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California Mission Trail 8 Day Package

Click on the tabs for more information, price per person double occupancy.

Price Includes: All motor coach and land transportation, sightseeing, admissions, services of tour director and driver, lodging, meals as specified in tour itinerary, taxes, gratuities to bellhops and waiters at included meals.

Airport transfers are included only when airfare is purchased from Pilgrim Tours. Taxi service is available for those purchasing their airfare elsewhere.

Deposit Required: $300 per person will reserve your place. A $100 service fee will be charged for cancellation at any time in addition to our normal payment and cancellation policy.

The missions that comprise California's historic mission trail are all located on the El Camino Real (The Royal Road). Missionaries, colonists and soldiers traveled its dusty stretches. It served as the north-south stagecoach route after California became a state in 1850.

Day 1: Arrive San Francisco

tour of california missions

A welcome get acquainted dinner is planned to meet with your professional historian-guide. Two nights accommodations in the San Francisco area. (D)

Day 2: San Francisco de Asis

Mission Dolores on a site selected by Juan Bautista de Anza, the first mission church was a 50-foot long log and mud structure that was eventually moved to higher ground, adjacent to Lake Dolores which gives it its second name, Mission Dolores. Dedicated to Saint Francis by Father Serra in 1776, today the mission sits in the heart of San Francisco and is the oldest building in the city. Much of the original church interior is intact and the guilded reredos and colorful wall paintings are good examples of early California art. Enjoy the remainder of your day exploring the "city by the bay". Overnight: Tuscan Inn.

Day 3: Depart San Francisco

Visit to San Antonio de Padua Mission. Proceed to Santa Barbara stopping in Solvan and Mission Inez. Overnight: Peppertree Inn, Santa Barbara. (D)

Day 4: Santa Barbara Mission

tour of california missions

Founded in 1786, the "Queen of the Missions" was the first to be christened by Father Lasuen, and has continuously served as a parish church for the local population since its founding. Patterned after an ancient Latin chapel in pre-Christian Rome, its twin bell towers and Doric facade present an imposing impression of strength. Located on a hilltop overlooking the city, the mission provides a spectacular view of the ocean. The museum contains a vast store of historical material and displays many original items. In the afternoon stop at the Ronald Reagan Library. Within the library's museum are photographs and memorabilia of President Reagan's life and gifts of state received during his administration. Overnight: Sportsman Lodge, Los Angeles. (CB, L)

Day 5: Mission San Gabriel Archangel

Founded in 1771 by Junipero Serra, this fortress-like structure with five-foot thick walls and narrow windows is a design not found in any other mission. Located nine miles east of downtown Los Angeles, at one time it covered several hundred thousand acres. The winery, kitchen gardens and graveyard are still intact and the museum exhibits old books, Indian paintings and parchments. (CB, L)

Day 6: Gene Autry Western Heritage Museum

Located in Griffith Park. This museum uses arty, artifacts and audiovisual materials to present the history of America's westward movement and its depiction on the big and small screens. We'll take a beautiful drive to San Luis Obispo and visit Mission San Luis Obispo de Tolosa. Overnight: Royal Oak Inn. (CB,D)

Day 7: Hearst Castle

tour of california missions

Stunning Highway # 1 coastal drive to Monterey, and dinner at Bubba Gump's. The highlight is our visit to San Carlos Borromeo de Carmelo Mission, founded by Father Serra in 1770 on Pentecost Sunday, this mission was considered to be his favorite, and both he and Father Lasuen are buried here. Set against the sea and mountains 115 miles south of San Francisco, this beautiful mission presents the complete quadrangle courtyard typical of mission architecture. The gardens include culinary and medicinal herbs, citrus and olive trees, roses, Mexican sage and bougainvillea. (CB,D)

Day 8: San Juan Bautista

The 15th mission, was founded by Father Lasuen in 1797. Musical arts were taught here and the mission owned many instruments, which the Indians readily took to. Father Tapis taught the Indians to read music as well as play it. Some of the parchments with colored notations still survive and the reredos behind the altar is so well-preserved that the paint is still brilliant. Afternoon departures from San Francisco after lunch at a great Mexican restaurant. (CB,L)

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  • A Beginner’s Guide to the California Missions Trail

A Beginner’s Guide to the California Missions Trail

Born from the ancient footpaths traversing the coast between California’s twenty-one Spanish missions, the California Missions Trail or El Camino Real in California (“The Royal Road”) as it is also known connects historic missions, pueblos, and presidios over an 800-mile long pilgrimage walk. Established between 1769 and 1823, the missions offered refuge and Christian hospitality along the dusty outposts of the Golden State. From their humble, thatch-roofed beginnings to the stately adobes we see today, the missions represent a dynamic chapter in the history of Spanish colonialism, Catholicism, and the birth of California as we know it today.  

LEARN MORE ABOUT THE CALIFORNIA MISSIONS TRAIL

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THE 21 CALIFORNIA MISSIONS

The 21 missions that comprise the California Missions Trail are located on or near Highway 101, which roughly traces El Camino Real (The Royal Road) named in honor of the Spanish monarchy which financed the expeditions into California. The first leg of El Camino Real – from San Diego to Monterey Bay – was forged by Spanish General Gaspar de Portola. The road was later identified with the missions because the padres maintained the roadway and offered hospitable lodging to all. It served as the north-south stagecoach route after California became a state in 1850, and in the 1920s bronze mission bells were placed along the highway to let motorists know they were traveling the historic El Camino Real.

For more on the history of each mission, please visit the California Missions Resource Center .  

CALIFORNIA MISSIONS TRAIL OVERVIEW

This 800-mile pilgrimage can be walked as a continuous through-hike in approximately 55 days or undertaken in segments. Most Mission Walkers begin at Mission San Diego and walk north to walk to finish at Mission San Francisco Solano. Traveling from south to north, the missions are as follows:

  • San Diego de Alcala, 1st mission
  • San Luis Rey de Francia, 18th mission
  • San Juan Capistrano, 7th mission
  • San Gabriel Arcangel, 4th mission
  • San Fernando Rey de Espana, 17th mission
  • San Buenaventura, 9th mission
  • Santa Barbara, 10th mission
  • Santa Ines, 19th mission
  • La Purisima Conception, 11th mission
  • San Luis Obispo de Tolosa, 5th mission
  • San Miguel Arcangel, 16th mission
  • San Antonio de Padua, 3rd mission
  • Nuestra Senora de la Soledad, 13th mission
  • San Carlos Borromeo de Carmelo, 2nd mission
  • San Juan Bautista, 15th mission
  • Santa Cruz, 12th mission
  • Santa Clara de Asis, 8th mission
  • San Jose, 14th mission
  • San Francisco de Asis, Mission Dolores, 6th mission
  • San Rafael Arcangel, 20th mission
  • San Francisco Solano, 21st mission

  For more information on the history of each of California’s Spanish Missions, please visit the California Parks Department’s online archive .

GPS GPX KML GOOGLE EARTH FILES FOR CALIFORNIA MISSION TRAIL

Based upon guidebooks from Butch Brierly and Jim Lutz, I have compiled multiple sets of GPS and Google Earth maps for the California Missions Trail online here .

Pilgrimage Tokens:

  • Pilgrim Credential / Passport
  • California Mission Trail Backpack Patch / Badge
  • Hiker’s Guidebook

  Groups and Websites:

  • California Mission Walkers Website
  • California Mission Walkers Facebook Group

  Books and Guides:

  • California Mission Walk: The Original Hiker’s Guide To California’s 21 Spanish Missions Along El Camino Real by Butch Brierly
  • El Camino Real de California – A Hiker’s Guide to the California Mission Trail by Jim Lutz
  • The Mission Walker by Edie Littlefield Sundby

tour of california missions

Husband. Father. Backpacker. Pilgrim. Author.

After years of section hiking the Florida Trail and Appalachian Trail, I set out in 2019 to complete the Camino de Santiago through Portugal and Spain. The experience changed the direction of my life and I’ve been walking in pilgrimage ever since. My recent journeys include the California Mission Walk and England’s Pilgrims’ Way from London to Canterbury. I’m currently walking sections of the Via Francigena through Europe to Rome.

Follow me on social media or walk virtually alongside me on the Sacred Steps Podcast and in my upcoming book, Sacred Steps: A Pilgrimage Journal.

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  • Kale by LyraThemes.com.

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California Missions

California Missions

Starting in 1769, Spain built a chain of 21 missions across the length of  Alta California —from San Diego to Sonoma—as a way of gaining a foothold in the new frontier. California’s mission era ended in 1834, but you can still see the architectural legacy that endures in the state’s red tile roofs, whitewashed walls, arched colonnades, and bell towers.

The missions were built approximately  30 miles apart —about a day’s journey by horseback—covering 650 miles total. All 21 missions are open to visitors and feature a gift shop and museum, and most of them hold mass on Sundays (or even daily). Read on to learn the unique features to see at each mission, listed here from south to north.

1.  Mission Basilica San Diego de Alcalá , San Diego

Built in 1769 and fully restored in 1931, this mission has a striking 46-foot-tall tower (campanario) holding five bells, the largest weighing 1,200 pounds. Information signs guide visitors through the bougainvillea-covered buildings and immaculate gardens. Mass is held daily; guided tours are available by advance request.

