Northwest New Mexico
Northwest New Mexico is a region in the state of New Mexico in the United States. It is notable for desert scenery, Four Corners (the only point in the United States where four states meet), and a large part of Navajo Nation, the country's largest Indian reservation.
This region is bounded on the north by Colorado and the west by Arizona. Southern and eastern boundaries are indistinct. For purposes of this article, everything south of Interstate highway 40 (following historic Route 66) is considered to be in southwestern New Mexico, with the exceptions of El Malpais National Monument owing to its association with the definitely northwestern town of Grants, and Zuni Pueblo owing to its location amid outlying sections of Navajo Nation. The eastern boundary is taken to be the Continental Divide north of US highway 550 and the Nacimiento Mountains south of it; areas east of this boundary are covered in the article on north central New Mexico.
This is a rugged, dry area lacking the high mountains that give the north central region more rain, vegetation and scenery more commonly associated with Colorado and the Rocky Mountains. However, there is still spectacular scenery. Shiprock on the territory of Navajo Nation near the town of the same name is one of New Mexico's most cherished landmarks and appears on much of the state's tourist propaganda.
If you happen to speak Navajo, yah-te-hey, and you'll likely have a chance to practice it here. English is the more universal language of the region, however. A smaller fraction of the population speaks Spanish than in most other parts of New Mexico, and speakers of other languages (except Zuni) are rare.
Farmington is the home of Mesa Airlines, a commuter line that connects to majors in Albuquerque and Denver. However, Mesa recently announced they would be ceasing air service in the area. Great Lakes Airlines still offers flights to Denver and Phoenix, and a new carrier, New Mexico Airlines, is in negotiation to begin service to Albuquerque. Flights may be intermittent during this transition period. Amtrak's Southwest Chief  route follows I-40 through the region, stopping briefly in Gallup. Otherwise, access is mainly by road, with good highways on the south (Interstate 40, following the route of historic Route 66) and east (US 550).
Drive. Hitchhiking doesn't work well here owing to the sparse population and vast distances, and there is little if any bus service within the region.
Like too much of New Mexico, drunk driving is an issue here, but an additional, unexpected problem for the motorist is intoxicated pedestrians. The wise motorist is consequently advised to be on the lookout for pedestrians acting strangely, even on seemingly deserted roads.
Don't, at least not within Navajo Nation; possession, sale and consumption of alcoholic beverages are illegal within reservation boundaries. Farmington (population about 40,000) is outside the reservation and is large enough to have rudimentary night life (e.g. Sun Ray Park and Casino at the racetrack), but there is some hostility to bar-hopping because of the social problems that result from alcoholic members of Navajo Nation and redneck townsfolk within the border town. This concern may sound overblown to visitors from outside the region, but it is not. This simply is not a good place for drinking.
One crime-oriented warning if you're out prowling the boonies: on occasion when you're out in theoretically empty country, you will see a small plane drop below the local horizon and then climb back out. Do not investigate. The odds are quite good that this plane is departing minus a load of controlled substances that was delivered to someone waiting below who won't be glad to see you. Scary encounters have occurred under such conditions not only with the recipients of this contraband, but also with DEA agents waiting to apprehend them. If your going through the Zuni or Navajo Indian reservation make sure you ask for permission to take pictures. If caught taking pictures your camera would be taken away.
The usual safety concerns about rural areas apply here, with a little extra emphasis on getting help. The remote parts of northwest New Mexico are really out in the boonies, and help can be a very long time in arriving, particularly if you're hiking or river running. This problem is exacerbated by the fact that cellular phone coverage is spotty owing to distances and terrain. You may find it difficult to arrange rescue via cell phone if something does happen to you on a river or a trail. When venturing into the backcountry, it's thus a good idea to carry a little more in the line of emergency gear and supplies than might otherwise be your usual practice. Extra water is also important, as water sources are few and commonly contaminated.
It seems incongruous to raise safety issues involving flash floods in an area as dry as this one, but flash floods do claim lives here. The limited rainfall tends to come in brief but extremely violent thunderstorms that can drop a lot of water in a short time, onto a landscape that the water generally doesn't soak into, owing to desert varnish, caliche, etc. Use caution when entering gullies and washes, even if there don't seem to be any storms nearby; flash floods can occur far downstream of the storms that create them.