Beautiful Mountain is located in northwest New Mexico near the Arizona/New Mexico state line. It is listed as the highpoint of San Juan County by the
County Highpoint Organization and Lists of John
ranks it #78 in New Mexico in prominence with 1,528 ft of prominence. It is in the Chuksa Mountains and on the Navajo Indian Reservation. Beautiful Mountain is not the highpoint of the Chuksa Mountains. That honor goes to
Roof Butte located about 5 miles west of Beautiful Mountain in Arizona. Navajo Mountain in Utah is the highpoint of the Navajo Reservation.
From the summit you get expansive views to the east into New Mexico. You can also see
Ship Rock about 17 miles to the northeast.
Southward the Chuksa Mountains are displayed. About 28 miles south is Washington Pass. Nearby are a fire lookout and some communication towers and buildings at Washington benchmark (elevation 9,370). Some old topo maps show Washington Benchmark to be higher in elevation than Beautiful Mountain and would be the highpoint of San Juan County. Of historical note, Washington Pass is known as Narbona Pass to the Navajo’s. It is named for a famous Navajo Chief, who in February, 1829 soundly defeated a well armed Mexican Army expedition in an ambush at this pass. Washington benchmark is easy to get to and has nice views to the east, so it may be a good idea to visit this point if you want to be positive that you visited the highpoint of San Juan County.
There are several trip reports on the County Highpoint Website that contain more information for the interested reader.
For details on the hiking trail see the Route information
I followed directions given by Jobe Wymore to approach Beautiful Mountain from the east. Following are those directions:
“Drove south from Shiprock for a while until I got to the turnoff that leads to Sanostee on the right (BIA 34). From the far end of town (west side) on the main drag (34) the road will make a hard left and immediately after that you will see a dirt road that extends to your right marked N34. Dirt road and it is a washboard. Turn right on this road and just head west. At 1.3 miles you'll pass a small little suburb of Sanostee and at 2.5 miles it goes over one wash and another at 3.3. At around 4.7 you reach a marked junction with 5013. Hit the odometer at this point again.
The next few miles the road gets a little bit bumpier and I'm not sure if a car could make it without high clearance. At 4.7 miles on this road (5013) it tops out and starts a gradual decent. At 5.5 miles keep a close eye out for a smaller road that appears on your right. Turn here and hit the odometer again to clear it. Immediately after taking the right turn you'll see some sort of a small stone structure on your left. Continue up this small road that actually wraps around the south end of Beautiful Mountain. This is a non-maintained section. Hasn't seen work in a long time I'm sure and you can tell. There are sections where the road is at such a side angle you get the feeling (at least I did) that rolling is not out of the question. 4WD is mandatory. At 1.1 miles up it there was a fallen tree over the road that was passable if you drove through some brush on the right. At 1.8 the road "Y's." Stay left here and roughly around 2.6 miles park on the right side of the road in a place that has nice shade for your vehicle.”
Notes: 1. Jobe used Highway 491 southward from Shiprock. 2. The tree on the last section has been removed. 3. 4WD is a very good idea, but I didn’t feel like my rig was going to roll over. 4. Elevation at the trailhead is about 8,300 ft.
Beautiful Mountain is on the
Navajo Indian Reservation. Show all respect for their culture when on the reservation.
Permits are required. I found the following paragraph on the Navajo website. Hiking permits in 2009 are $5 per person per day.
SPECIAL NOTE TO ALL VISITORS AND TOURISTS
All areas on the Navajo Nation are closed to non-Navajos unless you have a valid camping, hiking or backcountry permit issued by the Navajo Parks and Recreation Department or other duly delegated tribal authority. Failure to have a permit is considered Trespassing on a Federal Indian Reservation.
Navajo Parks and Recreation Department
Window Rock Office
P.O. Box 2520
Window Rock, AZ 86515
The office is located between the Navajo Nation Museum and the Window Rock post office in Window Rock, Arizona. Information and permits can be obtained for hiking and camping on the south side of the San Juan River and Rainbow Bridge trails.
To camp on the Navajo Reservation, you need to purchase a camping permit. The current fee in 2009 is $5 per person per day. My experience is that if you camp overnight for one night, you are actually there on 2 different days so you have to pay $10 plus the hiking permit of $5 per day or another $10. These fees are charged per person.
I am not aware of any developed campgrounds on the Navajo Reservation in New Mexico. There are plenty of places to dirtbag camp if you have the appropriate permit. The trailhead would make a great camping spot.
The mountain is not accessible in the Winter and Spring because of snow. During the Summer and Fall, the area is subject to thunderstorms and you should check the weather forecast before hiking. The closest towns are Shiprock or Gallup.