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The secret about National Park visitor center restrooms

If you’ve been to quite a few National Park units—especially the ones that don’t close at night—you may have noticed something odd about the layout of their visitor centers. In nearly all of them, the public restrooms are located on the exterior of the building, as opposed to down an interior hallway inside the visitor center. There are exceptions to this, certainly, but it’s prevalent in the types of national parks where visitors are coming and going after hours, especially ones with a campground.

Because they’re accessed from the exterior, these restrooms are open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week—even when the visitor center itself is closed.

That’s a great tidbit to know, especially if you’re camping in the park’s campground or on nearby public lands.

Upgrade your park camping experience by making a stop at the visitor center restroom.

Unlike the available facilities at many park campgrounds, the visitor center restrooms will have flushing toilets, sinks, and even mirrors. And since they’re often cleaned right after closing, you’ll usually find them freshly stocked with paper products and in spic-and-span condition. You’ll usually find a water spigot there, too.

This last weekend, Jen and I camped at Natural Bridges National Monument in southern Utah. The park campground is small and a bit sparse in amenities—there’s no drinking water and only two pit toilets are available.

That might not sounding like a particularly appealing campground to some. But don’t let that keep you from staying there.

It’s a short walk down the park road to the visitor center restrooms, where you’ll find flushing toilets, sinks and mirrors, and fully stocked paper products. And did I mention that the floors will have been freshly mopped?

And since few people seem to make use of these restrooms after hours, you’ll likely have the place to yourself. We certainly did this weekend.

Keep in mind that many state parks and other recreation areas also have “always open” restrooms attached to their respective visitor centers, too.

So the next time you feel skittish at the thought of using a campground pit toilet, consider making a stop at the visitor center on your way to the campground each night (or morning, or both).

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