Department of Environmental Conservation

D E C banner


Geocaching is a real-world, outdoor treasure hunt. GPS-enabled devices. Participants navigate to a specific set of GPS coordinates using a GPS-enabled device and then attempt to find the geocache (container) hidden at that location. See the February 2005 article (PDF) about geocaching in the Conservationist magazine for more information about this sport.

Placing a Cache on DEC Lands

Wildlife Management Areas (WMAs)

Geocaching may be an acceptable activity at many WMAs but it poses some potential concerns that need to be addressed, therefore, we require an application for a cache on WMAs. WMAs are managed for fish and wildlife. Most support some sensitive habitats such as wetlands, and these areas can be harmed by human traffic and disturbance. Some seasons are of particular concern, such as wildlife breeding season (spring through fall).

Please be aware that most WMAs are used for hunting, so you may choose to limit your geocaching at these sites during hunting seasons. We also recommend wearing conspicuous clothing and exercising extra caution during these times.

Requirements for Placing a Cache on a WMA

Part 51 regulations prohibit leaving personal property on WMA lands. Therefore, before creating a new cache, the sponsor must contact the area's Regional Wildlife Manager to:

  • determine whether there are any site-specific or seasonal limitations that need to be factored into the siting of the cache,
  • obtain approval in writing to establish the cache (an application form will be sent to the sponsor after contacting DEC), and
  • obtain the sponsor's contact information as well as the coordinates of the proposed cache and a brief description of it and where it will be hidden.

Some caches may require a temporary revocable permit (TRP) depending on the conditions of the site. The sponsor would be required to apply and receive the TRP before they can place the cache. The Regional Wildlife Manager will help determine if this is necessary when you contact DEC.

State Forests and Adirondack/Catskill Forest Preserve

Geocaches placed on state forest or forest preserve lands must be clearly marked with the owner's contact information and may only be installed in a manner that does not disturb the natural conditions of the site or injure a tree. The owner's name and address are required in case there are any problems created by a cache's presence or contents. Geocaches are allowed as specified by state regulations 6 NYCRR Section 190.8 (w). View the full regulation online (leaves DEC website).

Guidelines to Reduce Disturbance and Impact

  • Limit caches to occasional use, not event-type caches with a large-scale or timed event.
  • Change cache location approximately every six months or sooner if environmental degradation is apparent (i.e. formation of herd paths).
  • Hide the cache in a naturally-occurring location (i.e. hollow log, under brush, etc.). You may not cut or remove vegetation or disturb soil to place your cache. No caches may be hidden in trees, near cliffs, or in other locations where there is risk of injury to the searcher.
  • Hide the cache in a location that is already "disturbed" (i.e. parking lots, kiosks, bridges, etc.) when possible.
  • Color the cache to blend in with the natural surroundings.
  • Limit your cache to be no larger than 800 cubic inches.
  • Consider a virtual cache, where coordinates are assigned to a specific natural or geologic feature and there is no physical material left at the site.

We encourage all geocachers, both new and seasoned, to follow the principles of Leave No Trace (leaves DEC website) and exercise responsible stewardship principles when geocaching on state lands:

  • Keep to trails when possible and avoid creating footpaths that could cause erosion.
  • Check your clothing and footwear for clinging seeds or plant material to prevent the spread of invasive species.
  • Respect other users and do not disturb wildlife.
  • Carry trash out and help pick up any left by previous visitors.
  • Be prepared and pack properly for your adventure.

Equipment and Etiquette

Finding a cache requires a set of GPS coordinates for a cache location and either a handheld GPS device or a GPS-enabled cell phone. There are several apps that can be downloaded to make geocaching more fun and accessible for everyone.

In many geocaches, there are several small toys or trinkets and a "take one, leave one" policy. Sometimes there will be an item called a trackable, where participants will move the trackable from cache to cache and record its location. It's proper etiquette only to take a trackable if you are sure that you can put it in another cache in a timely fashion. Sometimes these trackables have goals such as moving to caches across the country or along coastlines. You can also follow these trackables online.

Lear more about geocaching, including a list of geocache locations near you (leaves the DEC website).

  • Contact for this Page
  • Division of Lands and Forests
    625 Broadway
    Albany,NY 12233
    Send us an email
  • This Page Covers
  • Page applies to all NYS regions