2.  Old Mission San Luis Rey de Francia , Oceanside

Known as “King of the Missions,” San Luis Rey is set within a six-acre central square and marked by an octagonal dome atop the building. A massive  lavandería , or open-air laundry, is now an ornate sunken garden. Check out the tiled stairs, stone pools, and carved gargoyles that once spouted water from their mouths. California’s first pepper tree, planted in 1830, grows in the mission’s plaza.

3.  Mission San Juan Capistrano , San Juan Capistrano

Every March, the town of San Juan Capistrano welcomes the return of migrating swallows that spend most of the year in the mission before flying 6,000 miles to Argentina for the winter. Guided and audio tours are available.

4.  San Gabriel Arcángel , San Gabriel Valley

This fortress-like mission boasted a 170-acre vineyard, the largest in the mission chain. Its campanario holds six bells, the oldest cast in 1795. Highlights: the altar framed by a large round skylight and the hand-hammered copper baptismal font from King Carlos III of Spain.

5.  Mission San Fernando Rey de España , Mission Hills, San Fernando Valley

In the 1850s, gold-hungry prospectors dug up the church floor several times, certain that treasure was buried underneath. Carefully tended buildings and grounds include a convent, winery, gardens, and colonnade with 20 arches. Actor Bob Hope and other L.A. notables are buried in the cemetery.

6.  Old Mission San Buenaventura , Ventura

A hand-built masonry aqueduct brought water seven miles from the Ventura River to “The Mission by the Sea.” At its most prosperous, this small mission had a herd of more than 41,000 livestock. Don’t miss the ornate tiled fountain, asymmetric bell tower with five bells, and palm-tree-framed garden.

7.  Old Mission Santa Barbara , Santa Barbara

The only California mission to have twin bell towers, the  “Queen of the Missions” features a magnificent Moorish fountain, spectacular rose gardens, and an abalone-encrusted Chumash altar from the 1790s. Part of the original aqueduct is still used by the city of Santa Barbara.

8.  Old Mission Santa Inés , Solvang

Manicured gardens and well-preserved paintings and wall frescoes make this one of the most charming and colorful missions. The museum houses a large collection of 1800s silk vestments. Golden grasses and oak-covered hills frame the view from the chapel entrance.

9.  Misión La Purísima Concepción De María Santísima , Lompoc

Now a state historic park, this mission is the most completely restored of the chain. Ten of the original buildings remain, including the church, blacksmith shop, and living quarters. Hiking and equestrian trails lace the 1,928-acre grounds, where ranch animals graze. Docent demonstrations and living history events take place frequently. 

10.  Mission San Luis Obispo de Tolosa , San Luis Obispo

In 1776, several Native Americans hostile toward the mission shot flaming arrows onto the thatched roof, prompting the missionaries to learn to make clay roof tiles. Red tile roofs soon became the mission standard. Surrounded by a bustling downtown plaza and a lush garden of fruit trees and grapes, the mission’s adobe walls are adorned with centuries-old art. 

11.  Mission San Miguel , San Miguel

This National Historic Landmark houses colorful wall frescoes that were painted by Native Americans in 1821. Walk through the shaded colonnade, which contains 12 arches of different sizes and shapes. An elegant fountain and a Spanish cannon dating back to 1697 are surrounded by 30 species of cacti, roses, and olive trees.

12.  Mission San Antonio de Padua , Jolon, Fort Hunter Liggett

A land donation from William Randolph Hearst left this mission’s countryside setting untouched. Its pristine location and well-curated museum make it one of the best to visit. Listen to mission-period music and visit the fruit orchard and grape-crushing vat.

13.  Nuestro Señora de la Soledad , Soledad

Known as the “hard-luck mission,” this site has had an unhappy history of epidemics, floods, and crop failures. Left in ruins for nearly a century, the building was beautifully restored in 1954. Visit the small rustic chapel and tidy rose garden. 

14.  Mission San Carlos Borromeo del Rio Carmelo , Carmel

Wander among the original paintings and statues, massive holy-water fountain, cobblestone pathways, and flower-filled courtyards in this gorgeous Moorish-style mission. Museum exhibits focus on daily aspects of mission life—furniture, tools, and clothing. Father Junipero Serra, who founded 9 of the 21 missions, is buried under the sanctuary.

15.  Old Mission San Juan Bautista , San Juan Bautista

Set amid San Juan Bautista’s Old West storefronts, this mission lies right next to the San Andreas earthquake fault. The huge church boasts three aisles and a magnificent altar. Look for the animal paw prints in the floor tiles. Film buffs will recognize this mission from the 1958 Hitchcock thriller  Vertigo . 

16.  La Exaltacion de la Santa Cruz , Santa Cruz

The original 1795 adobe church was destroyed by an earthquake in 1857, then rebuilt in 1931 at less than half its original size. The gift shop/museum houses a collection of antique silk vestments sewn with silver and gold thread.

17.  Mission Santa Clara de Asís , Santa Clara

A gift from King Carlos IV of Spain, Santa Clara’s mission bell has rung faithfully every evening since 1798. This reconstructed mission sits on the University of Santa Clara campus. Wander its garden to see a massive 150-year-old wisteria, antique roses, and a cork tree used to make wine corks in the mission days.

18.  Mission San José de Guadalupe , Fremont

Take a self-guided tour of the reconstructed mission building (the 1797 original was leveled in an 1868 earthquake) and check out the antique Spanish pipe organ. A small museum has fascinating exhibits on the California rancho period and the mission’s fruit and olive oil production.

19.  Mission San Francisco de Asís , San Francisco

Nicknamed Mission Dolores for a nearby creek, this mission is San Francisco’s oldest intact building, dating back to 1776. A 90-minute guided tour explores the mission, museum, rose garden, and cemetery where more than 5,000 Native Americans and California pioneers are buried. Noteworthy: the basilica’s dazzling stained glass windows, which depict all 21 missions.

20.  Mission San Rafael Arcángel , San Rafael

Built in sunny San Rafael as California’s first hospital, this mission served ailing Native Americans stationed at damp and foggy Mission San Francisco. The building is a 1949 replica of the original, but its museum contains historic artifacts including three of the original mission bells.

21.  Mission San Francisco de Solano , Sonoma

The last mission built in California was masterminded by an overly ambitious padre who acted without church approval. Now part of a state historic park, this rustic mission sits on  Sonoma’s downtown plaza  next to gourmet eateries and upscale boutiques. Don’t miss the watercolor paintings and the replanted 19th-century garden filled with cactus and olive trees.

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California Missions Road Trip Day 1: San Diego to Pasadena

Visiting all of the California missions is something that surprisingly, not a lot of people have done. These beautiful and historic places are all incredibly unique and have so much for the explorer to see. Taking the trip as I did will take you seven days to complete, and this post provides an itinerary for day 1. You can view all of the days and learn more about mission history here . This post assumes you will start in San Diego, which is the southernmost California mission, and the three missions you visit today are three of the best. Here is all the information.

  • Miles: 74 miles from the first to the third mission, 114 miles if you add in Pala, more if you go to Pasadena
  • This information is from my road trip in 2017

Since it is hard to guess where everyone will stay the night before, I picked a coffee shop close to the mission as my recommendation for coffee/breakfast. There are a ton of great places if you are staying in downtown San Diego though.

Breakfast/Coffee: Cuppa Cuppa

mission day 1-1

This small drive-thru coffee shop is located about 5 minutes from the mission itself. It may not seem like much, but the coffee here is good. I highly recommend the chai drink they mix with cold brew and almond milk. It is nice spiced chai, and the flavors are fantastic. They have pastries that you can grab as well before heading over to the mission.

Mission San Diego de Alcalá

Mission San Diego-1216

Mission San Diego de Alcalá is the first mission that was ever established, and it has a lot of unique history. This mission was the site of the first Christian martyr in California, and it has a beautiful old bell tower and facade. While it is not that big, you will probably spend a decent amount of time strolling the immaculate gardens and reading the history. Do note that all three of the missions today are impressive, so plan your time wisely.

  • Time Needed: 1 Hour
  • Highlights: Bell Tower and Gardens
  • Read more here

Lunch: Local Tap House and Kitchen

mission day 1-2

This restaurant, about 45 minutes from the San Diego mission, is an excellent spot for a meal in Oceanside. I am always on the lookout for places that offer nontraditional items, so I was right at home with Local Tap House, who’s menu included things like calamari tacos, mason jar s’mores, and curried scallops. They have sandwiches and hamburgers as well if that is more your vibe though.

  • Cost: $12-$15 for an entree
  • Location: 308 S Coast Hwy, Oceanside, CA 92054

Mission San Luis Rey de Francia

Mission San Luis Rey-1

Mission San Luis Rey de Francia is about 10 minutes from the lunch spot, and this is another mission where you will want to spend some time. The mission sits on a large dirt lot and doesn’t feel as infringed upon by the cities as many of the missions do. Mission San Luis Rey de Francia is free to explore, all except for the museum, which costs $7. I will say it is one of the better museums in all of the missions as it tells a lot of history about how the missions became what they are today. The chapel here is also unique as it is the only mission chapel shaped like a cross, in that it has three altarpieces to see.

