OUTDOORS + RECREATION

Utah Treasure Hunt’s $25,000 hidden treasure is found

Jul 16, 2023, 4:00 PM | Updated: Oct 18, 2023, 2:41 pm

a treasure chest with money in it...

A treasure chest filled with $20,000 is pictured during a press conference in the Best Buy parking lot in South Salt Lake on Tuesday, May 31, 2022, as John Maxim and David Cline announce plans to hide the money in the Utah wilderness. The latest treasure, a $25,000 prize was found Sunday by a woman from Iowa, according to an Instagram post. (Kristin Murphy/Deseret News)

(Kristin Murphy/Deseret News)

SALT LAKE CITY Utah’s $25,000 treasure hunt is over.

In an Instagram story on Sunday, David Cline and John Maxim confirmed that somebody found the hidden booty.

Cline confirmed to KSL TV that it was a woman from Iowa who was visiting Utah, found the grand prize but he couldn’t say where it was.

The Great Hunt

Utahns hiked in Utah’s Mountains, desert, and other areas since the end of May, looking for the cash.

Cline and Maxim started the hunt with a poem and then posted additional clues on their Instagram account. The poem was published to the page on May 26.

They spent three months writing the poem.

“We debated every line of that poem,” Cline explained in May. “With the kind of blow-up of artificial intelligence, I knew the first thing people would do is just plug the whole thing into AI and tell me what this means. And so, every word and every line of that poem I put into AI just to make sure it was AI proof.”

The two also dressed in disguises when they hid the treasure chest. They started getting recognized in public because of the popularity of the treasure hunt.

Treasure hunt meant to provide Utahns something to do. 

The two friends started the Utah Treasure Hunt three years ago as a way to give people something to do during COVID and feel a sense of adventure. It was $5,000 back then.

“I remember Dave and I laughing when we hid the first treasure and as we were walking back, like you know, probably no one is going to do this, and we’re going to be wandering back up here in the wintertime to grab our treasure,” Maxim said with a laugh.

However, the Utah Treasure Hunt was a big hit. The two have hidden a treasure every year since.

The prize money has also increased, thanks to some sponsors’ help, but a good chunk of it still comes from their own pockets.

“We wanted an adventure people could have in real life,” Maxim said.

The interest in the hunt has also increased so much that people got good at figuring out the clues.

“Last year, we kind of got embarrassed, I think. We did our hunt, and eight days later, it got found,” Maxim said.

What the adventure means to people

More than the prize, though, what Cline and Maxim really love is hearing what the treasure hunt has meant to people.

“I think we started the treasure hunt for the kind of adventure and the fun, but we keep doing the treasure hunt because of the impact it has on so many people’s lives,” Cline said. “John calls it the real treasure and it is so true.”

They had no idea their treasure hunt would bring so many people together.

“We have got a relationship now. We’ve got baby conceptions coming out of our treasure hunts. We have families getting back together. We have people suffering from PTSD and sobriety and all those things,” said Maxim. “There was a woman last night who sent me a message. They had a suicide in the family, and they just hadn’t been able to get out of the house for months. Now she has been on 25 hikes with her daughter looking for the treasure. It has brought the family back together, having a good time. You can’t even quantify what that does for us?”

We want to hear from you.

Have a story idea or tip? Send it to the KSL NewsRadio team here.

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Utah Treasure Hunt’s $25,000 hidden treasure is found