Zion National Park • Scout Lookout really stinks.
The busy lunch spot on the way to Utah’s famed Angels Landing in Zion National Park offers some of the best views on Earth, but thousands of gallons of human waste stored by two outhouses nearby give it the aura of an open sewer despite the park’s efforts to contain the odors.
Park managers installed them several years ago for visitors who receive the call of nature while hanging out at the knife-edge vista rising between Cathedral Mountain and Observation Point.
On Monday, park officials closed the ever-popular West Rim Trail for a few hours as the fecal remains were—ahem—evacuated by helicopter. The drill will be repeated Thursday as the last of the 32 barrels, each weighing 500 pounds, are flown out, emptied and returned.
“I wish they would just remove them,” one hiker said Saturday while ambling past on her way up toward Zion Canyon’s West Rim.
Certainly taking out the toilets would save the National Park Service a lot of trouble and expense, but they are there for a good reason.
“This is a bad spot for a toilet, but if we took them out there would be poop behind every bush,” said park geologist Dave Sharrow. “We encourage people to use the toilet at the Grotto Trailhead.”
The Scout Landing situation also illustrates how many crucial services provided by park staff are entirely janitorial.
“Using the bathroom is a biological function. When visitors have to go, they have to go, wherever they are,” said park spokesman John Marciano.
The important task does not always jibe with the Park Service’s hiring and budgeting policies. With the recent end of Zion’s busy season, the park has let go of many of its seasonal employees, including many responsible for servicing restrooms in Zion Canyon, visited by 4 million people a year.
The park’s South Campground was full, yet many of the bathrooms were shuttered for the season, forcing campers to wander around in search of an open toilet and then wait in line, said Marciano, who fielded the complaints from one upset camper last weekend.
A ranger at the park has the near-daily task of hiking up the two miles of switch backs to Scout Lookout with chemicals and toilet paper on her back to service the two outhouses.
“Who joins the Park Service to do that?” Marciano said.
On most days, hundreds of hikers converge at the overlook known at Scout Lookout to eat snacks and prepare for the harrowing half-mile ascent up Angels Landing.
Two weeks ago, during the busy Utah Education Association weekend when Utah schools have a long weekend, a veteran park supervisor and her husband found the Scout Lookout outhouses in a sorry condition while they were out on a personal outing. They sacrificed two hours of their hiking time to clean the toilets.
The waste removal operations via helicopter resume Thursday. Angels Landing and the West Rim Trail below the Patio to the Kayenta junction will be closed from 7 a.m. to 1 p.m. Traffic on the canyon road will be periodically disrupted at Big Bend as the chopper flies over.
The waste removal operations resumes Thursday. Angels Landing and the West Rim Trail below the Patio to the Kayenta junction will be closed from 7 a.m. to 1 p.m. Traffic on the canyon road will be periodically disrupted at Big Bend as the helicopter flies over.