  • Time Needed: 1-2 hours
  • Highlights: Chapel, museum, old courtyard arch and the first pepper tree

Optional Excursion: San Antonio de Pala Asistencia

san antonio de pala-4

San Antonio de Pala Asistencia is about 35 minutes from Mission San Luis Rey de Francia, and it is the only Asistencia still in use. Asistencia is a mission that helped another mission by reaching different groups more inland. This Asistencia helped Mission San Luis Rey. It has a beautiful free-standing bell tower and a few other things to see if you have time. It is a part of mission history, but it is relatively small and pretty out of the way. Also, you do not want to rush San Juan Capistrano, which is one of the best, so you will need to decide if you’re going to try and see it.

  • Time needed: 30 minutes to see it, plus about an hour round trip to drive.
  • Highlights: Freestanding bell tower and simple chapel

Mission San Juan Capistrano

entrance-to-mission-san-juan-capistrano

Mission San Juan Capistrano is one of, if not the best California mission. Everything from the courtyards to the old stone church walls have been meticulously kept up, and there are tons of great photographic opportunities. I have been to this mission three times, and I still enjoy going back as it is just one of those places where the beauty continually impacts you.

This mission is relatively large and has a lot to see, though, so make sure you set aside enough time to explore it thoroughly.

  • Time Needed: 2-3 hours
  • Highlights: Gardens, fountains, old stone church wall and bells

Tomorrow starts with a mission near Pasadena, so I would recommend making your way over there as it makes the morning much more peaceful. That being said, you can always stay in Orange County if you spend too much time at the mission and don’t want to drive.

For dinner, it is hard to make a recommendation without knowing where you will be staying, but here are a few spots I like along the way.

  • Native Foods (Multiple locations)
  • Lemonade (Multiple locations)
  • Tender Greens (Multiple locations)
  • Kopan Ramen (Fullerton)
  • Anaheim Packing House (Anaheim)
  • Roscoe’s Chicken and Waffles (Multiple locations)

Nice job, you have completed day 1. Hopefully, you are already enjoying your time visiting the missions and that you are ready for six more days of driving and exploring this fascinating part of California’s history. Read the rest of my missions coverage here and head on to day 2 here .

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2TravelDads

Best California Missions: Easy, Beautiful Cali Road Trip Stops

By: Author Rob Taylor

Posted on Published: October 29, 2021  - Last updated: September 19, 2023

Best California Missions: Easy, Beautiful Cali Road Trip Stops

A very unique road trip to plan is driving El Camino Real to visit California missions. Between historic chapels and gardens, so some of the most interesting small museums, this road trip is a great way to understand California’s colonialist history and influences. Getting to travel all over the place we see all kinds of unusual sights. The kids love the time we get to spend in National Parks or at the beach, we dads like to explore cities a lot, and then we try to incorporate historical sites when possible. The California missions have proven to be both cool to visit with kids and totally educational.

We’ve gotten to visit several of the California missions and have the goal to get to all of them in the next few years. We’re going to share just a few of them that we’ve done with the kids, as not every one is easy to get to or truly unique. Hopefully you’ll be inspired to seek out a few of the California missions to add to your next west coast road trip .

Check out our Complete California Coast Road Trip for a tip to tip itinerary!

These California Missions make for great road trip stops as you drive from San Diego to San Francisco. Enjoy beautiful chapels and learn about California history with these missions along El Camino Real.

Where to find the California Missions

El Camino Real, the King’s Road, stretches from northern California down into Mexico . The California missions are found all along this route . Most of the way follows California Highway 101, but there are some missions located a ways off and you have to trek to them. Starting at the southern border, at the US/Mexico boundary and stretching as far north as San Francisco, you’ll find a mission every 40 to 50 miles or so.

Most of the California missions are open to the public either as a museum or as a functioning church space. Before working a visit into your schedule, be sure to confirm that it’s going to be open and that you’re not visiting during services (unless you want to participate). Also, be sure to check if there are any photography restrictions within chapel areas.

Note :  if you journey into Baja California you’ll find more missions, both in small towns and in the larger cities of Loreto, La Paz or San Jose del Cabo.  So much history!

Traveling in California will take you to countless historical sites, including the California missions. Here are 5 California Missions you'll see when driving El Camino Real from San Diego to San Francisco is non-stop beauty and history. 2traveldads.com

Best California Missions to Visit

We’ve selected these missions as a plan for this California road trip, as they are the easiest to access and offer the most interest for visitors. There are several missions that you’ll drive past (kind of) that you could also stop at, but these ones are the most accessible and unique in our opinion. Having visited many California missions along El Camino Real, we also feel that the history offered by these picks is the most accurate and representative of what really happened as the Spanish colonized California.

San Diego: Mission San Diego de Alcala

San Diego is kind of the go-to spot for beaches, zoos and food, but it’s also got some great history. The two prime historic attractions are Old Town San Diego, where you’ll find an excavated and restored settlement, including museums and shops, and then Mission San Diego . Of all the California missions, Mission San Diego certainly feels like the most grand.

Located in the Mission Valley, away from the beaches, Mission San Diego has a grand chapel, beautiful gardens and a nice collection of historical pieces to explain the history of the California missions and their founding. It’s the perfect first stop on a journey through California’s history.

Bell Tower of Mission San Diego de Alcala San Diego California 7

Tip : also stop by Mission San Diego de Alcala at night. The exterior is beautiful and really striking against the black sky (if you’re into photography). One of the prettiest stops along El Camino Real.

Plan an hour for the visit, as the museum on site is well put together and has exhibits that kids can understand easily. Between the museum, the chapel and the grounds, this may be your favorite of the California missions, and you’ve only just begun!

Another fun stop :  Cabrillo National Monument is really cool for lighthouses, tidepools and more California history.

Inside chapel of Mission San Diego de Alcala San Diego California 2

Mission San Luis Rey in Oceanside

As you head north through San Diego County , Mission San Luis Rey is just east of I-5. 10 minutes off the freeway, Mission San Luis Rey is both a museum and an active mission. They hold services, Franciscan Friars are walking the grounds , and local parishioners visit daily. This is one of the best missions to visit along El Camino Real as it provides a very different view of both mission history AND current daily life.

Book your museum entrance in advance here!

tour of california missions

Southern California Coast: Mission San Juan Capistrano

Located between Laguna Beach and Oceanside , Mission San Juan Capistrano isn’t just one of our favorites of the California missions, but it’s one of the nicest historical sites in California. Located just down the hill from the 5 (Interstate 5), it’s not tough to get to. The Mission is located in the neighborhood up from the downtown and there is usually plenty of parking.

Mission San Juan Capistrano was originally founded in 1775 by father Junipero Serra, the guy whose statue you see at almost every mission. Over the years, this mission changed hands several times between Mexico, the State of California, the US Government, a ranch base… and finally it went back to the Catholic Church. It’s been destroyed and rebuilt several times and eventually excavated and renovated to the beautiful spot it is today.

Gardens at Mission San Juan Capistrano 2

The swallows of San Juan Capistrano are famous, as every March they return to their mud nests, bring loads of photographers and tourists to the area to watch the cool, natural phenomena. If you’re planning on visiting Mission San Juan Capistrano with kids, be sure to find and read the book The Song of the Swallows with them before hand. It’s great reading for when you’re driving El Camino Real.

Tip : for painters and sketchers, plan to spend some extra time hanging out at Mission San Juan Capistrano. Between the ruins, bells and gardens, there are endless subjects if you’re an artist.

Nearby stops :  the beach at San Onofre isn’t too far south of San Juan Capistrano and there is some awesome surfing to watch (or waves to catch yourself). To the north you’ll find Crystal Cove State Park that stretches far up the coast, providing lots of great tide pools and beaches.

Cliff Swallow at Mission San Juan Capistrano 1

California Central Coast: Mission Santa Barbara

Leaving the SoCal area out of Los Angeles and heading north up the coast, you’ll come to the perfect little city of Santa Barbara. A great destination on its own with wine and art and shopping and Channel Islands National Park just off the coast, it’s perfect for a getaway. It’s also where we’ll find Mission Santa Barbara.

Founded in 1786, Mission Santa Barbara is one of the most picturesque of the California missions. It’s got a pale pink façade, a small cemetery, flower-filled courtyard, colorful chapel and extensive museum. If you can only visit one of the California mission, we recommend Mission Santa Barbara for the most complete experience. And it’s just pretty, and very unique among the missions of El Camino Real.

Tip :  check out these other great things to do in Santa Barbara !

Chapel at Mission Santa Barbara 1

Tip : try to visit outside of mass times as it’s still a very active mission with regular services. Parking is limited, so visiting in off hours is a strong recommendation.

Another fun idea : Santa Barbara has grown as a wine destination in recent years. There’s always room for wine tasting in any itinerary. Check out some of our favorite Santa Barbara Wine Country stops here and in Santa Maria, California !

Public art at Mission Santa Barbara 3

Mid-Coast California: Mission San Luis Obispo

We loved the whole town of San Luis Obispo and its mission was no exception. Found mid-way up California’s Central Coast you’ll be driving through on any road trip, if you’re route is the 1 or the 101.

Mission San Luis Obispo is a small mission , but it’s still very active. We visited in September when the grape vines were at their peek and all you could smell was fruit. It was really cool. We were able to join a short tour in the chapel of Mission San Luis Obispo and would recommend trying to do the same. The church has an interesting history, including a few graves within the chapel, so for adults and kids alike, there’s something to learn… or think is strange.

