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Mystery Trails

By Kayla

Some groups don’t want to be confined to an enclosed room trying to find their way out.  Especially when the weather is nice.  The good news is that you can take the escape room idea outside in what is called a mystery trail.  Talk about an adventure!

Just like an escape room, the mystery trail will have a story/theme.  But unlike the escape room, the creator doesn’t have to keep resetting all the puzzles.  This type of game is “set it and forget it”.  That’s because the clues are a book.  Said book will guide players through the puzzles and provide a place for the answers that then lead them on to the next spot.  When they are done, just print more books.  If you use lockboxes, make sure to put a note that encourages guests to reset the lock before they move on to the next clue.  Or you could use things that are already around the property.  Check with your event venue because they may already have this as a part of their recreation.

The story/theme can really be anything you want.  We recently wrote a blog series about using an “Anchored” theme.  With that example, the mystery trail could include a clue near the lake/pool or a lockbox in the shape of an anchor.  It could even have a pirate or sunken ship story.  There really are a lot of options. 

How the book works

The basic template of the book is a grid that numbers out the clues.  Some of the spaces that do not list the clue numbers can include footprints that show where to go or photofiles that show a picture of what to look for.  As participants solve the clues, they write down their answers on the back page of the book or on a separate answer sheet.  When they are finished, the final page is a meta puzzle that will eventually solve the final clue. 

This can be done a couple of ways.  The simplest way is to have the answers written where the letters fill in blanks.  Certain letters will be highlighted that spell out the final answer.  Another option is to have the words simply make a sentence that is the answer.  You could also do a cross off style.  Think of the classic board game Clue.  Images/things will be listed on the back and participants cross of the wrong answers.  What is left is the final answer.  It was Miss Scarlett, in the parlor, with the knife.

Mystery trails are a great way to get participants outdoors in a fun and creative way.  At your next event, ask your venue if they offer mystery trails or if you could set one up. 

Christian Retreats Network /

Based at Lake Williamson / PO Box 620 / Carlinville, IL 62626