The Best Toilet in America

In Washington’s Enchantment Basin, you can have an epic poo with a view

Jul 14, 2016
Outside
Outside Magazine
The Best Toilet in America

Remember to close the lid when you're through, it helps keep flies and mountain goats out.    Photo: Matt Bean

IndefinitelyWild

IndefinitelyWild is a lifestyle column telling the story of adventure travel in the outdoors, the vehicles and gear that get us there, and the people we meet along the way. Follow us on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.

In our extensive experience testing outdoor toilets, we’ve never had a more satisfying poop than the one achieved on this wooden throne in the Cascade Mountains. The view, as you can see, is stunning, but the toilet’s location also shelters it from the wind, basks it in the warm rays of the sun, and offers near complete privacy, thanks to its perch well off the main hiking trail. The combination, we feel, makes it the single greatest toilet in the country. 

Why Visit? 

While many equally-scenic wild pooping opportunities exist for those prepared to dig a small hole, pack their poo into a baggie, or smear it across rocks, nowhere else offers the comfort of a wooden seat or the ability to carry only toilet paper and reading material with you. While most wild pooping is conducted in a rushed fashion, this toilet offers the pooper the ability to relax and enjoy the experience. If you so desire, an entire issue of the New Yorker can be finished while perched in front of this view. 

What Makes Your Poop Possible

Located above 6,000 feet on the east-facing slopes of McClellan Peak, this particular toilet is made possible by the hard work of the Leavenworth Climbing Rangers and the United States Forest Service. Each year, they use helicopters to ferry full tanks down the mountains, where they’re pumped into a sewage processing facility. The network of 40-plus vault toilets located through the Enchantment Basin is one of the main reasons the area remains so pristine. 

Each vault can contain 230 pounds or more of human waste. Given that an average-size adult produces, on average, just under a pound of waste each day, you can see why there’s a need for regular vault rotation within the mountain range. Assuming each overnight visitor poops at least once (in our experience, bowel movements were more frequent), that poop is of average, just-under-a-pound weight, and that it's distributed evenly among the available toilets, then the total capacity of the vaults in the basin can be exceeded in a single hiking season. During our three-day hike, we observed helicopters delivering fresh vaults and removing old ones several times. 

best-toilet-map
Approximate toilet location.   Photo: USFS

How to Poop Here

This is a hard toilet to visit. Overnight camping in the “core” zone of the Enchantment Basin is restricted to just 60 people at any given time, with permits handed out through a lottery system. A small number of these permits may be available on the morning of a visit, if you feel like testing your luck. Otherwise, you’d need to make the toilet stop part of a day hike. 

Day hiker or trail runners hoping to make the toilet a part of the 18-mile, horseshoe-shaped trail may find it difficult timing their bowel movements with the location of the toilet. It’s roughly halfway through the route, requiring visitors to tackle at least 4,500-feet of elevation in order to reach it. That route is full of challenging, dangerous scrambles through fields of granite boulders, and even in mid-July was still largely covered in in snow and ice. In order to poo here, you’ll need good physical fitness, adequate outdoors gear for the often extreme weather, and the route probably shouldn’t be attempted solo—the risk of injury is simply that high. 

Fortunately, the vault toilets limit the amount of dedicated poop gear required. The only thing you’ll need to bring is toilet paper and possibly hand sanitizer. Non-biodegradable wipes and other trash should not be thrown into the vaults, as they can clog the pumps rangers use to remove human waste. 

We’d recommend supplementing with fiber for several days before any desired wild poop. Doing so will make the experience not only more predictable, but also easier to clean up. 

How to Find It 

There are a number of scenically-situated vault toilets in the core zone, but none rival this one when it comes to view, shelter from the wind, or warmth from the sun. Due to that final merit, we do recommend you limit your visits to early morning, before flies become an issue. 

The toilet is located about 25 yards off the main trail, just east of Lake Viviane. If you’re hiking downhill from Aasgard Pass (the direction of travel through the Enchantment that we’d recommend), then you’ll want to turn right, off the main trail, just past the rebar-reinforced boulder descent. While the main trail continues up the next set of boulders and across the lake’s outlet, the toilet path goes downhill, to the right, and into a stand of pine trees. 

There, you’ll find the toilet perched on a ledge, facing a view of the Snow Lakes basin and its surrounding peaks. A morning visit could even be timed with the sunrise. A more epic poop we cannot imagine. 

10/10: Would poop here again. 

Filed To: Indefinitely Wild

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