Letterboxing is the ultimate scavenger hunt. It’s a fun family adventure where you follow clues to find a letterbox.
What is a Letterbox?
A letterbox is a small weatherproof box that someone hides in a public place like a park, trail, and even a cemetery. Then they post clues online to help you find the box. The fun is in the hunt. The clues are usually easy with hints like looking for a bench in a park and counting steps. What is really fun is that it is a great family activity and anyone can do it. Even our three year old is an avid letterboxer!
Start at the website Letterboxing North America. Here you will find tips for finding letterboxes, planting your own letterboxes, letterboxing with kids, and more to help you get familiar with letterboxing. Once you are ready to start hunting, go to the Letterboxing map and search for clues to find boxes in your city. According to the website, there are over 20,000 letterboxes hidden in North America. That’s quite a scavenger hunt! Although most of the letterboxes on this site are in North America, the map page does have links to letterboxing in other countries.
I used the Letterboxing website to get clues for 5 letterboxes hidden on two adjoining trails near our home. You could use your phone to pull these up once you are out there but I like to have them already printed and in my hand while we are hunting.
We brought along some bottled water, a small notebook that we use for our Letterboxing Logbook, and a small rubber stamp.
Here is one of the clues that we had to find a letterbox:
“Follow the main trail, across the bridge, to the trail that leads south. Follow the trail, on the right hand side through the trees you can see the guardrail from the new bridge and road. You will pass a tree on the left that was struck by lightning when it was young. As you see the end of the guardrail, walk approx 40 paces forward, there will be a big oak tree on the right. To the left there is a large dead tree that has lost its top. The box is hidden in the fallen logs at its base.”
My kids loved counting our steps and following the clues. They were very excited to have found the letterbox on their own. It was a little bit off the trail tucked away inside a log on the ground.
Before we did anything we looked around to make sure that no one else was nearby. People who aren’t letterboxers might go to the site after you leave to see what you were doing. Not understanding the concept behind letterboxing, they might take the box and unknowingly ruin the hunt for others. So be a little sneaky when you are at the letterbox. I think being sneaky made the hunt even more fun for my kids!
Very carefully, remove the box without disturbing its surroundings. Open the box and you should find a small logbook and rubber stamp. If you are lucky you will also find a pen and an ink pad. However, the ink doesn’t usually do well over years of being exposed to the elements so it is always a good idea to bring your own pen and ink pad.
Use the stamp in the letterbox to stamp your log book. You might want to write down some other details in your log book such as the name of the letterbox, where you found it, the date, and who you were with just as a memento for yourself.
Then use the stamp you brought to stamp the letterbox log book. It’s always fun to look through the letterbox log book to see the fun stamps others have left as well as dates and locations of where the people are from.
Be respectful of the letterbox and place everything back carefully, just the way you found it. Then go find another one!
We had a great time letterboxing with our two children. But hunting for hidden letterboxes wasn’t the only thing that we did on this outing.
We spent time together as a family.
We spent time enjoying the outdoors away from the phone and television. We looked at butterflies, spider webs, a turtle and fish in the creek, examined different kinds of mushrooms growing on logs in the woods, and even got to watch an ant lion larvae attack an ant in his sand trap!
Hunting for more ideas? Check out these posts from the Quirky Mommas: