Geocaching Coordinate Distance Calculator

So I’ve come across more than one puzzle cache that goes something like this: you are given a coordinate. The description then tells you to go X feet from the coordinate heading y degrees. How do you calculate the new coordinates?

No Latitude

Well, you perform some trigonometry to identify the longitudinal and latitudinal distances then perform some algebra to convert those distances into coordinates. Something new that I learned is that the distance between each longitudinal degree is different than the distance between each latitudinal degree. Hence you have to use different divisors for each to determine the coordinates.

The calculator still needs to handle situations where the distance hops over a longitudinal or latitudinal degree, but for most puzzles of this type the calculator will work fine. The calculator even handles jumps over degrees, so adding thousands of feet shouldn’t trip it from providing the correct coordinates.

Here’s what to enter:

  • Distance (Feet) = the distance from the center point in feet. If you’re interested in metric entry and results, post a comment.
  • Heading (Compass Degrees) = the heading in compass degrees. 0 degrees is due North, 90 degrees is due East, 180 degrees is due South, and 270 degrees is due West.
  • Latitude of Origin “N” = coordinates in the format “N XX° YYY.ZZZZ'” where XX is the degrees and YYY.ZZZZ is the decimal minutes. This is the common form that provides for coordinates.
  • Longitude of Origin “W” = the same as the Latitude, only for Longitude. Because it’s frozen as “W”, this calculator will only work for the western hemisphere. Let me know if you’re in the Eastern (or Southern) hemisphere and would like me to update the calculator to accommodate you.

The Calculations are for nerds. The Results are for you. The coordinate results should display a link to Google maps when you’ve entered in all the criteria.

Update: 2017-06-15, I corrected the algorithm. Instead of using the angular distance, it uses a formula based on Haversine distance equation.

Open the Popup Coordinate Distance Calculator

Have fun and post a comment to let me know if it’s useful.


While on a business trip to CA, I introduced several people to Geocaching. At one point I headed out to Geocache with some free time we had. I had only prepared for finding microcaches. Microcaches are generally small containers that hide in the landscape and contain only a small slip of paper to sign. In this case, however, I happened across an actual cache box. Cache boxes give geocachers the added bonus of trading an item. The item you put in the box should be of equal or greater value of the trinket you take out. As a bonus, it should represent something about your character and/or augment the theme of the geocache. I pulled out a trinket then looked over the possessions in my arsenal to trade. Other than my ID, credit card and pen I had a Scooby-Doo band-aid. “Cool enough” I thought (trying to convince myself that this was an even trade… which is wasn’t).

Coworkers teased, and I kept saying “but it was a cool bandaid” (again trying to rationalize the bad trade).

A week later, while I was home working, my wife and kids went geocaching in Angelfire, NM and came across what promised to be a big cache. When they opened the box it was filled with business cards and bandages! They were all so disappointed. I then told my kids about what I did in CA to which my eldest said (without any prompting) “at least you left a cool bandaid. These weren’t like that. They were boring.”

Nevertheless, I vowed never to leave something like a bandaid in a Geocache again. And certainly wouldn’t leave a business card. (What type of person does that?! If I find your business card in a cache, I’ll call you to find out!!!)