Following clues, finding hidden places, leaving an anonymous stamp. It sounds like the start to an epic journey, and it’s one that you can take with your kids anytime.
It’s called letterboxing — and instead of searching for lost treasure, the clues lead you to a cleverly hidden waterproof box with a rubber stamp and notebook inside. You use the stamp on your personal logbook, mark the box’s notebook with a unique stamp of your own and then hide the box back where you found it — discreetly.
With this adventurous pastime, your scavenger hunt never has to end. And your options for letterboxing in metro Detroit and Ann Arbor are plentiful. There are literally hundreds of letterboxes hidden in parks and playgrounds in metro Detroit — and some places you probably never noticed were there.
How letterboxing works
Letterboxing originated in 1854 in England, where you can now find a full catalog of hidden letterboxes. In the U.S., most people find and post clues at the Letterboxing North America website or at Atlas Quest.
Some clues are straightforward and simple while others are cryptic or even poetic. Reading (or decoding) them is part of the fun.
Keep in mind that some boxes go missing, so look for letterboxes with recent online updates that tell you the last time someone found it. But even if you don’t find the box, look at the bright side — a big part of letterboxing is the thrill of the search and taking in the natural surroundings you’ll find on your way.
Take this clue, for example, from a now-inactive letterbox near the Rouge River in Beverly Hills: “If you want to take a break, go ahead and sit. If you want to, you can bring crackers or bread to feed the geese. If you see a white one, my family named it Snow.”
So get out there and start exploring! You never know what you’ll find.
What you’ll need
- Clues. Find them online at letterboxing.org or atlasquest.com.
- A personal stamp. This rubber stamp serves as your signature in the logbook of each box you find. Most people carve one or have it custom made (a store-bought stamp is fine if it’s “you”).
- An inkpad for stamping.
- A personal logbook to mark with the stamp you find in each letterbox.
- A pencil for writing in the box’s logbook, if you choose.
- Compass (optional, depending on the clues).
- Map (optional, depending on the clues).
- Respect the land when searching for boxes or hiding them.
- Re-hide the box, as well, or better than it was when you found it and in the same exact place.
- Be discreet so you don’t give away the location to people passing by.
- Don’t share publicly how you solved the clues.
Want to go letterboxing in metro Detroit? Here are some letterboxes Metro Parent confirmed as recently active – though we can’t guarantee they’ll be there when you go. This is just a small sampling of the many letterboxes hidden throughout our region.
‘Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland’ – 4 boxes
Location: West Bloomfield
‘Letterbox of Piglet’
Location: Auburn Hills
Location: Miller Woods, Plymouth
‘Over the River and Through the Woods’
Location: Rochester Municipal Park, Paint Creek Trail, Rochester
‘Plant a Troll Day: TT’s Fudgie Troll’
Location: Northville Downs, 301 S. Center St., Northville
‘Rock Legends Relaunched’ – 3 boxes
Location: White Lake
Location: Maybury State Park, 20145 Beck Road, Northville
‘Visit with the Seussians’ – 3 boxes
This post is updated regularly.
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