Taylor Family with grape vines at Mission San Luis Obispo 1

Tip : from Mission Plaza in front of the chapel you can access the urban trail that goes along the creek through town. There is art to check out as well and a nice, new way to experience the city. While San Luis Obispo has modernized quite a bit, there are still lots of charming spots downtown, including some cool alleyways.

Another fun stop :  do a campus visit to Cal Poly SLO. The town and outdoor activities of the area make for an incredible environment for learning… and I wish I would’ve chosen Cal Poly SLO when I was considering colleges. How cool to go to school in the middle of El Camino Real and with the beach nearby!

Taylor Family at Mission San Luis Obispo 1

Central Valley California: Mission San Miguel Archangel

Heading inland on the way to the San Francisco Bay Area , you’ll find four California missions off the 101. Plan to stop as as many of them as you like, but our top pick is a road trip stop at Mission San Miguel Archangel . We are always happy to stop here, and have several times.

Many of the California missions have seen hard times, between storms and earthquakes, to wars and neglect. Mission San Miguel Archangel reflects all of this while still being an active historic preservation site. I think this is my favorite of the California missions and it’s so cool to visit!

Lily Pond Fountain at Entrance to Mission San Miguel Archangel 2

This mission has a museum, like most of the others, but it also has some fascinating outdoor displays. Before even entering the mission buildings we were able to learn all about life in California 300+ years ago. Sundials, ovens, millstones and olive presses all are on site for some added education. And here you’ll find many bells, like you see all along El Camino Real.

Tip : the cemetery area is also an orchard/olive grove. You’ll also access the bell tower area from this spot, so be sure you do explore the full grounds of Mission San Miguel Archangel.

Another fun stop :  Pinnacles National Park is about an hour north of Mission San Miguel Archangel. High chaparral hiking with caves and condors. You can’t go wrong.

Belltower at Mission San Miguel Archangel 2

San Jose, California: Mission San Juan Bautista

Just south of San Jose this large mission is adjacent to San Juan Bautista State Historic Park . This is a great stop for a full on lesson about the development and crazy history of California. Also, this mission has lots of open space for kids to run.

San Juan Bautista is more popular than other California missions as it’s so close to San Jose and San Francisco. Also, it’s a historic park, so people are visiting due to it being more publicized. Visit early in the day for the smallest crowds and most quiet time in the chapel.

Other nearby things to do include the Garlic Festival in Gilroy during July or to head to the coast and visit Santa Cruz and Capitola.

Central Coast Mission Church

More California Missions to visit

Today there are 21 missions still standing and open to explore along El Camino Real (even though you have to leave the main road). We haven’t been every single one, but here’s the scoop on what you’ll find if you choose to add any of them to your California road trip itinerary.

  • Mission San Antonio de Pala – east of Carlsbad and Oceanside, this small mission is beautiful and is open to the public most days.
  • Mission Soledad – found very near Pinnacles National Park, visiting Mission Soledad and Pinnacles can be an easy day trip from the Bay Area.
  • Mission San Antonio – 20 miles off the 101, it’s a much less visited site. Being founded in 1771 it’s one of the oldest of the California missions and .
  • Mission Dolores – in the heart of San Francisco , Mission Dolores is a modern and active mission. Visiting as a tourist has specific hours, so plan your San Francisco activities around when you can visit.   Fun fact : Mission Dolores is the oldest building in San Francisco.

Inside Church at Mission San Juan Capistrano 1

Tips for visiting missions with kids

We’ve talked about it before, that we’re not raising our kids in any religion, but that doesn’t mean that we don’t teach them about it. Part of giving the kids a broad world view is making sure they understand the histories and viewpoints of the many people they meet wherever we go. That includes Catholicism and it’s impact on the United States.

Taylor Family at Mission San Miguel Archangel 1

It’s up to you how much background to give your kids before visiting a religious site but here’s how we do it, particularly when we’re driving El Camino Real:

  • give a short history of the site including what the religion is called
  • if it’s a Catholic site give a heads up about large crucifixes inside
  • explain how to show respect even if you’re not a follower (hats, quiet…)
  • write down any questions they have that you can’t confidently answer
  • plan your visit around any short guided tours that are available

The California missions are a wonderfully unique experience for any traveler, but particularly for kids. Where else can you get a history, religion, architecture and horticulture lesson? Hopefully we’ll be able to visit the rest of the missions in the coming years and that the kids will develop a solid appreciation of history and respect for other cultures as we do this.

Taylor Family in chapel at Mission San Miguel Archangel 1

Do you have a favorite of the California missions or any other tips to share? Please tell us so we can keep on traveling and having new learning experiences!

If you have any questions about visiting the California missions, planning a road trip around California or driving the California Coast route , please let us know. You’re welcome to leave a comment or send us a note . Happy traveling!

These California Missions make for great road trip stops as you drive from San Diego to San Francisco. Enjoy beautiful chapels and learn about California history with these missions along El Camino Real.

Katherine Hageland

Wednesday 3rd of November 2021

Don’t forget Mission Santa Inez! It’s a beautiful, quiet little place and right next to the little town of Solvang, a Scandinavian town with great restaurants and don’t forget the bakeries! Yum!

Just north of San Diego is Mission San Luis Rey. It’s one of the largest missions and a bit out in the country but quiet and rather like walking back in time. When I went, there was a real Franciscan monk is full robe and sandals who gave a wonderful short tour of the mission … including a lovely gift shop. But done be surprised if one of your kids wants to buy a rosary. I did!

Can you tell I grew up in Southern California? We studied all the missions in fourth grade as part of our grammar school California history requirement.

Thursday 4th of November 2021

I do love Santa Inez, and yes, Solvang is so fun. Strangely, I've only been to San Luis Rey once and it was such a quick visit. We aim to be back there and do a really good visit to SLR in the spring!

Marilyn Meyer Leese

Tuesday 2nd of November 2021

My great-great Grandmother, Clara Serpa Machado is buried in the church cemetery next to the San Juan Bautista Mission. She died at 16 giving birth to my great Grandmother. I actually found her burial plot which still has the wooden cross a few years ago!

Wow! That's incredible. San Juan Bautista does the best job, I feel, of explaining the Spanish missions and their positive and negative impacts, and they have really done a wonderful job preserving the graveyard and chapel. Thank you for sharing!

Tuesday 8th of June 2021

The Missions have a lifetime of fascinating history. And in most cases the surrounding communities have history connected to them. Ive been in San Juan Capistrano for over 50 years, and even with large scale growth, this town has kept most of its charm.

Wednesday 9th of June 2021

Yes, they are so fascinating and with such interesting stories. These stories of western expansion are something I need to dig more into, as I'm relatively unfamiliar with a lot of the missions' impacts at the time, particularly regarding impact on the indigenous populations.

Tuesday 14th of April 2020

Between 1769 and 1823, the Spanish built 21 missions in a chain that stretched from San Diego to north of the San Francisco Bay in an attempt to colonize "Alta California" (present day California, Nevada and Utah, and parts of Arizona, Wyoming, Colorado and New Mexico). The missions were approximately 30 miles apart, which was considered a one-day s journey on horseback. The road connecting the missions was known as the El Camino Real, which means "The Royal Highway." Father Junipero Serra established nine missions before his death and burial at Mission San Carlos.

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California Missions

United states pilgrimage, mass at the cathedral of saint mary of the assumption & san francisco area.

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Group coordinator helen zec, san francisco · sonoma county · mission san juan bautista · carmel by the sea · mission san luis obispo · old mission santa barbara · los angeles · cathedral of our lady of the angels · hollywood · garden grove · san juan capistrano · mission san luis rey · san diego · mission basilica san diego de alcala.

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Rome (Pope Francis) · Montecassino · San Giovanni Rotondo (St. Padre Pio) · Monte Sant’ Angel (View incorrupt body of St. Padre Pio) · Lanciano (Eucharistic Miracle) · Loreto (Holy House) · Assisi (St. Francis) · Gubbio · La Verna

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Begin your 9-day Pilgrimage to California Missions in San Francisco, with a visit to the National Shrine of St. Francis of Assisi which was built for Catholic gold rush settlers in 1849, before the city of California was even a State! Continue to incredible missions like the Mission of San Juan Bautista, the Old Mission of Santa Barbara, Mission San Luis Rey, and incredible churches like Saint Mary of the Assumption, the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels, and the Crystal Cathedral. Along your west coast Pilgrimage, visit vineyards, beaches, and even Hollywood. Learn about California's Catholic roots on this unique American Pilgrimage!

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Your trip includes

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  • Hotel accommodations (or similar) in double occupancy ~ 2 nights: Hyatt Place Fremont (San Francisco Outskirt) ~ 1 night: The Kinney, San Luis Obispo ~ 3 nights: Courtyard by Marriott Hawthorne (Los Angeles Outskirt) ~ 2 nights: Best Western Seven Seas, San Diego
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  • Base Price: 2 Travellers in 1 Room: Queen or King Bed or 2 Twin beds
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tour of california missions

  • Breakfast and Dinner daily
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Day 1: Arrive San Francisco

Upon arrival, meet your tour escort for your transfer to the hotel for check in. Enjoy some free time, before we embark on our panoramic city sightseeing tour including the Civic Center, Opera House, Twin Peaks, Golden Gate Park, Japanese Tea Garden and the Presidio. We will celebrate Mass at the Cathedral of Saint Mary of the Assumption. The Cathedral of Saint Mary of the Assumption is the principal church of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of San Francisco, the existing Cathedral is the third bearing this name. The first still stands and is now known as Old St. Mary's and the second was destroyed by fire in 1962. After Mass, we will return to the hotel for dinner and overnight.

