Uncover Hidden Gems in West Virginia by Geocaching
Remember those epic summer camp scavenger hunts when you were a kid? Geocaching is a modern-day treasure hunt for the whole family, and West Virginia adds some serious scenery to the adventure.
Courtesy of geocaching apps and other GPS devices, tracking down caches (boxes of small, random items) using location coordinates is more accessible than ever before. Geocaching has grown into a community of its own, connecting users from across the globe to become naturals at exploring. For nature lovers in Almost Heaven, that means discovering even more of the state’s abundant hidden gems.
A Few Ground Rules
In state parks and forests, a permit is required before you can hide a cache. If you are only searching for caches, you do not need to obtain a permit. Always replace the item you take from the cache with something else. Items vary on the size of the geocache, but examples may include keychains, small toys or coins. Anyone can find a geocache, so make sure the items are family friendly and nonperishable.
There is also a geocaching sign-in sheet inside each geocache for explorers to document their discovery, so make sure you bring a writing utensil in case the cache doesn’t have one. This is a great way to connect with other geocaching enthusiasts in Almost Heaven.
State Park Geocaches
Geocaching is the perfect way to explore Almost Heaven on a deeper level. West Virginia’s state park system has more than 25 West Virginia state parks with caches, making the Mountain State a geocaching getaway. In fact, most of them have quite a few to choose from. Geocaches here often have West Virginia themes – anything from whitewater river to local historical topics. If you are using the Geocaching app, some caches may come with fun small tasks for you to complete before you can receive credit.
For example, if you find Babcock State Park’s “Glade Creek Waterfall” geocache, you’ll have to find the PH level, the current flow rate and the current water temperature of Glade Creek in order to get credit for the geocache. Beartown State Park’s “Goldilock’s Worst Nightmare Earthcache” is all about the geology and ecology of the park. At Chief Logan State Park, the “Steam Power” geocache is a lesson in steam locomotive culture and the historical importance of steam power.
Besides the state parks, look for other dedicated geocache trails around the state, like the WV Civil War GeoTrail, the Hatfield-McCoy GeoTrail and the Coal Heritage GeoTrail. Each of these GeoTrails has several stops that revolve around the subject, and they’ll have you travelling to both historically and culturally interesting spots to find your caches.
Check out the WV Civil War GeoTrail to search for 75 caches at important Civil War sites throughout West Virginia, while learning how the Civil War shaped the state’s history. Visit historic sites, like the former Blue Sulphur Springs Resort that was once known for its rejuvenating waters, but all that’s left now is a pavilion.
Along the Hatfield-McCoy GeoTrail, track down 16 different caches to learn about the historic feud between the West Virginia and Kentucky families. Along the trail, visit noteworthy historical sites such as “Devil” Anse Hatfield’s birthplace and gravesite; the Battle of Grapevine Creek, which was the last battle between the feuding families; the Hatfield and McCoy Feud marker at Matewan; and the “Pawpaw Incident,” where another chapter of violence between the 2 families was sparked.
The Coal Heritage GeoTrail will have you traversing all over the state to find its 16 caches associated with WV’s coal heritage. Travel through Southern West Virginia to places like the historic town of Mullens, downtown Welch along the Tug Fork River, the Exhibition Coal Mine in Beckley, and Thurmond-Minden Trail (also known as the Rend Trail) in the New River Gorge National River.
There are whole slew of other geocaches in the Mountain State. Some take you to some of the most remote, wild areas of West Virginia, so you may need to be solidly fit or use your wilderness orienteering skills. Others are in easy-to-get-to public places like museums, town parks and local tourist attractions.
Some local favorites: the Hawk Observatory Tower geocache, which is at the Hanging Rock Raptor Observatory, high atop Peters Mountain; Bushwackers View deep in the Dolly Sods Wilderness; and the Indiana Jones and Raiders of the Lost Arc cache around Charles Fork Lake in Spencer.
So go round up your family and friends, charge up your phone and start tracking down those coordinates. Geocaching is much more about the journey to new places in the state than the actual caches themselves.
This post was last updated on August 4, 2022