How to make a treasure map with clues

Updated April 17, 2017

Treasure hunts appeal to people's love of mystery, history and found objects. Creating treasure maps with compelling clues can engage individuals of all ages. Creating a treasure map and resultant adventurous treasure hunt requires some creativity, but understanding a few simple tips for making a realistic map and planting cool clues, you can make a treasure map that your friends and family will love.

Make your treasure map look authentic. suggests painting your piece of map paper on each side with a damp teabag and then crumpling the still-damp paper to create an aged look. Let the paper dry and fray the edges. Think of good locations for waypoints, or places where hunters will stop to decipher new clues or discover stashes of lesser treasure items. Use a black or brown marker to draw trails and symbols guiding people to the treasure.

Design clues for waypoints along your map. Clues could be in the form of a riddle guiding hunters to the next stash, or an item that indicates what the hunter should do next. For example, if the clue is a shovel, hunters will know they need to dig for a stash. Make different types of clues for each stash, like a message in a bottle at one location and a buried box of trinkets at another.

Think about your hunt participants when designing clues. If the map is for very small children, they may become frustrated with complicated clues, while adults may appreciate the puzzle. For clues, use landmarks that are familiar to the hunters, like local buildings, a favourite shade tree with a hollow in the trunk or a statue in the park. This will help your hunters decipher hints without requiring the clues to be too obvious.

Invent a story to explain why you have the treasure map or where it was found. Treasure Hunt Fan suggests spinning an entertaining pirate ghost story, in which you help a vagrant who disappears into thin air after handing you the map. Other stories could include finding the map in an unused corner of the attic or stumbling on it while outdoors. Find an old bottle or wooden box to stash your map in for added authenticity.


For older children or adults, you can include a compass and compass points in your map route.

Things You'll Need

  • Paper
  • Tea bag
  • Black or brown marker
  • Various clue items
  • Treasure
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About the Author

Melissa Hopkins began writing for the Southern Illinois University newspaper in 2000, where she won several awards. After completing her Bachelor of Arts in English from Southern Illinois University in Edwardsville, Hopkins moved to San Diego, where she worked as a stringer for various publications with the Pomerado Newspaper Group.