Day 2: San Francisco - Sonoma County - San Francisco

Following a full breakfast at the hotel, we will proceed to La Porziuncola Nuova, a scaled replica of Saint Francis's Porziuncola in Assisi, Italy, was dedicated in San Francisco on September 27, 2008 by Cardinal William J. Levada, Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. Porziuncola means "small portion of land" and refers to the Benedictine chapel Saint Francis restored when he was a young man. Next, the famed Sonoma Wine Region and Marin County area by crossing the Golden Gate Bridge. We will visit the Mission San Francisco Solano, which is nestled in the wine country 40 miles north of San Francisco and across from the site of the Bear Flag Revolt of 1846. We will celebrate Mass at Mission San Francisco Solano and enjoy some free time for prayer and reflection. We then return to San Francisco for dinner and overnight.

Day 3: Mission San Juan Bautista - Carmel by the Sea -Mission San Luis Obispo

After breakfast, we will celebrate Mass at National Shrine of St. Francis of Assisi. It is here that the relics of Saint Francis, Saint Clare, and Saint Anthony of Padua are contained. Following Mass, depart San Francisco for visit of Mission San Juan Bautista also known as "Mission of Music." While here we will view the only remaining original Spanish Plaza, surrounded by 30 buildings including the original adobe manjerio (nunnery). Next, we will enjoy drive to Carmel by the Sea and stop for tour of Folktale Winery and Vineyards which will include tasting of six wines. We continue with a visit of San Carlos Borromeo Mission in Carmel, where St. Junipero Serra is entombed beneath the sanctuary of this church. We end the day in San Luis Obispo where we will have dinner and retire for the evening.

Day 4: Mission San Luis Obispo - Old Mission Santa Barbara - Los Angeles

After breakfast, we will start our day with a guided tour of the beautiful church, gardens, school and museum that holds a collection of its artifacts at San Luis Obispo de Tolosa Mission. We will have lunch en route to Santa Barbara, a spectacular Southern California coastal community. In Santa Barbara, we will participate in a private guided tour of Old Mission Santa Barbara and celebrate Mass. Mission Santa Barbara's namesake comes from the story of Saint Barbara, a girl who was beheaded by her father for following the Christian Faith. We will continue on to Los Angeles for dinner and overnight.

Day 5: Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels and Hollywood

After full breakfast at hotel we will celebrate Mass and partake in a private tour at the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels. The Cathedral is widely known for enshrining the relics of Saint Vibiana and piece of the tilma of Our Lady of Guadalupe. Continue with the tour of Beverly Hills and Hollywood, including TLC Chinese Theatre, the Walk of Fame, Avenue of the Stars, Sunset and Wilshire Boulevards. Dinner will be at a local restaurant. Return to the hotel for overnight.

Day 6: Los Angeles - Garden Grove - Los Angeles

Following breakfast at the hotel, we will transfer to Garden Grove/ Orange County for visit and Mass celebration at Christ Cathedral (the former Crystal Cathedral) which is now the home of the diocese. We will be touring its stunning facade and the magnificent gardens that surround it. Continue on to visit the Carmelite Sisters of the Most Sacred Heart of Los Angeles. The way of life of the Carmelite Sisters of the Most Sacred Heart of Los Angeles is rooted in the Gospel, and in the Carmelite spirituality of St. Teresa of Avila. "Carmel" means enclosed garden in which God Himself dwells. The divine indwelling in the soul is the foundation of Teresa's doctrine. Then visit the Mission San Fernando Rey de Espana. We will conclude the evening with dinner and overnight. *Due to an unfortunate fire that took place at the Mission of St. Gabriel Archangel, pilgrims will not have the opportunity to enter this site.

Day 7: San Juan Capistrano - Mission San Luis Rey - San Diego

Following breakfast at hotel, depart Los Angeles for San Juan Capistrano. Welcome to the "Jewel of the Missions"! Enjoy lunch, on your own, at a local restaurant and stop for some relaxation time at Dana Point. Continue to Oceanside and celebrate Mass at Mission San Luis Rey, also known as the "King of the Missions." This mission is named for St. Louis who led the crusades to regain the Holy Land for Christ. Next, we will make our way to San Diego for dinner and overnight.

Day 8: Mission Basilica San Diego de Alcala

Today, after breakfast, we will explore San Diego. We will drive through Mission Bay Park and see Balboa Park. Celebrate Mass at Mission San Diego de Alcala, the "Mother of the California Missions". This afternoon, enjoy some free time to relax, pray or explore San Diego. Tonight, we enjoy our last night with a farewell dinner at local restaurant.

Day 9: Return back home

With a renewed sense of pilgrimage and an invigorated love of our Catholic faith, we bid farewell to our fellow pilgrims. Transfer to the airport for your return flight(s) home.

tour of california missions

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About your trip

  • San Francisco
  • Sonoma County
  • Mission San Juan Bautista
  • Carmel by the Sea
  • Mission San Luis Obispo
  • Old Mission Santa Barbara
  • Los Angeles
  • Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels
  • Garden Grove
  • San Juan Capistrano
  • Mission San Luis Rey
  • Mission Basilica San Diego de Alcala

tour of california missions

About Rome:

Travel along the West Coast for a Californian Pilgrimage to Catholic sites! Learn about setters who brought Catholicism to the West. Visit cities like San Francisco, Los Angeles, and San Diego, and see the beautiful churches they have to offer. In Garden Grove, see the breathtaking Crystal Cathedral which was referred to as the tallest glass building in the world in 1981. In Los Angeles, visit the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels which is the seat of Archbishop Jose Horacio Gomez and currently serves an estimate 5 million Parishioners! See California like it's never been seen before - through the lens of a Catholic Pilgrim!

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tour of california missions

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A Tour of California’s Spanish Missions

A poignant reminder of the region’s fraught history, missions such as San Miguel are treasured for their stark beauty

Jamie Katz

Shirley Macagni, a 78-year-old retired dairy rancher and great-grandmother of seven, is an elder of the Salinan tribe, whose members have inhabited California’s Central Coast for thousands of years. Macagni calls her oak-dotted ancestral region, a largely unspoiled terrain of orchards, vineyards and cattle ranches, a “landscape that still stirs people’s imaginations.”

Spanish settlers, arriving in the late 1700s, would decimate the tribe through smallpox, servitude and other depredations; resistance was dealt with harshly, and, says Macagni, fewer than a thousand Salinan survive today. The Spaniards’ legacy is complicated, and, Macagni feels, it is unfair to judge 18th-century attitudes and actions by contemporary standards. “They didn’t deliberately say they’re going to destroy people,” she says. “Records show that [the Salinan] were housed and fed and taught. My [ancestral] line developed into some of the best cattlemen and cowboys in the country. They learned that through the Spanish padres and the army that came with them.”

By delving into 18th-century parish archives, Macagni has documented her family’s links to the region’s earliest European outposts: Franciscan missions founded to convert the native population and extend Spain’s colonial empire northward into virgin territory the settlers called Alta (Upper) California. Macagni is especially proud of the Salinan connections to Mission San Miguel, Arcángel, ties that go back to its founding in 1797. She has fond memories of childhood outings and fiesta days there. “For as long as I can remember,” she says, “tribal members, the elders and the children were held in great regard.” Although she is not Catholic—she follows tribal beliefs—Macagni became active in fundraising efforts to preserve and restore Mission San Miguel after it was badly damaged in 2003 by the San Simeon earthquake. “It’s not just my history,” she says. “It’s part of the history of our whole country.”

Nestled in a remote valley, Mission San Miguel was the 16th of 21 missions built between 1769 and 1823 in a chain that stretches 600 miles from San Diego to Sonoma. Each was a day’s journey on horseback from the next along the fabled El Camino Real, which roughly corresponds to today’s U.S. Highway 101. Spanish settlement—its presidios (forts), pueblos (towns) and missions—gave rise to Los Angeles, San Francisco, San Jose and other urban centers that underlie California’s standing as the nation’s most populous state (37.3 million), home to nearly one out of eight Americans.

For many, the missions lie at the very heart of the state’s cultural identity: cherished symbols of a romanticized heritage; tourist destinations; storehouses of art and archaeological artifacts; inspirational settings for writers, painters and photographers; touchstones of an architectural style synonymous with California itself; and active sites of Catholic worship (in 19 of the 21 churches). “There are few institutions in California that have become imbued with a comparable range and richness of significance,” says Tevvy Ball, author, with Julia G. Costello and the late Edna E. Kimbro, of The California Missions: History, Art, and Preservation , a lavishly illustrated volume published in 2009 by the Getty Conservation Institute.

Not long after Mexico achieved independence from Spain in 1821, the missions were secularized. “Following the gold rush in 1848 and California statehood in 1850,” Ball says, “the missions were largely forgotten and were often viewed as relics of a bygone civilization by the new American arrivals.” Gradually, by the 1870s and ’80s, the landmarks gained popularity. “The romance of the missions was spread by an assortment of boosters and writers, some of whom had a deeply genuine love of the mission heritage,” Ball adds. “And through their efforts over the next few decades, the missions became, particularly in Southern California, the iconic cornerstones of a new regional identity.” The uplifting tale of the Franciscans spreading Christian civilization to grateful primitives—or the “mission myth,” as it has come to be known—omits uncomfortable truths. Yet the power of that traditional narrative largely accounts for the missions’ survival today, Ball says.

