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Free Outdoor Treasure Hunt Ideas

Updated on December 30, 2015
Hide clues along a wooded path for an outdoors treasure hunt!
Hide clues along a wooded path for an outdoors treasure hunt! | Source

Outdoor Fun

Children (and adults) have enjoyed treasure hunting for many, many years. The game is easy to set up and requires only a means of giving clues. The clues can be as simple as one word descriptions or as fun as rhymes or as complicated as coded sentences. This hub will describe a few games that can be played outside, maybe while camping. You do not always have to have a "treasure" at the end of the game, but I will also explain some treasure ideas. Grab your ingenuity and maybe an Indiana Jones fedora -- and happy hunting!

Treasure Chest
Treasure Chest | Source

Treasure Hunt - Camping Game 1

Kids especially enjoy looking for treasure - buried treasure is really fun. When camping, you may be able to bury a small box of treasure in a sandy beach area, or under needles and leaves in a woods, or under a downed log. One hint on setting up a treasure hunt is to start at the end. Hide the treasure first and work backwards through the clues. Always be respectful of your surroundings and do not dig too deep or disturb the nature. Below is an example of a quick treasure hunt that you can copy and print for a ready-made game.

(put under an evergreen tree on top of where treasure is buried)
To get this far means you're wise,
Now you're ready for the prize!

Under the evergreen tree,
You will then find me.

Look - don't worry why -
Where you hang clothes out to dry.

Think of the last place
Where you saw a dog's face.
Hurry, hurry, look for me,
In the crook of the oldest tree.

I am not under a block,
I'm under a rock.

Find me so you can look some more,
Find me when you open the door.

Bright flowers bloom
Where I'm taking up room.

Take 12 steps from the light,
Turn and look down to your right.

On the setting sun side
Is the place where I hide.

Under the front mat, I'm the clue,
That starts this adventure just for you.

Cell phone treasure hunting
Cell phone treasure hunting | Source

Camp Game 2: Photo Scavenger Hunt

Have the campers grab their cellphones with cameras and start clicking away. You can make up a list like the following one and give an allotted time, such as 30 minutes, to see how many pictures of their treasure hunt items that they can get. You can have them either text pictures to you as they find them or you can have them show you the pics on their phone at the end. This is a fun game for teens (and adults, too).

A Camping Photo Treasure Hunt List

Find as many of these treasures as possible:
3 different types of leaves
Rock that looks like a face
Animal with four legs
Two smiling campers
Bird's nest
Hula hoop
Two fishing poles
Blue tent
Spider web
Red pickup truck
Park sign
A coin older than 1964
Five children playing
Furry tail
Someone cooking over a campfire
Tree stump
Something that's broken
Red Solo Cup
Take a picture of each item. Winner has the most pictures in the allotted time.

Coded Treasure Hunt Clues

What better way to hunt for treasure than with a secret code? You can come up with your own code or just write the clues with no vowels, such as: l_ _ k _nd_r y_ _ r p_ll_w

You could also use a cool website to make a code. A fun and challenging code could be created by using Egyptian hieroglyphics. Try using this link to a free typing program that lets you email and print out hieroglyphic messages at

Another way to write clues is to use invisible ink. Use a cotton swab dipped in orange juice to write out your clues or to draw a treasure map on white paper. After the paper dries, hand the paper to your treasure hunters. They will be able to read it by holding it up to a light bulb or lantern.

Great Treasures

Treasure ideas are limited only by your imagination. Some great finds include:

old coins - new coins - promise note for a treat, an icecream, or a new toy - a book - a birthday present - jewelry - dollar store items - tickets to a movie - etc.

You can have just the items alone or you can put them in a treasure chest. You can buy a simple unfinished one at a crafts store or just use a box you have like an old tissue box. You could also use an old pill or vitamin container (which is better for burying than a cardboard container).

You can have one treasure for the winner, or enough for each player. You decide.

More Tips For a Fun Game

Treasure hunting will excite the brain when figuring out the clues, exercise senses for observing while searching the area, and is a fun adventure to enjoy with kids, with friends, with family. It is one of those games that can be as much fun setting it up as it is playing it! You can make a treasure hunt for one person, for teams, or for a large group. Everyone could work together on the same hunt, or have several hunts going on at the same time.

Clues can be written with crayons on paper napkins or printed on special paper with fancy fonts. They can follow a theme or be totally random. Make the clues with the players in mind - consider their ages and likes. Try to make the game challenging, but not too hard that they get stuck too often.

If you make an elaborate hunt, it's a good idea to make a copy of your clues so you don't forget any, in case you need to help move the game along. You can also number the clues in case a hunter finds one out of order - it helps to keep from short cutting the game.

Choose something special for the treasure, but remember that most of the fun is in the journey.

Good luck setting up your treasure hunt!


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    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 2 years ago from Olympia, WA

      I wish you had run the camp I went to as a kid. It would have been a much more fun experience. :) Have a Happy New Year!