabin at Edinboro Lake Resort. Enjoy hot wings, juicy burgers and succulent snow crab legs on the dog-friendly patio at the Ugly Tuna Tavern, located 10 miles north of the resort.
6. You’re Driving Me Doggone Crazy
Wauseon, OH - Remember to pack Fido’s Sherlock Holmes cap and magnifying glass because a sniffing Snoopy might be required to locate this hiding-in-plain-sight cache. Don’t get discouraged, the listed coordinates are correct. Just let your prospecting pooch search for the pup-sized real estate and you’ll be good to go.
There are a handful of Airbnb rental homes, cottages and yurts in the Wauseon area for a pet-friendly overnight stay. Four-legged swimmers also can have a splashing good time on the doggy beach at Harrison Lake State Park in nearby Fayette.
7. All You Need Is Love
Pacific Grove, CA - Lady and the Tramp would be jealous of this romantic beach hideaway. Make your way to the picturesque shores of Lovers Point in Lovers Point Park to uncover the cache. You and your furry partner will have to deftly scale the rocky outcrop on the beach to retrieve it, but your efforts will be rewarded with fresh Pacific Ocean air, gentle breezes and stunning mountain vistas.
8. A Crappy Cache
Vicksburg, MI - Leave the pooper scooper and waste bags in the car when you visit this hilariously labeled vault. Located in the cache owner’s front yard, it brings new meaning to a call of nature. Yes, it’s an outhouse. Don’t worry, it’s not in service (anymore). Rather than toilet paper and Febreze, this little red commode is packed with tiny toys, kitschy trinkets and a doggy statue named Maizie. It’s the perfect spot for a sanitary selfie with Fido.
For something completely different, travel 10 miles north to Kalamazoo and spend the night at The Henderson Castle, an elegant 19th century-era bed and breakfast. While in town, stop by The Thirsty Hound for refreshing craft beer and delicious doggy treats. Well-behaved pups are allowed both inside and outside.
9. American Gothic
Eldon, IA - Grab a pitchfork and Fido’s overalls and strike a pose in front of the same home that inspired artist Grant Wood to paint his masterpiece, “American Gothic.” Listed in the National Register of Historic Places, this quaint Iowa farmhouse’s signature Gothic-style window transforms two- and four-legged visitors into works of art. To take credit for the find, snap a pic of yourself in front of the famous window and upload it to the Geocaching website.
“Ruffly” 15 miles to the east, you’ll find dog-friendly rooms at the Best Western Fairfield Inn. Pups eager to exercise are permitted to hike the 16-mile-long Fairfield Loop Trail that circles the countryside around the city.
10. Route 66
Newberry Springs, CA - The 800 caches peppered along the stretch of historic Route 66 between Barstow and Needles will keep you and your sleuthing Shih Tzu busy for days. Pack plenty of water to keep your pooch from overheating, and be on the lookout for the Mojave sidewinders and rattlesnakes native to the deserts of Southern California.