top of page

Grizzly Orienteering FAQs

The Basics

The Details



What is orienteering?

Orienteering is a navigation sport! Checkpoints are circled on a custom-made topographic map, and you decide your own route between them.

Should you go straight, through the forest and up the hill? Or perhaps take the longer but flatter trail for a while? These are the kinds of decisions that run through an orienteer’s mind.

Orienteers use only map and compass to navigate, but compass knowledge is not needed to get started. In fact, the primary skill in orienteering is reading the map and relating it to the terrain, and you can do that with just your eyeballs.


How does it work?


Sign up for the event online ahead of time, select the time slot when you would like to arrive and the course you would like to do, select whether you need beginner instruction, and pay your fee.

Check-in at registration, and pick up an e-punch and compass if you need to borrow them. Pick up a map with the correct course. A beginner instructor will be hanging out near registration, and can give you a quick tutorial on what to expect and how to read the map.


Whenever you are ready, dip your epunch into the "START" box and get started on your course!


Alright, the race has begun, now what?

  • Find the start on the map, which is a magenta triangle

  • Orient the map, so that it matches the terrain (to orient the map to magnetic north, make sure the "north lines" on the map are parallel to the red needle on your compass).

  • Put your thumb or compass tip on the map, to track where you are. Fold your map to only show the next couple of controls so it becomes less unwieldy.

  • Find the next checkpoint on the map, choose a route, and off you go!

Visit our RESOURCES page for some tips on improving your orienteering skills.

You need to find the checkpoints in their labeled order (number 1, 2, 3, and so on). Each checkpoint is in the exact center of a magenta circle on the map, with magenta lines connecting them to help you see where the next one is. You do not need to travel on the line, rather, you get to choose your own route!


Also, in orienteering-speak, checkpoints are called “controls.”


So you’ve navigated your way to the center of a circle; what are you going to find there? A bright orange and white flag, with a numbered electronic box on top.

So you should punch it, right? But wait! If there are multiple courses, you need to make sure that this control is on your course and not another. That’s what the control description is for. Control descriptions are also printed directly on the map and tell you the number of each control and the feature it is placed on.

The first column numbers the order that you must find the checkpoints, the second column shows the number that you will find printed on top of the electronic box on top of the control, and the text tells you the feature the control is located on ("trail junction", "boulder", "southern fence corner", etc.)

If the number in the second column of the control description matches the number you see on top of the control, then dip your e-punch into the electronic box. The box will beep and flash as confirmation.

Note: it’s okay if you accidentally punch the wrong control, so long as you eventually punch all the correct controls in the correct order. (If you are navigating from #7 to #8 and accidentally come to #9 first and punch it, you then need to go back to #8, punch it, and then return to #9 and punch it again before heading to #10.)

Once you’ve found all the controls on your course, head to the finish, which is marked as two concentric circles on the map. Similar to the start, there will be a control flag with electronic boxes on top labeled "FINISH". Once you punch the finish, your race clock stops.

After you finish, go to the download table to download the data from your e-punch. If you’ve borrowed an e-punch, you should also return that here.

Once you’ve downloaded, you’ll get a receipt that shows your split times, which is the amount of time you took between each control. Part of the fun of orienteering is comparing your splits with friends, and discussing the routes you took between each.

Even if you have not finished your course, you MUST return to download, so that event staff can confirm that you are not still out on the course. If you do not download, a search party may be sent after you.


That’s it, you did it!

How much does it cost?

First-timers: $5 for individuals / $10 for first-timer groups (Except for Beginner-specific events, which are free!)

Standard event entry fee: $15 per individual; maximum of $30 for group going out on a course together; there is no limit on group size

Member event entry fee: $8 for GrizO members; maximum of $15 for GrizO member group

Junior entry fee: $5 for youth aged 12-20

Kid entry fee: Free for kids under 12

Volunteer discount: Free for anyone who volunteers at a given event

Extra map for any additional group member who wants one: $2

Second course: Free

Compass rental: Free

Epunch rental: Free



How much do I need to know?

You don’t need to know a thing!

That’s right. Most events feature a beginner and intermediate course, or are otherwise adjustable to your ability. Plus, every event is staffed with a beginner instructor who hangs out near registration to get you started.

All necessary equipment, including a map with a pre-printed course, a compass, an epunch, and a clear plastic case for the map, is provided. You just need clothes that you are comfortable walking/jogging/running through terrain in, a sense of adventure, and - for night events - a headlamp.

What's an e-punch?

An e-punch records your race. At each control, you’ll dip the e-punch into an electronic box, which will beep and flash as confirmation. After you finish, you’ll download the e-punch at the download tent and get a receipt that shows which controls you visited and how long you took between each; these are your “splits.”

Part of the fun of orienteering is comparing your splits with people who completed the same course, and discussing the routes you took!

Do I have to run?

Orienteering is for all speeds, fast and slow. Whether you want a thrilling or relaxing experience is up to you!

How long will it take me?