What distinguishes mission san miguel is its stark authenticity—no romantic reinventions of history—just the real thing, much as it might have appeared generations ago. Of the 21 missions, San Miguel contains the only surviving original church interior. An extraordinary profusion of colors, materials and designs—including original Native American motifs—has remained largely intact from the time of their creation. Ornamentation is executed in a palette of pale green, blue, pink, lavender, red and yellow pigments. The richly decorated retablo , or altarpiece, includes a painted statue of the mission’s patron saint, gazing skyward at a rendering of the all-seeing eye of God, depicted as floating within a diaphanous cloud. Much of the work was designed by a celebrated Catalan artist, Esteban Munras, and is believed to have been executed by Salinan artisans who had converted to Christianity.

Unlike other missions, where original motifs were modified, painted over or covered with plaster, San Miguel benefited from a kind of benign neglect. “It was in a small rural community and didn’t have a lot of money, so it was left alone—that’s kind of the miracle of San Miguel,” says archaeologist Julia Costello. “The bad news, of course, is that it sits pretty much near an earthquake fault.” Specifically, the San Andreas fault.

On the morning of December 22, 2003, a quake registering a magnitude of 6.5 jolted California’s Central Coast, seriously damaging buildings at Mission San Miguel, including the church and the friars’ living quarters. Experts feared the cracked walls of the sanctuary could collapse, destroying its historic murals.

Overcoming these challenges has required an ongoing collaborative effort among engineers, architects, conservators, archaeologists and other specialists—backed by foundations and other groups seeking to raise more than $12 million. The top priority was seismic strengthening of the mission church, which took two years and drew on cost-effective, minimally invasive techniques pioneered by the Getty Seismic Adobe Project. Anthony Crosby, preservation architect for Mission San Miguel, describes the chief aim of seismic retrofitting in one word: ductility—“the ability of a system to move back and forth, swell and shrink, and return to where it was in the beginning.”

Since the church’s reopening in October 2009, increasing attention has focused on preserving its murals and woodwork. “Walking into the church, you really are transported back,” says wall painting conservator Leslie Rainer, who’s assisting on the project. “It’s the experience you would want to have of the early California missions, which I find lacking in some of the others.” Rainer also appreciates the countryside and the nearby town of Paso Robles, a mecca for food and wine enthusiasts. “There’s an old plaza, a historic hotel and fancy little restaurants,” she says. “Then you go up to San Miguel and you have the mission. It’s all spectacular scenery, valleys and then hills, and it’s green and beautiful at the right time of year,” late autumn into spring.

It has taken more than expert teams to revive Mission San Miguel’s fortunes. Shirley Macagni has brought in Salinan families and friends to help out, too. One day she organized volunteers to make hundreds of new adobe bricks using soil from the mission grounds. “That was a great experience for all of us,” she says. “The children really, really appreciated it, knowing that our ancestors were the ones that built the mission.” She pauses to savor the thought. “Hey, we built this. We made these bricks and we built it. And now look at it. Even the earthquake didn’t knock it down.”

Jamie Katz reports frequently on history, culture and the arts. Photographer Todd Bigelow lives in Los Angeles.

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Jamie Katz

Jamie Katz | | READ MORE

Jamie Katz is a longtime Smithsonian contributor and has held senior editorial positions at People , Vibe , Latina and the award-winning alumni magazine Columbia College Today , which he edited for many years. He was a contributing writer to LIFE: World War II: History’s Greatest Conflict in Pictures , edited by Richard B. Stolley (Bulfinch Press, 2001).

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Which Missions Are In State Parks?

There are almost 300 State Parks in California. Three of them are connected to the historic missions. In Santa Barbara County, there is La Purisima Mission. Santa Cruz County has a mission complex that includes a single adobe building that was once...

CMT Guidebook

A Journey Through California's Past and Present

In his new book, author Sandy Brown names California as the journey's star. With turn-by-turn directions for an epic 800-mile long-distance trail, the author captures a slice of California's unique landscapes, people, history, and cultural heritage..

Something Old, Something New

Mission San Miguel

A Brief History of Mission San Miguel

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A Tour of Early California Architecture from San Diego to Sonoma

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Mission San Buenaventura

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Guess Who is Walking the Trail from Sonoma to San Diego?

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The Road the Famous Fathers Trod

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La Purísima Mission State Historic Park is within the California State Parks System

Drawing by Henry Chapman Ford

Turn of the Century Drawing of the Mission San Juan Bautista

Missions Trail Story Map

Story Map from San Miguel to Ventura

Mission San Miguel

Established as number 16 out of 21, Mission San Miguel has a unique feature: its interior murals, initially painted in the 1800s by Catholic Salinan

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The Spanish missions of California represent the state’s oldest and richest architectural legacy. Established in the late eighteenth century and early nineteenth century by Franciscan missionaries, the

old mission san buenaventura basilica

All that remains of the original mission is the church and its garden. A small museum sits at the mission with displays of Chumash Indian artifacts

on the california missions trail

In his latest project, travel guide and author Sanford “Sandy” Brown is making preparations to write a guidebook for the California Missions Trail, the 815-mile walking/biking itinerary…

antique mission trail postcard

Postcards from the first half of the 20th century give us a glimpse of the past. The route shown on the postcard below has the

mission la purisima historic state park

Mission La Purísima was originally established at a site known to the Chumash people as Algsacpi and to the Spanish as the plain of Río Santa Rosa, one mile south of Lompoc. 

Drawing by Henry Chapman Ford

In the summers of 1880 and 1881, while living in Santa Barbara, California, Henry C. Ford traveled by horse and buggy to each mission. In 1893, he exhibited his mission etchings at the Chicago World’s Fair. He died in 1894, leaving behind his California mission paintings.

Missions Trail Story Map

Our interactive Story Map features six missions in the Central Coast area of California. The journey begins with Mission San Miguel and travels approximately 190 miles south to Mission Ventura.

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California Missions

California Missions Map

CLICK ON ANY OF THE MISSION NAMES FOR MORE INFORMATION.

California Missions Map

San Francisco Solano

Mission San Francisco Solano Wooden Bell Rack

Founded: July 4, 1823 The 21st California Mission

The 1840 church was restored in 1913. The restored mission complex includes the church, the padres' quarters (now a museum), and a large quadrangle .

For more information about this mission, visit our mission page where you will find lots of information whether you are a student, educator or a person looking to learn more about the mission.

San Rafael Arcángel

Side View of the Mission Chapel

Founded: December 14, 1817 The 20th California Mission

The ruins of this mission were fully removed in 1870 and a modern church was erected on the site. The small replica mission chapel you see today was built in 1949.

San Francisco de Asís

San Francisco de Asis Mission and Cathedral

Founded: October 9, 1776 The 6th California Mission

The mission's iconic church is the oldest intact building in San Francisco. Popularly called Mission Dolores, the chapel contains some of the most sophisticated religious art in the mission chain.

San José

Mission San José Sign After Restoration

Founded: June 11, 1797 The 14th California Mission

This successful, prosperous mission was destroyed in an earthquake in 1869. The Mission San Jose Church was carefully restored between 1982-1985 and is considered one of the most authentic mission structures in California.

Santa Clara de Asís

Mission Santa Clara Photograph by Jo Ga

Founded: January 12, 1777 The 8th California Mission

This was the first mission in California to honor a female saint, Saint Claire of Assisi, a 13th century Italian nun. This mission is the site of the first and oldest university in California, Santa Clara University, founded in 1851.

Mission Santa Cruz Today

Founded: August 28, 1791 The 12th California Mission

Santa Cruz is named for the Exaltation of the Holy Cross of Christianity. This mission is located on a bluff in the City of Santa Cruz, near the mouth of the San Lorenzo River.

San Juan Bautista

The San Juan Bautista Church

Founded 24, 1797 The 15th California Mission

This mission sits on the edge of the only remaining Spanish Plaza in California. Mission San Juan Bautista's historic church (built in 1812), well-landscaped grounds and setting, offer a unique opportunity to see and appreciate the California of two centuries ago.

San Carlos Borroméo de Carmelo

Mission Carmel

Founded: June 3, 1770 The 2nd California Mission

This mission is headquarters of the California missions. The stunning Mission Carmel Church was completed in 1797. The mission contains a great deal of significant art and original artifacts. Be sure to visit the Serra Memorial Cenotaph which was completed in 1924.

Nuestra Señora de la Soledad

Approaching the Soledad Mission

Founded: October 9, 1791 The 13th California Mission

This mission is also called Mission Soledad. It was abandoned for almost 100 years, then carefully restored between 1954-1962. The simple chapel and padre 's quarters, as well as the ruins of the mission's adobe walls, accurately depict what was one of the most isolated of the California missions.

San Antonio de Padua

San Antonio de Padua Statue in Front of Church

Founded: July 14, 1771 The 3rd California Mission

This mission was extensively restored between 1948 and 1952. The restored complex and grounds offer a lot for visitors to see.  The setting is much as a traveler would have experienced it two centuries ago.

