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Northern New Mexico may simply mean the northern part of New Mexico, but in cultural terms it usually means the area of heavy Spanish settlement in the north-central part. However, New Mexico state government also uses the term to mean the northwest and north central, but to exclude both the northeastern high plains counties and Sandoval County.
The traditional southern boundary of the area is an escarpment called La Bajada southwest of Santa Fe. The other boundaries are poorly defined. The map in Cobos (1983) is a guide: from La Bajada the boundary runs northwest about 50 miles (80 km) west of U.S. Routes 285 and 84, and northeast about 20 miles (30 km) east of Interstate 25, to the Colorado border. The area might also be described roughly as comprising Rio Arriba, Los Alamos, Taos, and Colfax Counties; northeastern Sandoval County, northern Santa Fe County; and western San Miguel and Mora Counties, possibly with parts of adjoining counties. To the west is the Four Corners region; to the east are the high plains of Eastern New Mexico.
New Mexico state government generally divides New Mexico into four regions: Eastern, Central, Southwestern and Northern New Mexico. For those purposes Northern includes the Four Corners area together with the cultural area, but excludes Sandoval County. The Northwest Region is frequently referred to as the "Four-Corners Region.
For tourists, New Mexico is divided into six regions, with the north being divided into North Central Region, Northeast Region and Northwest Region, with Sandoval County being attached to the Central Region to the south. Under that schema there is no Northern New Mexico, but the North Central Region includes the core part of cultural Northern New Mexico. Also, known for the best red chili.