What is a Road Rally Treasure Hunt?

Dayton, Ohio has a long and distinguished tradition of twice-annual treasure hunts. Starting in the early 1980s, and benefiting numerous different charities throughout the years, the Treasure Hunt has entertained thousands of participants from all over the Tri-State area.

Curious about getting into the Treasure Hunt? Read on!


First, you’ll need a team. Teams generally consist of 4-8 people. Teams are limited to one vehicle, so a good rule-of-thumb is to make your team one person less than the seating capacity of your vehicle—that way you’ll have room for all the gear and snacks you’ll need to bring along with you on the hunt! You will need to assign a Team Captain, who will gather your entry fees, fill in the registration form (and help come up with your team’s name), and receive the initial clue telling your team where to go to start the race.


When you sign up, you will be asked to choose between the Pro Route and the Newbie Route. Both routes work exactly the same way—it’s just a matter of how many clues you want to solve!

The “Pro” Route is the traditional route of 10 clues to solve and locations to visit, and generally takes about three to four hours to complete. Because it’s longest and has the most clues/locations, many would say the Pro route is the most fun! The Pro route is—by far!—the most popular route, and is the only route eligible for prizes.

The “Newbie” Route has just 6 clues to solve and locations to visit. This shorter route was introduced in Fall 2008 for teams that are newer to the hunt, want to do less driving, or want to be able to finish the hunt earlier and faster! The Newbie Route generally takes about two to three hours to complete.

Every team and every hunt is different, so the time estimates provided are just that—estimates! Bring along a sense of adventure and a sense of humor, and you will have a great time no matter which route you choose!


Each Treasure Hunt is unique, and the clue puzzles that get you to your destinations can range from simple word searches to tangible items, anagrams to phone book searches, the need to spend a couple dollars buying an item from a merchant and anything in between. If you are required to bring along something special to solve a clue, the organizers will tell your Team Captain in the starting clue letter. However, some things are pretty standard in any Treasure Hunt: a copy of the latest Ameritech/SBC Yellow Pages and White Pages for Dayton (no other brand will do!), flashlights (for finding well-hidden clues), a current map of the Greater Dayton area (we prefer the ones from AAA), and of course a sense of humor!


All manner of vehicles have been used in past races, the most popular being the minivan. Passenger cars, SUVs, motorcycles, trucks and others have all been used, but a minivan provides the best space to spread out clues, discuss possible solutions amongst your team, and ample elbow room for spreading out maps for your driver. The Treasure Hunt usually involves 60 to 75 miles of driving, so make sure your vehicle is filled with gas when you arrive at the start location!


Your first clue (mailed to your team captain the week before the hunt) will reveal the start location of the Hunt. This is usually the parking lot of a business, shopping center, mall, church or other large well-lit paved area. This clue will probably be the easiest clue you get to see on the Hunt, so if it’s too difficult for you, good luck! If you are Team Captain, make sure you have your team together, fed, watered, equipped and at the start location in plenty of time the night of the Hunt. Once you arrive, park your vehicle in a strategic location for rapid exit from the lot and send your Team Captain to the gathering point at the front of the lot to officially check in. Near the check in area, you will find a long line of paper grocery bags, each marked with a team’s name and number. Have your team captain stand by your bag, and get ready!


Your team’s bag will contain 13 envelopes, each with a number written on it; a start letter with your team name, team number, and hint line information; an answer sheet to record your solutions as you go; and anything else that the organizers have determined you might need to run the Hunt. Ten of the envelopes contain actual puzzles that must be solved to reveal the location of your next clue. One envelope contains the final location of the hunt—the party! The last two envelopes are dummies, and opening them (even if by accident!) will result in elimination from the scoring portion of the Hunt. Whatever you do, don’t open ALL the envelopes at once!


On the night of the hunt, after all the registered teams have checked in, the organizers will announce a clue number and say “GO!” This is your Team Captain’s signal to grab your team’s bag, run back to your vehicle, grab the proper envelope and tear it open. Inside you will find a few copies of the puzzle (so that every row of your vehicle at least will get a copy to look at). This is where the fun begins! You must solve the puzzle and determine the name of the business you are to drive to next. If you think you know the name of the location, grab a phone book and look it up. On the bottom of each clue will be a verification number. This number will match either the street address number OR the last four digits of the phone number of the business you seek. If you’ve figured it out, grab the map and head there!


When you arrive at the clue location, please think SAFETY! Park well off the road, if possible, and out of the flow of surrounding traffic. Do not drive up into landscaped areas, and try to be quiet if you are close to residential areas. Once you’re there, everyone should jump out of the van and start looking for the CLUE MARKER. These markers are usually – but not always! – round white discs about the size of a CD or DVD. Most of them will be clearly marked with “TREASURE HUNT” and the number of your next clue. Sometimes the discs are hidden outside the building itself – behind bushes, under eaves, in sewer grates, even in plain sight. Sometimes the discs will be placed inside a window, maybe even in a display cabinet in clear view of the front window – or maybe even scrolling across a computer monitor! You never know what a marker may look like or where it may be hidden, so look carefully and be thorough. PLEASE be respectful of landscaping and property when searching for markers! These businesses have donated the use of their facilities, so make sure you leave them exactly as you found them, clean and proper! Once you have the number from the disc, it is not unheard of to start other teams on wild goose chases – running to the other side of a building and shouting “IT’S OVER HERE!” or what have you. While the organizers cannot condone such activity, we can’t say we haven’t ever done such a thing ourselves!

Once you have the next number, get back to your van, open that envelope, and continue from there.


If you are stumped by a puzzle or just can’t find the next disc (usually anything that requires more than 20-30 minutes of work isn’t going to be solved without help!) you may call one of the cell phone numbers listed in the start letter for a hint. Each call to the hint line adds a 5 minute penalty to your finish time, but does NOT prevent your team from being scored and ranked! If you’re really stuck, it might be better to take a 5 minute penalty than to spend half an hour in frustration! The hint line will provide enough help to get you past whatever obstacle you’re stuck on, but—unless you ask!—will not provide the final answer as that would disqualify your team from scoring.

The whole point is to have fun, so don’t feel too bad if you have to throw in the towel on a puzzle and ask for help!


When you have finished ten clues, you are almost at the end! Your final disc number and its matching envelope will reveal the location of the party site. This is it, the finish line! Teams will be timed upon arrival and their clues checked for accuracy and the security of the dummy clues and answer sheets. If you successfully completed the Pro Route and are the first team to arrive (after any hint line penalties are added in, of course!), you win the Treasure Hunt! Prizes will be awarded for the top three Pro Route teams, and all teams who successfully complete the hunt will have their times marked on the board for bragging rights.

Awaiting you at the party will be snacks, drinks, and a chance to examine the route maps and peruse the official clue solutions hanging on the walls. You’ll also have time to meet other teams and swap stories of valor and battle, and generally have a great time.

The best part of the race? The team who wins gets to put on the Treasure Hunt the next year!