El Camino Real

California Mission Walkers


Ancient footpaths became connecting routes between the Spanish missions, pueblos, and presidios in the period 1769 to 1823. Over time these routes became automobile roadways and were marked with bells starting in 1906 to promote and preserve the El Camino Real. Today, the California Mission Walk follows a pedestrian route through urban cities and historic towns, through forest paths and country lanes, to each of the twenty-one historic Spanish missions.

Route Overview

This 800 mile pilgrimage can be walked in one continuous through-hike (which takes 54 days), or it can be walked in segments one week (or one weekend) at a time over a year or more.  Some prefer to walk alone, while others enjoy the company of other mission walkers.

Most Mission Walkers typically walk from South to North, starting at the first California mission in San Diego, and ending at the last mission in Sonoma. Others prefer to walk from North to South. Some walkers choose to split the route, making two pilgrimages to Carmel, one from the North, and then another from the South, ending both pilgrimages at the burial site of St Junípero Serra.

  • Mission San Diego de Alcalá, in San Diego
  • Mission San Luis Rey de Francia, in Oceanside
  • San Juan Capistrano, in San Juan Capistrano
  • San Gabriel Arcángel, in San Gabriel
  • San Fernando Rey de España, in MIssion Hills
  • San Buenaventura, in Ventura
  • Santa Barbara, in Santa Barbara
  • Santa Inés, in Solvang
  • La Purísima Concepción, northeast of Lompoc
  • San Luis Obispo de Tolosa, in San Luis Obispo
  • San Miguel Arcángel, in San Miguel
  • San Antonio de Padua, northwest of Jolon
  • Nuestra Señora de la Soledad, in Soledad
  • San Carlos Borromeo de Carmelo, in Carmel
  • San Juan Bautista, in San Juan Bautista
  • Santa Cruz, in Santa Cruz
  • Santa Clara de Asís, in Santa Clara
  • San José, in Fremont
  • San Francisco de Asís (Mission Dolores), in San Francisco
  • San Rafael Arcángel, in San Rafael
  • San Francisco Solano, in Sonoma

Only by going alone in silence, without baggage, can one truly get into the heart of the wilderness. All other travel is mere dust and hotels and baggage and chatter.”—John Muir

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