First $10K prize in Hocking Hills treasure hunt claimed

HOCKING HILLS — Remember searching the woods, hoping to find hidden treasure as a kid? Well ... good news, adventure seekers! That quest is now a reality.

“My name is Matt and I’m here to tell you about an awesome adventure taking place right now in Hocking Hills,” said Matt Pippin, owner of

As a kid, Pippin grew-up in Hocking Hills, exploring the woods, the waterfalls. As an adult, he’s the owner of an online rental company.

“We are similar to Airbnb and Vrbo in the sense that we offer over 900 rentals,” he said.

Similar but with a mission to bring money into the community and keep it there.

“Larger corporations like to take money out of our communities,” he said, “We like to bring money in and with that money, use it for different things. Whether it’s community-driven festivals or giving back to the schools and then fun things like this.”

The premise is simple: Follow the clues, find the prize.

“There’s no reason to dig or climb. I’ve got 10 riddles. You solve the ten, you’ll be led to the key in the chest and the treasure is yours,” he said.

Pippin put up his own money. Ten thousand dollars in cash, gold and jewels.

“Really motivated people get off the couch and come out,” he said.

And once the word got out, thousands of people registered for the initial hunt, with many posting their adventures online.

“We want you off your phones, obviously. But while you’re here if you can record these memorable moments with your family and your kids doing this hunt and then share it with the world it just made sense,” he said.

Pippin hopes his online marketing campaigns will draw more visitors to the area, capitalizing on the current excitement for travel. According to the U.S. Travel Association’s latest 2023 numbers, 55% of Americans are planning to prioritize leisure travel spending.

So far, Pippin says his first hunt was a resounding success, with families and friends making the drive to Hocking Hills, putting their heads together, cracking coded messages and exploring trails less-traveled. And, he says, don’t even think about breaking the contest rules, applicable laws and regulations (searching after dark is also prohibited). Otherwise, you will be disqualified.

Sadly, there can only be one winner. Still, Pippin insists the memories are priceless.

“So many of the stories ended with, ‘We had the best time of our lives. We can’t wait for the next one,’” he said.

And while the first hunt has ended, there will be a next one.

“This year, we will be doing it again in late Summer and then Fall and a Winter hunt as well,” he said, “We will specifically avoid the State Parks. If you’ve ever been, [State Parks] are gorgeous, super beautiful. But they can become overcrowded.”

So, put on your hiking shoes and your thinking caps because — there’s gold in them there hills.

To register:

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