Pastora Peak is the highest point of the Carrizo Mountains, located in extreme northeast Arizona on the Navajo Indian Reservation near the Four Corners. The Carrizos are a broad range with numerous peaks jutting above 9,000 feet from a broad summit ridge and plateau system. As such, Pastora Peak itself does not stand out among its subsidiary peaks. However, it is a worthy destination and an easy day-hike, assuming you can get up the steep dirt roads up onto the highlands. Peakbaggers like it for its status as a range highpoint and its high prominence of 2,687 feet, ranking it 33rd in Arizona.
Pastora Peak, dawn
The broad upper plateau and gentle ridges of the high Carrizos are covered in spotty forest of pine, juniper and mountain oak, with many open meadows. The Navajo maintain corrals, pastures and seasonal camps up here for their stock during the summer. In winter, the Carrizos get considerable snow which will shut all access into the range.
A permit will be required to camp and hike the Carrizos. See the Red Tape section for details about obtaining these permits.
On US-160 about 10 miles west of the village of Teec Nos Pos, turn south onto gravel Indian Route 5034. To make it especially challenging, roads on the Navajo Nation are rarely signed with their numbers (we saw no signs on our visit). The turn-off is near MP 458, and big Chezhindeza Mesa (photo below) is a good landmark: it will be to your right (southwest) as you drive onto Road 5034.
The road is good gravel and hardpack for about 3 miles as it crosses the desert plain, passing by a few homes. The road then enters into a narrow canyon and hugs the steep slopes, with big drop offs ... needless to say, pay attention here and take it slow.
The road then enters onto a broad bench of low forest, curls around to gain onto a higher ridge, and just grinds ever upward, finally emerging onto the upper highlands. Junctions are generally pretty obvious: stay south/southest on the "main" road. Hang a right at approximately N 36.808, W 109.187 (spot elev. 8811). Hang another right at approximately N 36.796, W 109.174 (spot elev. 9120), then a left immediately thereafter. We camped at the 9120 junction. Pastora's summit is just a mile from here. This was about 13 miles from the highway, but we did not keep exact mileages.
The road is passable by most stock high-clearance 4wd. Parts are steep and rocky, other parts flat and very nice. If wet, the roads are slick and messy.
The road net comes right up to the base of Pastora Peak, and continues onward to other points along the broad ridges. Have the topo map handy to keep track of your position.
Chezhindeza Mesa, a notable landmark on the north end of the Carrizo Range.
All camping and exploring on Navajo Nation lands requires a permit. The cost is usually $5 per day per person, and $5 per person to camp. Permits can be purchased in Cameron at the junction of highways US-89 and AZ-64 during the weekdays, normal business hours (usually 8-5). Permits can also be purchased at the Parks and Recreation building in Window Rock, north of the museum on Indian Route-12.
Beautiful open meadows (and slick roads, if wet), up on the Carrizo highlands heading to Pastora Peak.
You can camp at any of the pull-outs along the main road. Try to re-use a camp already in existence. Be sure you aren't camping at one of the seasonal camps used by the Navajo. Pack out all trash.
There is no developed camping in the region.
Gas & Sundries
The closest communities are Teec Nos Pos (about 10 miles east) and Red Mesa (about 10 miles west) along US-160. Both have gas and mini-marts. The Four Corners Monument is about 5 miles east of Teec Nos Pos.
Kayenta is about 60 miles west and has lodging, a grocery store, restaurants and fast food. Other nearby towns are Cortez (Colorado) and Shiprock (New Mexico), both about 40-50 miles away.
If you can get your vehicle up onto the highlands, you may as well drive as close to the peak as you can (the better camping areas are closer to the peak). Wherever you park, hike by sight (and map) to the base of the peak, and then charge up the steep hilside to the top. The top is brushy and a few rocky sections may contend for the highest point, so check them all out. The views are very nice, with the Chuska Range (Roof Butte, Beautiful Mountain) to the south, Ute Peak in Colorado to the northeast, Abajo Peak in Utah to the north, Navajo Mountain to the northwest, and if the day is very clear, the faint outlines of the La Sals can be seen way north, Mt. Hesperus in Colorado and even some profiles of 14ers such as Mount Wilson.
The following is an update from Jennifer and Gerry Roach, from their climb in March of 2014. This was private correspondence, reprinted here with their permission (Thx, guys!):
In searching for Indian Route 5034 from Highway 160, please note that the road is very close to virtual milepost 459.6. Also, that road is now marked with a small wooden sign and easily seen from the highway.
We obtained permission from the Navajo Nation office in Cameron. We were sold a permit, which cost us $10.00 ($5 per hiker/day) We were informed that we could hike anywhere on the Reservation Lands with this permit. We showed the office person on a map where we intended to go and she replied that it was fine to do so. Just carry the permit with us and show it to anyone who questions our presence. No problem, right? However, a Navajo woman driving on IR 5034 challenged us and said that $5 was "not enough money" and we should have been charged $15 or $20. She also said that in Apache County, it costs more to hike on Navajo Lands. Of course, we all know this is a crock, and it came around to the fact that the woman wanted $20 from us. We gave her $20 just to get her off our backs and then she was suddenly friendly and offered help if we got stuck on the rough road above. (she would be the last person we would call, given her boozed up state) At any rate, the point to this long story is that a permit from Cameron is not necessarily going to satisfy the locals and climbers should have some $5s and $10s ready.
We camped in a flat spot about seven miles up IR 5034. It was well past the ranch houses and driveways. We had some bovine visitors. We kept our dog leashed up at all times while we were camped. Now that we knew that the "natives were friendly," we had a nice car camping night.
The road up to Pastora Peak is quite rough, although it appears to have been graded at one point. Four WD and High clearance is a must for this road. It should be avoided if the road is wet. The shelf section is steep and narrow and very slippery if muddy. The road is quite rutted in sections from others trying to force their trucks up a muddy roadbed. We were lucky because the winter was so light there and we were able to drive higher up the road than normally done in late March which was about 10.7 miles. We walked from there and the road was squishy muddy from snowmelt as well as blocked by small snow patches.