The Etiquette of Poop in Colorado

No matter how it’s said, “where’s the bathroom?” is an important question, especially in the outdoors. Where there is no official toilet, answering “the call” involves a bit of pre-planning, initiative and creativity.

By: Colorado.com Staff Writer
Updated: February 19, 2024

There are four main reasons it’s important to think about how we relieve ourselves in the outdoors and ensure proper human-waste disposal:

  • Minimize the chances of polluting water sources
  • Minimize the spread of disease
  • Maximize respect for the environments we share
  • Maximize decomposition

So where should you go?

It’s easy to get swept up in the excitement of pulling up to a new trail, but take some time to prepare yourself before embarking on the journey ahead. Make a stop at the nearest gas station before arriving at your destination, or familiarize yourself with the area and utilize bathrooms and outhouses before hitting the trail. Depending on where you’re headed, these can sometimes be found at parking lots, trailheads and visitor centers. 

No bathroom around? No worries. Be prepared with a disposable WAG bag (found in most outdoor stores), and conveniently pack out your waste. Alternatively, find privacy 70 steps from water and the trail, dig a 6- to 8-inch hole and then bury your business. Disguise the hole with dirt and natural materials when finished. Pack out used toilet paper and wipes whenever possible to minimize your impact on the environment. Otherwise, bury toilet paper deeply in the cat hole.

Learn all you need to know about selecting and hiking our state’s 14ers.

At lower elevations, you can alternatively find privacy 70 steps from water and the trail, dig a 6- to 8-inch hole and then bury your business. Disguise the hole by covering it with dirt when finished and be sure to pack out used toilet paper and wipes whenever possible to minimize your impact on the environment. Otherwise, bury used toilet paper deeply in the cat hole.

Check out this video for more info on how to build your own backcountry poop kit.

Why is a cat hole a great place for human poop?

The microbes found in soil 6–8 inches down from the surface will break down feces and the pathogens they contain, but in alpine regions where soils are thin and summer is short, this process occurs extremely slowly. Because of that, it’s key to locate your cat hole well away from water and places where other people may accidentally encounter it.

And we’re not only talking poop here — think about No. 1 as well. Empty your bladder well away from water, campsites and other high-use areas where urine is likely to be concentrated and can stagnate.

Other important considerations:

Make sure to wash your hands thoroughly after you embark on any of these bathroom adventures to prevent spreading disease through accidental contamination. Hand sanitizer and wipes make a great option for cleaning up when you’re on the go.

Always pack out feminine hygiene products because they take years — if not decades — to decompose, and while they are breaking down, their odor attracts animals.

And always pick up your pet’s poop with a baggie and pack it out to a trash can. These receptacles may not be immediately available on the trail, so be prepared to carry your baggie until you find one.