Table of Contents
Washington has a variety of areas with various restrictions on geocaching. The maps and descriptions below will help summarize them:
In 2002, the National Park Service issued a blanket ban on all geocaches. This lasted until October of 2009, when the NPS published a revised guidance document. Now, the NPS leaves the decision on geocaches to the discretion of individual park superintendents. The guidance document further suggests that geocaching may be a beneficial educational and recreational activity in some parks. Any caches placed on NPS land - which includes National Historic Sites and National Monuments - must obtain explicit permission from the appropriate park manager before they will be published on Geocaching.com.
National Recreational Areas:
National Recreation Areas are administered by the National Park Service and thus generally fall under the NPS rules cited above. Some NRAs, however, are managed by the adjacent National Forests and these agencies can sometimes follow different sets of tules. Reviewers will in general not post caches in any of these areas unless explicit permission is obtained.
National Wildlife Refuges:
The US Fish & Wildlife Service has issued a blanket ban on all caches in NWRs. Physical caches placed in these locations will be rejected unless explicit permission is obtained.
Indian Reservations are not public land but rather considered private land owned by the tribe. Caches with explicit permission on these lands will be posted.
For many years, Wilderness Areas were considered open for caching as they are generally managed by the US Forest Service, which has so far been very welcome and accommodating toward geocaching. However, if you visit Wilderness.net, you will see that the growth of geocaching has caused some concerns related to social trail creation and abandonment of property. We now will only post caches in Wilderness Areas that have explicit permission.
Washington State Parks:
The Washington State Parks implemented a strict permit system that went into effect in July of 2006, but has since greatly softened its stance on geocaching and now welcomes it. The revised WSPRC Geocaching Directive signed into effect in December of 2012 makes it easier to place caches and obtain permits.
You can find a copy of the permit in the link above or on the WSGA (Washington State Geocaching Association) web site. A permit is required to place a cache in a State Park, and when a permit has been obtained the reviewers ask that you post a reviewer note to this effect that includes the park manager's name, email address and phone number.
The State Parks also ask that you add some standard content to your cache page. The WSGA has created some standardized .html that you can copy and paste into your cache page that will add a nice box to your page with this information. You will be able to find that code, along with the documents linked to above, on their website here.
Lower Little Spokane Natural Area:
The Lower Little Spokane Natural Area has asked that no caches be placed within the preserve's borders.
Discovery Park (Seattle):
In November of 2007, a naturalist at Discovery Park contacted Geocaching.com saying that none of the caches there had permission and that they were being removed in order to prevent damage to sensitive habitats. At that time, Geocaching.com disabled all of the caches in the park and began working on a solution to the situation with the WSGA. In 2010, an agreement was reached that allows for caches to be placed after the location has been approved by a geocaching liaison to the park. More information can be found at the WSGA web site.
Anacortes Public Lands:
In December of 2007, a manager for the Anacortes Community Forest Lands contacted Geocaching.com stating that they wanted to discourage geocaching within the ACFL and asking that the site post no more caches within the ACFL. They also asked that existing caches be removed. Groundspeak opened a dialog with the managers, and there is now a permit system in place rather than a complete ban. The permit system has been extended to all Anacortes public lands, however.
Morning Star NRCA:
In November of 2008, the Natural Areas Manager for the Washington State Department of Natural Resources Northwest Region contacted Geocaching.com asking that 16 caches within the Morning Star Natural Resource Conservation Area be removed. The request stated, "While our lands are open to the public our mission is the preservation of the ecosystem with very limited recreational opportunities. We would prefer that geocaching not be a part of our natural areas and formally ask that you remove the following sites from your website." Until this issue can be resolved through discussions with the DNR, no additional caches within this NRCA will be posted.
Cypress Island NRCA:
In April of 2008, Natural Areas Manager for the Washington State Department of Natural Resources Northwest Region contacted Geocaching.com asking that a cache in the Cypress Island Natural Resource Conservation Area be removed. The request stated, "While our lands are open to the public our mission is the preservation of the ecosystem with very limited recreational opportunities. We would prefer that geocaching not be a part of our natural areas and formally ask that you remove the following sites from your website." Until this issue can be resolved through discussions with the DNR, no additional caches within this NRCA will be posted.
University of Washington's Lee Memorial Forest:
The forest Manager for the Lee Memorial Forest contacted reviewers in September of 2009 asking that all caches in the forest be removed due to the presence of sensitive wildlife research sites at the location. No caches without express permission from the forest will be posted in this area.
Security at the Everett Mall has a strict "no geocaches" policy.
Mercer Slough Nature Park:
The custodians of Mercer Slough Nature Park have asked that no caches be placed within park boundaries without express permission.
Pilchuck Tree Farm:
Due to oversaturation concerns, geocaches are no longer accepted in the Pilchuck Tree Farm.
Paradise Valley Conservation Area:
In December of 2010, a Project Manager for Paradise Valley Conservation Area asked that no new caches be placed there until further notice due to saturation concerns. The park is open to geocaching, but would like the cache density to remain at current levels or below.
Lord Hill Regional Park:
As with the Paradise Valley Conservation Area, Snohomish County Parks has asked that no new caches be placed in Lord Hill Regional Park until further notice due to saturation concerns. The park remains open to geocaching, but the county would like the cache density to remain at or below current levels
By federal law, the land extending to 100 feet on both side of railroad tracks is private property. See relevant law here.
Geocaching.com's guidelines for the USA extend this distance to 150 feet.
The Bureau of Land Management has a fairly liberal policy regarding lands that they manage and the following webpage gives an overview of their policy:
Like other Federal Agencies that manage Public Lands, there may be some local restrictions that may apply which are not covered under the National Policy. Always best to check with local offices regarding specific restrictions.
About This Guide
The local laws and guidelines for geocaching placement vary from place to place. As community reviewers learn geocache placement policies for a certain location, they can add it here. This site may not be a complete or accurate list of land policies. These policies are made by the land owner or manager, they are neither the reviewer’s nor Geocaching HQ’s. This guide is just for reference, if no policies for the area you’re looking for are listed, that doesn't mean no policies exist. You must still obtain permission to place your geocache from the landowner or land manager,comply with all applicable laws, and follow the Geocaching Listing Requirements.
If you have an update, email the community reviewer(s) listed.
If you contribute to this wiki, you agree to provide permission to others under this license.
If you share information from this site, you must mention "These regional land policies came from the Geocaching.com Public Wiki and are licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-No-Derivatives 4.0 International License."
And, you agree to keep content current by checking back regularly for updates.
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