First of all, courses are measured as the crow flies, meaning directly from one checkpoint to another. However, since you are not a crow or bumblebee, you will travel farther than this distance as you zig-zag to get to each checkpoint. Course distances are published in kilometers, so a good rule of thumb is to ’round up’ the kilometers to miles to approximate how far you will go.

So for example, at a 5-km course, you may actually travel about 5 miles.

Alright, now that you’ve estimated how far you will go, anticipate moving a bit slower than your average hiking or trail running pace (depending on whether you plan to hike or run). You can only move as fast as you can navigate! Plus, fallen trees and steep slopes can really slow you down. Also, you are bound to get a bit fuddled here and there.

Still want a ballpark? Most courses take about 40-120 minutes, with some notable outliers.

How do I choose a course?

Not sure which course to choose?

Our events generally offer a Beginner, Advanced Beginner, Intermediate, Short Advanced, and Long Advanced option.

  • Beginner courses stay on trails, and are good for children accompanied by adults.

  • Advanced Beginner courses generally follow trails or other linear features, but allow you to take some shortcuts into terrain and are appropriate for beginner teens and adults.

  • Intermediate courses reward going off-trail, but generally have 'catching features' that keep you from wandering too far off course. This is appropriate once you've successfully completed an advanced beginner course a few times.

  • Advanced courses will usually have routes completely off-trail, and may require reading subtle map details to navigate. The challenge of an advanced course depends heavily on the venue, so read the map notes for more information on what to expect.

What should I wear?

Dress for your speed. If you plan to walk, quick-drying hiking pants and day hiking shoes are a good choice. If you plan to run, running tights, tall socks, and trail running shoes will suit you better.

Cover your legs. Even in a seemingly tame park, you may find yourself fighting through some underbrush or tall grass. Except for at very urban venues, leg coverage is advised, whether it’s pants, soccer socks, or even a padded gaiter.

Can I do it in a group?

Yes! You may participate in a group of any size, though for the best experience, we recommend that your group be only 2 or 3 people, so everyone stays engaged in the activity and is involved in navigation.

Also, we recommend that everyone in your group carry a map.

Can I bring my dog?

Yes, so long as the park permits dogs, you are welcome to bring yours so long as they are on a leash and you clean up any mess than others could step in.

Also, please be mindful of other orienteers trying to pass you or punch a control, and ensure that your dog does not interfere with others.

Will it be crowded?

Typically, no.

We limit the number of people who can arrive and start at any time period in order to minimize crowding at the event. Once out on the course, you are unlikely to see many other people.

You might occasionally see people going to and from controls, but they’re likely on a different course or at a different point in your course than you.

What COVID-19 Precautions is Grizzly Orienteering Following to Ensure Safety?

Prior to signing in, all participants will be asked if they are experiencing any COVID-19 symptoms and provided a list of those symptoms. Without a verbal "no", participants will be asked to postpone their participation and asked to vacate the premises.


All participants and volunteers are required to wear face coverings at the event arena and during the registration process. Single-use face coverings are available for participants free of charge if they do not have their own.


All rental equipment is sanitized immediately prior to and after use. Hand sanitizer is available at all events.

Can I follow other people?

Most orienteering events are designed to discourage following. If you see another orienteer, they may be on a different course, at a different point on your course, or they could even be making a navigational mistake! It’s better to focus on your own race, and don’t follow others.

What do I do if I get lost?

If you don’t know where you are on the map:

  1. Stop!

  2. Put your map down, look around you, and look at the features you see in the terrain. It’s okay to move around or seek higher ground to see more features. Note what direction the features are facing as well.

  3. Try again to find those features on the map, in the orientation that you see them.

If you’re still confused, then either:

  • Go to a larger, more prominent feature and try again.

  • Or, backtrack to where you last knew you were.

Finding larger features and backtracking are usually enough to relocate yourself, but if you are still very confused, it is okay to ask for help if you encounter a non-competitive orienteer. You are more likely to encounter an orienteer by waiting near a control.

If you are still very confused and don’t see anyone around, you should do one of the following, depending on your situation:

  • Head toward a large feature like a road to head back to the finish, if you are confident in your ability to do so. Many venues, even very rugged ones, have large features like roads that can help you navigate back to the finish.

  • If you cannot navigate back to the finish, due to being absolutely lost or injured, then blow your whistle using three short blasts, and repeat until someone finds you. Note that orienteers are obligated to abandon their course and attend to the call of a whistle, so only blow your whistle if you are truly lost or hurt and cannot make it back to the finish. You can also use your cell phone and call 929-214-3087 to ask for assistance.

And finally, if you do not return to the finish by course closure time, a search party will be organized to find you.

What happens at course closure time?

At the course closure time, volunteers will begin picking up the controls.

You MUST return to the finish by course closure time. If you do not return by course closure, event volunteers will begin coordinating a search party.

If you need a long time on the course, start as early in the start window as possible, wear a watch, and be prepared to cut your course short to make it back by the course closure time.

What if I don't finish my course?

If you’re ready to call it a day, you are welcome to cut your course short. However, you MUST return to the finish tent to inform staff that you have returned safely.

How does it work
How long?
Choose a course
Follow others?
Course closure?
Don't finish
bottom of page