San Miguel Arcángel

San Miguel Bell Tower

Founded: July 25, 1797 The 16th California Mission

This mission's historic church (completed in 1818) has rich vibrantly painted fresco murals. San Miguel's spacious grounds with ancient gateways and dilapidated adobe walls make this one of the most authentic-looking of the California missions.

San Luis Obispo de Tolosa

San Luis Obispo View of Mission

Founded: September 1, 1772 The 5th California Mission

The mission church was built in 1792. The former convento (now a museum) has a distinctive front colonnade. The museum has a special room focused on the Chumash Indians. A large modern plaza in front of the mission is a popular site for community events.

La Purísima Concepción

Panoramic View of La Purísima

Founded: December 8, 1787 The 11th California Mission

This mission is the most completely restored California mission, with over twenty buildings. This is the only mission that is a "living museum" with docents in period costume walking the grounds and live animals in a mission corral. La Purísima is now a California State Historic Park.

Santa Inés Virgen y Mártir

Santa Inés Today

Founded: September 17, 1804 The 19th California Mission

Also known as Santa Inés, this mission was named after Saint Agnes of Rome, a thirteen year-old Roman girl martyred in A.D. 304. This mission was never totally abandoned after secularization .

Santa Bárbara

Santa Bárbara Mission in Early Morning

Founded: December 4, 1786 The 10th California Mission

This is the only mission continuously operated by the Franciscans since its founding. This major mission has a distinctive church with a Neoclassical façade, a beautiful Morrish fountain, well-tended gardens, and a large museum. The only restored California Presidio is located in downtown Santa Bárbara.

San Buenaventura

San Buenaventura Mission Grotto and Garden

Founded: March 31, 1782 The 9th California Mission

San Buenaventura became a parish church after it was secularized in 1836. The high altar and its reredos date to 1818. This mission has a well-landscaped garden, informative displays, and a small but inviting museum.

San Fernando Rey de España

A Contemporary View of the Convent Arches

Founded: September 8, 1797 The 17th California Mission

This mission is organized around a large quadrangle, with a simple adobe church located in one corner. A convento (the padre's quarters and a guest house) branches off the quadrangle. The convento has a stunning colonnade with 19 arches.

San Gabriel Arcángel

Mission San Gabriel Arcángel Side View Late Afternoon

Founded: September 8, 1771 The 4th California Mission

The unique San Gabriel church features a Moorish "fortress-like" appearance. The mission has a full set of the Stations of the Cross painted by mission neophytes, and a large number of artifacts and historic items on display on the grounds.

San Juan Capistrano

San Juan Capistrano Courtyard at Back of Mission

Founded: November 1, 1776 The 7th California Mission

This mission, designated the "Jewel of the Missions", contains picturesque ruins, a distinctive bell wall, and beautifully landscaped grounds. It is a popular destination known for its many special events, particularly "The Return of the Swallows".

San Luis Rey de Francia

Mission San Luis Rey Church

Founded: June 13, 1798 The 18th California Mission

This mission quickly became the most prosperous of the California missions. San Luis Rey's stately church and long corridor with 32 Roman arches spanning the front of the convento has been carefully restored. The mission has a modern museum and many unique attractions.

San Diego de Alcalá

Mission San Diego Today

Founded: July 16, 1769 The 1st California Mission

Mission San Diego's church (rebuilt in 1931) has a captivating 46-foot campanaro (bell wall) you won't forget. This mission has inviting grounds, informative displays, and a rich history.

Enjoy OC

California Missions

Mission San Juan Capistrano is one of the most popular historic sites in Orange County. It is visited by more than 300,000 people annually, including thousands of 4th grade students studying the Missions as part of California’s history. Want to know more about the rest of the California missions? Here’s a look at the 21 Spanish Missions on the California Mission Trail.

Download the California Missions Map | JPG Format | PDF Format

California Missions

List of Missions in the Order Founded

1. 1769 – Mission San Diego de Alcalá 2. 1770 – Mission San Carlos Borromeo de Carmelo 3. 1771 – Mission San Antonio de Padua 4. 1771 – Mission San Gabriel 5. 1772 – Mission San Luis Obispo de Tolosa 6. 1776 – Mission San Francisco de Asís (Mission Dolores) 7. 1776 – Mission San Juan Capistrano 8. 1777 – Mission Santa Clara de Asís 9. 1782 – Mission San Buenaventura 10. 1786 – Mission Santa Barbara 11. 1787 – Mission La Purísima Concepción 12. 1791 – Mission Santa Cruz 13. 1791 – Mission Nuestra Señora de la Soledad 14. 1797 – Mission San José 15. 1797 – Mission San Juan Bautista 16. 1797 – Mission San Miguel Arcángel 17. 1797 – Mission San Fernando Rey de España 18. 1798 – Mission San Luis Rey de Francia 19. 1804 – Mission Santa Inés 20. 1817 – Mission San Rafael Arcángel 21. 1823 – Mission San Francisco Solano

Traveling the California Mission Trail from south to north from San Diego to Sonoma the missions include San Diego de Alcala, San Luis Rey de Francia, San Juan Capistrano, San Gabriel Arcangel, San Fernando Rey de Espana, San Buenaventura, Santa Barbara, Santa Ines, La Purisima Conception, San Luis Obispo de Tolosa, San Miguel Arcangel, San Antonio de Padua, Nuestra Senora de la Soledad, San Carlos Borromeo de Carmelo, San Juan Bautista, Santa Clara de Asis, San Jose, San Francisco de Asis, Mission Dolores, San Rafael Arcangel, San Francisco Solano.

San Diego de Alcala

The 1st Mission – Founded July 16, 1769 10818 San Diego Mission Road, San Diego, CA

Mission San Diego de Alcala was originally founded by Junipero Serra on Presidio Hill and consisted of grass huts and brush covered enramadas. The mission relocated about five and a half miles inland in 1774 at the village of Nipaguay.

The structure we see today features a 46-foot tall bell wall with five bells. The largest bell (Mater Dolorsa) weighs 1,200 pounds. The original church was built in in 1813, but after years of neglect and deterioration the mission and church were rebuilt and fully restored in 1931.

Population at the mission peaked between 1797 and 1831 with an average of 1,500 people. The highest recorded population was 1,829 people in 1824.

Livestock were common on the mission grounds, and by 1822 there were over 30,000 animals here including over 9,000 cattle and 19,000 sheep. Agriculturally, the mission produced wheat, barley, corn, beans, peas, lentils, garbanzos, and habas.

A dam was built along the San Diego River to supply water to the mission, becoming the first major irrigation system in California. You can explore the remains of the dam in Mission Trails Regional Park.

Today, the mission is open for tours, mass, and special events.

San Carlos Borromeo de Carmelo

The 2nd Mission – Founded June 30, 1770 3080 Rio Road, Carmel, CA

Mission San Carlos Borromeo de Carmelo, also called Mission Carmel, was founded by Father Junipero Serra. He is buried at this mission beneath the floor of the sanctuary.

This mission was originally established in Monterey at the Presidio but was relocated to the Carmel Valley in 1771, and the current church was completed in 1797. By the time restoration began on this mission in 1932, it had largely deteriorated and only the church ruins remained. Extensive excavation of the foundation was required to determine the mission layout, and restoration continued for nearly 5 decades.

Population at this mission peaked in 1795 with 876 people. Cattle and sheep were the most common livestock, with approximately 10,000 head in peak years.

Mission Carmel contains art and original artifacts, and a large wooden cross recreated on the site where a cross erected by Father Serra was discovered during restoration. The Carmel Mission Orchard House, dating back to 1774, is one of the oldest residential dwellings in California. The original fountain can be seen in the rear courtyard.

Today, visitors to the mission can attend mass or take informational and educational tours.

San Antonio de Padua

The 3rd Mission – Founded July 14, 1771 17 Mission Road, Jolon, CA (Fort Hunter-Liggett Reservation)

Located in the Santa Lucia Mountains, the oak studded valley is largely unspoiled, remaining much like it was when the mission was established. The church here was completed in 1813, and the mission was fully restored between 1903 and 1908. William Randolph Hearst and the Franciscans contributed to additional mission restoration between 1948 and 1952.

Mission population peaked in 1806 at 1,217 people and in 1828, the mission had 20,118 animals, primarily cattle and sheep. The mission was largely self sufficient, agriculturally, producing wheat, barley, corn, beans, and peas.

The first Christian wedding in California took place here in 1773 and a mural on the mission wall celebrates this event. There are many historic artifacts on the mission grounds and mission-era structures including the pits for tanning cattle hides and the original millrace which brought water to the mission. There are also two figureheads from colonial frigates on display here that were brought to the mission by sailors.

Today, visitors can attend weekly mass and a year-round retreat center is open to all denominations. In addition to educational tours, visitors can attend special events here like Mission Days and an annual Fiesta.

San Gabriel Arcangel

The 4th Mission – Founded September 8, 1771 427 S Junipero Serra Drive, San Gabriel, CA

The San Gabriel Mission is located approximately nine miles east of downtown Los Angeles . Originally established in the Montebello Hills, the mission moved to its current site in 1775. The mission featured extensive vineyards, orchards, and gardens. Its vineyard was the largest in Spanish California, and the vines from this location is the source of many of the vines planted at other missions.

The church at this mission was completed in 1805 and was uniquely designed in a fortress-style with capped buttresses and long narrow windows to resemble a cathedral in Cordoba, Spain. The bell wall here contains six bells, the oldest cast in Mexico City in 1795 and the largest dating back to 1830 and weighing over one ton.

