Finding a place to relive oneself is challenging enough when visiting any national park. In Yellowstone during the winter, it is even more of a challenge. In theory, there is a place to stop every eight miles, but when you need to go, the places to stop can see like an eternity away. Having visited the park hundreds of times in the winter, I can assure you that this may contain some of the most important information of all. Be aware that this information only applies to those who are driving their own vehicle on the roads in the park.
The road between the North Entrance and Northeast Entrance has a total of eleven locations to use the bathroom in the winter in 2022-23. This may change if the pit toilet at Pebble Creek is replaced, but as of publication, this information is up-to-date and accurate. I will update this if/when new information is needed. The locations and descriptions of toilets will be from west to east, as the majority of winter visitors start their trip driving to Mammoth.
Important Note: Always bring extra toilet paper, ziplock bags or dog bags, and a mask with you if the stench is too bad. Please know that if a toilet is less than ideal, it is because our parks are understaffed and underfunded. The employees in charge of keeping these areas clean and stocked are awesome and are doing their best. If you see them out and about, thank them!
Mammoth has the most bathroom locations in the winter, each slightly different than the last. I strongly recommend stopping at Mammoth to use the facilities before heading toward the rest of the park. Your very best options are found at the Visitor Center or the Mammoth Hotel, if/when they are open. The toilets located inside of these buildings are super clean, warm, and will even have running water so you can wash your hands with warm water. Option two is to use the larger bathroom building located near Liberty Cap. This bathroom will also have running water and numerous stalls, but can frequently be a little less than clean. Option three is to head up to the Upper Terrace Parking area, where you’ll find two spots with pit toilets. The first will be a few pit toilets near the Mammoth Corrals, just down the hill from Canary Spring. These tend to be a little less used and slightly cleaner than the pit toilet found at the Upper Terrace Parking Area.
If you’d rather skip Mammoth, your first opportunity to use the bathroom is a pit toilet located at the Lava Creek Picnic Area. The pit toilet here is fine and generally will have plenty of toilet paper and hand sanitizer. It is usually pretty empty here in the winter, so wait times will be minimal.
Blacktail Deer Creek Parking Area
A few miles further and you’ll encounter the Blacktail Deer Creek Parking Area. This spot also has a pit toilet, and like Lava Creek, should be stocked with toilet paper and hand sanitizer. This spot is slightly more frequented than Lava Creek, but lines should typically be small.
Tower Junction Parking Area
This is one of two larger bathroom locations between Mammoth and Silver Gate. Offering a few pit toilets, this is a popular spot. While waiting may not be ideal, standing in line will give you a chance to converse with other visitors as you wait, often getting tips on where to see wildlife around the open roads. Lines here can be longer than desired, if tour groups decide to stop here. If that is the case and you don’t want to wait, head toward Lamar Valley and stop at the Yellowstone River Picnic Area.
Yellowstone River Picnic Area
This spot was once completely overlooked, as the pit toilet is located out of sight from the main road. In recent years, it has been frequented a bit more, but it is still minimally visited compared to the Town area. What you get here is what you get most everywhere else- a pit toilet. This is typically my go-to spot if I am headed to or from Lamar Valley.
Slough Creek Parking Area
This spot may be quite busy, depending on the wildlife situation. Quite often, this spot is packed full of cars, as it is offers access to a well-known location for spotting wolves. If you can find a parking spot, you’ll have a few pit toilets from which to choose.
Lamar Valley Hitching Post Parking Area
The hitching post area is the other location of a well-visited set of pit toilets. Right near Lamar Valley, it isn’t uncommon to be able to stop wildlife as you wait in line to use the facilities. Like everywhere else not in the buildings of Mammoth, you won’t find anything more than the bare minimum.
If you do have to use the bathroom and find yourself with your only option being the great outdoors, you have some options. If you find yourself needing to go, urinate 200 feet from running water. For solid waste, you have two choices. Option one should be to clean up your solid waste and transport it to an appropriate receptacle. Bring dog bags or extra ziplock bags for this. Option two is to follow Leave No Trace Ethics and dig a cathole. Catholes should be dug at least 200 feet (60 m) from water sources, walking trails or campsites. Catholes should be between 6 to 8 inches (15 to 20 cm) deep and disguised after use to prevent access by animals. Additionally, the same cathole should not be used twice. These are the only two acceptable options for solid waste out in nature. No exceptions!