Living in California for the first part of my life, I was able to visit a few of the missions located in the southern part of the state. Altogether there are 21, but many have been reconstructed after the ravages of time, weather, earthquakes, and neglect. However, most of the missions still operate as active Catholic parishes, with regularly scheduled services. Booklets for self-guided tours are usually available. They are pretty cool to see.
The 21 missions that comprise what is known as California's Historic Mission Trail are all located on or near Highway 101. This road roughly traces El Camino Real which was named in honor of the Spanish monarchy which financed the expeditions into California in the quest for empire.
From San Diego to Los Angeles, the historic highway is now known as Interstate 5. From Santa Clara to San Francisco, the road is called State Highway 82. North of San Francisco, Highway 101 again picks up the trail to the mission at San Rafael. From there, State Highway 37 leads to the last mission at Sonoma.
Old Mission San Juan Bautista is the largest of the California missions. Mission San Juan Bautista was founded on June 24, 1797, at the present-day location of San Juan Bautista, California. The smallest is Mission San Juan Capistrano, which was originally consecrated on October 30, 1775.
I think the furthest one we saw was the one in San Luis Obispo. Even though we’ve been to San Francisco a few times, we just never made it to one of the missions up that far north. However, we did see one near Hearst Castle. One day I would like to see more of them. They are each unique and special in their own way. If you are on a mission to see all of the 21 missions, here is a list of them in geographical order from north to south:
- Mission San Francisco Solano, in Sonoma
- Mission San Rafael Arcángel, in San Rafael
- Mission San Francisco de Asís (Mission Dolores), in San Francisco
- Mission San José, in Fremont
- Mission Santa Clara de Asís, in Santa Clara
- Mission Santa Cruz, in Santa Cruz
- Mission San Juan Bautista, in San Juan Bautista
- Mission San Carlos Borromeo de Carmelo, in Carmel
- Mission Nuestra Señora de la Soledad, south of Soledad
- Mission San Antonio de Padua, northwest of Jolon
- Mission San Miguel Arcángel, in San Miguel
- Mission San Luis Obispo de Tolosa, in San Luis Obispo
- Mission La Purísima Concepción, northeast of Lompoc
- Mission Santa Inés, in Solvang
- Mission Santa Barbara, in Santa Barbara
- Mission San Buenaventura, in Ventura
- Mission San Fernando Rey de España, in Mission Hills (Los Angeles)
- Mission San Gabriel Arcángel, in San Gabriel
- Mission San Juan Capistrano, in San Juan Capistrano
- Mission San Luis Rey de Francia, in Oceanside
- Mission San Diego de Alcalá, in San Diego