Creating Scavenger Hunt Clues and Treasure Hunt Clues

sky-cloud-questionThe idea of creating clues for treasure hunts and scavenger hunts can be daunting. If you’ve ever thought about creating your own clues for a scavenger hunt and been nervous about trying it then you’re not alone. But once you’ve learned the basics of how these clues are formed and you’ve been exposed to the variety of forms that hunt clues actually come in you’ll see that it’s not hard to come up with some great ideas for clues for you next scavenger or treasure hunt. Being exposed to and knowing about the different types of clues that can be created will increase your options and can actually make for a scavenger hunt or treasure hunt that is that much more fun than one made up of entirely the same type of riddle clues! In this article I’m going to share some ideas for different types of scavenger hunt clues that you can use to create your next hunt. We’ll start with the basic types of clues that you are probably the most familiar with, and then once we’ve covered those we’ll move on to some more advanced / adventurous types of clues.

Plain Text Clues

Plain Text Descriptive Clues

Let’s start with the common plain text riddle clues for scavenger hunts and treasure hunts. These clues are probably the most common type of clue used in treasure hunts and less commonly in scavenger hunts. They are plain text clues that are simply a phrase or a sentence which describes a place or a thing to be found. An example of this is something like:

“A machine that spins foods and drinks around”/ Answer=Blender

Plain Text Riddle Clues

A scavenger hunt riddle cut out of the same cloth as a plain text descriptive clue. The difference is that instead of being a simple description the clue is instead in the form of a riddle. Solving riddles as part of treasure hunts and scavenger hunts adds a little bit of difficulty, but that difficulty is made up for in fun! Solvable brain teasers are fun for all ages!

“In goes solids out comes smooth – mix and match your favorite foods.” (Notice it rhymes… see next)

Rhyming Clues

A fairly common convention in clues for various types of hunts is that of rhyming clues. I’m not sure why exactly, but it does allow you to share a little more information because you often have to add some words to get a rhyme that rolls off the tongue and I suppose it also seems to add a little bit of playfulness to the clues when they rhyme versus when they do not. So let’s try a rhying version of the same clue as the first one – only this time with rhyming included:

“Spinning foods and drinks ’round and ’round, all the while it makes an awful sound!”

As you can see, adding rhyming to a clue can really give it a little spice! No pun intended…  I must be hungry!

That’s it for your basic riddle style clues, but there’s still lots of other types of clues that can be used in scavenger hunts and treasure hunts.

Beyond Basic Riddle Clues

Word Search Patterns for Clues

Word search clues add an extra level of creativity to a hunt. They don’t add too much complexity, but they do make for a different type of clue and will therefore make the hunt just that much more fun. There are three types of word search patterns for scavenger hunt clues and treasure hunt clues that I’m going to talk about here. The first is a simple “noisy search” pattern. The second is a “noisy scramble search”. Last, I’ll explain the multi clue association with search pattern.

Noisy Word Search Pattern

This is probably the simplest word search pattern. You create a simple word search by writing the words you want found in a grid and then place “noise” between them. The noise is extra letters. Letters like x, y, z, q, are good noise letters. You can adjust the amount of noise you introduce and it’s placement according to the ages of the hunters. So for younger children the words may not even appear broken, but will have noise between them. For older hunters who need a bigger challenge maybe you break up each word with noise and use more noise characters. Another easy twist to put in is to actually tell the hunters what what the noise letters are so they can go through and cross them out. Whatever is left is the clue. Maybe it’s a sentence, a thing, or a group of things (see multi clue association below). One more note, you can make things easier or more difficult for the hunters by including a feature called camel “case” in the word search. If your clue is a sentence then make the first letter of every word be uppercase. This helps the little ones break apart the words after they throw away the noise.

Noisy Scramble Search

In this type of clue you define the message or contents you want in the clue. Then you build a search pattern as previously described only you mix up the answer parts. This is great for word searches in which you specify exactly what the noise characters are, but you can make it as complicated as you want and make it really require some thinking by not telling the hunters what the noise characters actually are.

