Meet the backcountry heroes taking care of 'business' at Yosemite's outhouses

Solar powered outhouse at Yosemite National Park
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Bathroom hygiene for hikers is no joke, as was demonstrated when a particularly nasty outbreak of norovirus on the Pacific Crest Trail this year was traced back to one especially filthy restroom, so the Backcountry Utilities team at Yosemite National Park has an extremely important job to do. This crew and its team of mules is responsible for taking care of the park's outhouses and helping ensure the waterways stay running clean so visitors can enjoy hiking safely.

The National Park Service is celebrating these unsung heroes with a special video highlighting their tireless efforts. The clip, which you can watch below or on Facebook, shows just what goes into maintaining the facilities on the Merced River corridor. 

The corridor is home to some of the most popular hiking trails in the US, including the Mist Trail and John Muir Trail, so public bathrooms are essential to keep things hygienic and avoid pollution, but the logistics aren't straightforward. Most composting toilets have their own leach field (a set of perforated pipes through which liquid is filtered before draining into the ground), but that's not possible if the toilet is built on rock, like those in Yosemite's high country.

The team's mules are able to navigate the trails and carry loads without causing damage. Without the mules, the crew couldn't do its work and the trails would have to close. They are essential members of the team, and the crew takes the best possible care of them.

If you're hiking on a trail and see a string of mules, you should try to get off the trail and out of the way safely. If you stand on the trail edge there's a danger that you could be knocked off, and the crew want to make sure both you and the animals are safe at all times.

Watch the full video to learn more about how the team and the mules keep Yosemite's trails regular.

Cat Ellis

Cat is the editor of Advnture, She’s been a journalist for 15 years, and was fitness and wellbeing editor on TechRadar before joining the Advnture team in 2022. She’s a UK Athletics qualified run leader, and in her spare time enjoys nothing more than lacing up her shoes and hitting the roads and trails (the muddier, the better), usually wearing at least two sports watches.