Polk County Conservation Geocaching Challenge

polk county geocaching challenge iowa

Last summer we had so much fun completing the Polk County Conservation Geocaching Challenge! This would be a great family activity for the summer, and a fun way to explore new places in the area. There are 16 geocaches along trails and in parks; once you find all 16 and write down the code words, you receive a cool geocoin. After you activate the coin and put it back into a geocache, log-in and watch it travel across the country and even the world! There is no time limit element to this challenge; it is open and running for the foreseeable future.

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If you’re not familiar with geocaching, it is really easy to get started, and you can read more about it in this post. The Trestle to Trestle cache is above – you can see the polk county challenge log, a few trinkets, and the code word on the popsicle stick. We signed the log and then wrote down the codeword on our log!

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I think the original intent was to do a crayon rubbing of the password, but a few didn’t have crayons and I got in the habit of writing instead.

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A peek at the log and directions above; there is a “GZ” code that you type into the app and then a few blurbs about the location and what to expect. You can download the official sheets on their website here; I stuck ours in a plastic sheet protector to keep them dry.

Locations include the following – I’ll link to the DSMOF info page for each and am working slowly on adding pictures from each site! Please note that *my* location linked on the page is not necessarily the location that they suggest you start from in order to find the cache. I’ll put notes that I think might be helpful under a few of them, too. Always remember to skim the previous finders’ notes for help and clues!

  • Carney Marsh
    • Easy cache! Great one to start with. Potential to have damp feet, plan accordingly.
  • High Trestle Trail
    • This is *not* next to the iconic bridge. Pretty easy.
  • Mally’s Park
    • Super cute little park; very buggy in the heat of summer. Very close to Gay Lea Wilson Trail.
  • Chichaqua Valley Trail
    • Pretty easy, busy bike (paved) trail.
  • Easter Lake Park
    • Beautiful park, probably buggy at the right time of year. Potential for damp feet and underbrush scratches.
  • Fort Des Moines Park
    • We struggled with this! The only one we had to visit twice and hunt, we never did find the first cache but eventually found the second just by guessing after looking at logged photos and walking the trails.
  • Great Western Trail
    • Pretty easy, I followed some of the previous cacher’s notes and parked closer to it off the road instead of at the official GWT lot and walking.
  • Sycamore Trail
    • This was confusing! We did visit this twice, but the first time I misread the map and had us on the incorrect side of the river, you’re looking for the dirt trail side. Potential for damp feet and I’ve heard it gets really buggy.
  • Trestle to Trestle Trail
    • Pretty easy, great first cache. Can be buggy.
  • Yellow Banks Park
    • Insanely buggy in the heat of summer, risk of underbrush scratches.
  • Jester Park
    • Pretty simple, but close to traffic if you have young kids in tow.
  • Thomas Mitchell Park
    • Great first cache, could be buggy.
  • Chichaqua Bottoms Greenbelt
    • We never found the first one but didn’t look too hard since the second was very close by and easy to find, even if you didn’t have the app up.
  • Engeldinger Marsh
    • This was a HIKE. By far the most challenging, I was thankful to have a carrier for both our (then) 3 and 1 year old. My husband convinced me to take a “shortcut” instead of going back the way we came, which ended us in knee high marsh water. Don’t recommend that. Beautiful views though! Definitely wet feet potential, depending on what path you take.
  • Gay Lea Wilson Trail
    • Very close to Mally’s Park, it was a decent hike along paved paths to get to the cache with zero shade.
  • Brown’s Woods
    • This was an almost-two-trip with a well camouflaged cache container. Definitely underbrush scratch potential!

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I just finally activated our geocoin; I’m not sure where we will start its journey, but you can check-in on it here.

Geocaching is such a fun way to get outside and kids of all ages and adults have fun doing it. I’ll be working on a list of family friendly caches around the area outside of this challenge, so please let me know if you have any favorites!

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