Multi Clue Association with Search Pattern

In multi word association clues you choose a collection of words to describe a particular clue. You then take those words and build a search pattern from them (as described in the word search pattern section). The hunter then works to find all the words in the pattern and once done they use the found words to figure out how all the words are related. So, for example, you might choose the words “fairy”, “hook”, “wendy”, “disc” and build a search pattern with them. When the hunter is able to find all the words in the pattern they are then able to associate all of those clues with “Peter Pan” the movie and know to look in the DVD case. These types of clues take a little more time to create, but once you get the hang of it you’ll be super fast at it and won’t miss a beat. You can always use our handy word search creator to help you out if you want to get it done without having to build the search patterns yourself.

That’s it for search pattern type clues, but there’s a long way to go before we get to the end. Here are some more types of clues you can use in your hunts.

Trivia Clues

Clues based on trivia or answering questions are great for all kinds of scavenger hunts. One way that these can work is that you choose a theme and then come up with questions related to that theme. For each correct answer members of the groups get another type of clue to figure out. Another way of using trivia as part of your clues is to come up with hiding places and then come up with trivia questions whos answers will lead the hunter to the desired location. So maybe you ask the question “what fantasy sport is the most played sport in the US” and then hide the next clue or item taped to a football.


Puzzles are very cool when it comes to treasure hunt clues and the ways that they can be framed and utilized are numerous. I’ll give you a few ideas. One idea is to take clues and cut them up into pieces. Hide all the pieces together and the hunters have to put the clues back together in order to figure out what the clue is. Then they have to solve them. Another similar idea would be to take pictures of the item / hiding place and then cut that picture up. Once the hunter puts the puzzle back together and knows what it is they can go find what is hidden there or collect it. One last simple way is to hide a piece of the overall puzzle (final big clue) with each clue along the path. This gives a sort of “two hunts in one” affect to the whole hunt in that there are clues that must be solved in order to get the one final, probably more difficult, puzzle style clue that is the key to the entire hunt!

Crypto – Code Writing for Clues

One of my favoriate types of puzzles for hunt clues is crypto related. Basically we’re talking about cryptograms that the hunters have to decipher in order to know what to do next. These can be from super simple to extremely difficult and the sweetspot is hard enough to make them think, but not so hard that they cannot advance to the next stage. We’re going to be working on a crypto clue creator tool that will help you create these types of hunt clues.

Multiple Questions Lead to Singular Clues

As you’ve been reading you’ve likely realized that making scavenger hunt clues can be as easy or as involved as you want it to be. One type of clue that really hammers that thought home is the concept of multiple clues that when combined all lead to one answer. There’s a mobile phone game I used to play called 4 pictures 1 word. You were given 4 pictures and had to determine what they all had in common. This is what we mean by multiquestion answers lead to one answer. You can easily create several clues that all point to one thing and that one thing is the real clue!

Rebus Puzzles

A REBUS is a picture representation of a name, work, or phrase. A “rebus” puzzle generally portrays a common word or phrase and the person trying to solve the puzzle has to guess what it means. The answer is either the item that needs to be found or tells the hunter the next place they should be searching for another clue.

For an extra bit of difficulty or layer of fun (however you want to look at it) you can do what a mixture of rebus puzzle that character math. Basically you solve the rebus puzzle then take away more letters to get a answer within the answer. So maybe you solve a rebus puzzle that yields “jack in the box”, but the other part is that you replace the first word of the answer with ‘t’, the second word of the answer with ‘o’ and the third word of the answer with ‘y’. Now the answer went from ‘jack in the box’ to ‘t o y box’ or ‘toy box’. These can be made as challenging as you desire and take very little effort.
[image here of jack in the box].

Image Clues

Extra close ups of items or other major distortions can be used. The participants have to look at the picture and figure out what it is in order to figure out where to go (treasure hunt) or what to collect (scavenger hunt) next.

Clue Creating Wrap Up

So there you have it! In the above paragraphs I’ve listed quite a few methods for creating scavenger hunt clues and treasure hunt clues. All you have to do is decide which ones you want to use (yes, you can include several differnt types in a single hunt and I actually recommend it) and then spend a few minutes putting your research to work! I hope you’ve enjoyed the information shared here and I look forward to hearing how you’ve gone about creating your own hunts using these ideas!

TODO: Word search creator
TODO: Cipher creator