The mission began with only 128 animals in 1772, and peaked in 1829 with over 40,000, primarily sheep and cattle. It was one of the most productive agricultural missions, harvesting significant amounts of wheat, barley, corn, beans, peas, lentils, and garbanzos.

Visitors can attend mass here or take educational and informational tours. There are also special events hosted here throughout the year including Mission History Days, reenactments, history fair, and an annual Fiesta.

San Luis Obispo de Tolosa

The 5th Mission – Founded September 1, 1772 751 Palm Street, San Luis Obispo, CA

Mission San Luis Obispo sits on its original site and was the first mission built in the land of the Chumash people. It was built in a spacious valley with a nearby stream. Today, the mission is in the heart of Downtown San Luis Obispo.

The church at Mission San Luis Obispo was completed in 1794, and the vestibule was added in 1820. There are three bells on the façade of the church. The L-shaped church here is the only one of its kind among the California Missions. Also distinctive to this mission is the front colonnade (currently the museum and gift shop) which consists of 11 round columns on square pedestals.

Notably, in 1776 an attack with an arrow with a burning wick was fired into the thatched roof of the mission causing a fire that severely damaged several buildings. They began experimenting with making tile, and by 1790, most missions had tile roofs added to their structures, making them less vulnerable to attacks.

The highest recorded population at Mission San Luis Obispo was 832 in 1804, and they had a stable herd of livestock with approximately 8,000 sheep and cattle in 1832. The mission may have had a small population, but it was the 4th highest producer of wheat. They also produced barley, corn, beans, peas, and lentils, and there were grape arbors and a lush garden.

Visitors can attend mass here as well as educational and informational tours. There are also a handful of events here held throughout the year hosted by the parish and the city.

San Francisco de Asis

The 6th Mission – Founded October 9, 1776 3321 16th Street, San Francisco, CA

Located just a half mile from its original site, San Francisco de Asis, also known as Mission Dolores, is situated near San Francisco Bay. Native Americans common to the area included the Ohlone, Miwok, and Patwin tribes.

The church at Mission Dolores was dedicated in 1791 and is the oldest intact building in San Francisco – an impressive feat considering the earthquakes, fires, and other disasters that have hit the city. It was constructed with 36,000 adobe bricks. The chapel was restored and retrofitted in 1990 and 1994. There are three original bells at this mission dedicated to San Francisco, San Jose, and San Martin. They hang from rawhide thongs above the entranceway and are still in use today.

There is a mass grave of the mission Indians that were buried here called the Grotto of Our Lady of Lourdes Shrine, and the mission cemetery, although smaller than the original plot, is now a quiet oasis with gravestones that tell stories of the city and the life of the mission. More than 5,000 Native Americans and Mission inhabitants are buried here. Take a moment to visit the statue of Father Junipero Serra in the cemetery. It was placed in 1918 and is said to be one of the best statues of the mission’s founder.

Population at this mission was relatively low, with peak population reaching 1,251 in 1820. Many Native Americans left the mission as it was plagued by disease. Livestock was also irregular, peaking at just over 20,000 animals around 1814, and dropping to under 10,000 in 1834. Agricultural production here was mediocre. They harvested the same crops as the other missions, but on a much lower level of productivity.

Visitors to Mission Dolores can attend regular mass hours. Tours and field trips are also available here.

San Juan Capistrano

The 7th Mission – Founded November 1, 1776 26801 Ortega Highway, San Juan Capistrano, CA

Mission San Juan Capistrano, also known as the Jewel of the Missions, is located within sight of the Pacific Ocean, and the town was developed around the mission. The nearby Los Rios Neighborhood is the oldest neighborhood in California. Native Americans common to the area included Takic speakers of the Acjachemen villages.

A small church was built on this site in 1778, but it was replaced by the Serra Chapel in 1782. This is the last remaining chapel that Father Serra held mass in. Between 1797 and 1806, the Great Stone Church was constructed to accommodate the growing population here. An earthquake in 1812 destroyed the church and killed 40 people inside.

There are four bells here, with two of them dating back to 1796, the others 1804. The two largest bells were recast and and the originals rehung in what remains of the Great Stone Church on the impressive freestanding Bell Wall. Today, you can witness a ringing of the bells ceremony during one of their special events.

Mission San Juan Capistrano had an average population, peaking at 1,361 in 1812. They had a variety of livestock including cattle, sheep, goats, pigs, horses, and a mule. In 1819, they had over 31,000 animals. Agricultural production here was good and crops of wheat, barley, corn, beans, peas, lentils, and garbanzos were consistently harvested.

Visitors to Mission San Juan Capistrano can attend regular masses or take one of the many educational and informational tours available. The mission also hosts several community events throughout the year including Field of Honor , Capistrano Lights, Music Under the Stars, the Swallows Day Parade ending spot and St. Joseph’s Day.

Mission San Juan Capistrano

Santa Clara de Asis

The 8th Mission – Founded January 12, 1777 500 E. Camino Real, Santa Clara, CA

Mission Santa Clara is located near the southern end of the San Francisco Bay. The mission was destroyed and rebuilt six times. Native Americans common to the area included the Ohlone, Miwok, Tamyen, and Yokuts. This mission is notably the first to honor a female saint, Saint Clare of Assisi.

The church that stands today is a recreation of the 1825 church that was destroyed by a fire in 1926. There are four bells hanging here – one is an original donated by King Carlos IV of Spain in 1798. A bell donated by King Alphonse XIII of Spain in 1929 to replace one of the bells lost in the fire, is still in use today. The bells at Mission Santa Clara have rung every evening since 1798. Near the entrance, you can see a large cross that was erected in 1777.

An interesting thing to note about Mission Santa Clara is that it’s the site of the first college and oldest university in California, Santa Clara University, founded in 1851. Other things to see here include a well-preserved part of the original adobe wall and an Altar of Remembrance to honor those who’ve died.

Population at Mission Santa Clara peaked in 1795 at 1,514. This mission had the second largest livestock herd with over 20,000 animals including cattle, sheep, pigs, horses, and mules. They harvested primarily grain and produce at this mission.

Visitors to Mission Santa Clara can attend mass, take an informational or educational tour, or attend a university or community event held here.

San Buenaventura

The 9th Mission – Founded March 31, 1782 211 East Main Street, Ventura, CA

Mission San Buenaventura is located on its original site, and unlike some other missions, was never abandoned or closed. It is built on land of the Chumash people near an Indian village of Mitsquanaqa’n, and neophytes here were known as Venturenos.

The church that stands today is the second on the site. The first was destroyed in 1792 by a fire. The current structure was dedicated in 1809 and reconstructed in 1816 with walls that are 6 feet thick at the base. It was restored in 1957. A three tiered bell tower contains five bells that were originally borrowed from Mission Santa Barbara. The two oldest bells date back to 1781 and the newest was cast in Paris in 1956.

Population at San Buenaventura peaked in 1816 at 1,328. Fed by an aqueduct that directed water to the mission from the Ventura River, they produced considerable amounts of wheat, barley, corn, beans, peas, lentils, garbanzos, and habas.

Some of the highlights of this mission include the gardens and grotto, a 400-year old bulto in the Shrine of the Crucifixion, and a mission-era olive press.

Visitors to Mission San Buenaventura can attend mass, take an educational tour, or attend one of the special events here including the May Pilgrimage Process and the San Buenaventura Feast Day.

Santa Barbara

The 10th Mission – Founded December 4, 1786 2201 Laguna Street, Santa Barbara, CA

Mission Santa Barbara was built on a hill overlooking the ocean on the land of the Chumash people at the Native site of Xana’yan. Neophytes here were called Barbareno and Canalenos.

The original church was built in 1820. A portion of the church collapsed and was rebuilt in 1833. The church was damaged in an earthquake in 1925 and underwent extensive restoration. The church features two towers with a total of six bells.

Population at Mission Santa Barbara peaked in 1803 with 1,792 people. Their livestock herd was sizeable with a peak of nearly 14,000 animals in 1821, mostly cattle and sheep. Agriculturally, Santa Barbara was relatively productive, harvesting significant amounts of wheat, barley, corn, beans, peas, lentils, garbanzos, and habas. The mission also featured fruit trees and two vineyards.

Santa Barbara is the only mission that has been continuously operated by the Franciscans. Also notable, Juana Maria, the Lone Woman of San Nicholas Island from Scott O’Dell’s book Island of the Blue Dolphins was buried in the cemetery here in 1853.

Visitors to Mission Santa Barbara can attend mass, take an educational tour, visit the large 10-room museum, or attend one of the many events hosted here.

La Purisima Concepcion

The 11th Mission – Founded December 8, 1787 2295 Purisima Road, Lompoc, CA

La Purisima Concepcion is located on the edge of Lompoc, originally established on the land of Chumash people at the Village of Algsacupi. Common Native Americans here were known as Purismeno, Ineseno, Island Chumash, and Yokuts.

The church here has been restored and the mission is now a State Historic Park . It is now a living history museum with docents dressed in period clothing walking the grounds and live animals in the mission corral – the only mission to currently have live animals. There is an active blacksmith shop and special activities to offer educational experiences.

Mission La Purisima is the most extensively restored of all the missions. The original mission was laid out in the traditional quadrangle format, but the newly rebuilt mission is built in a linear form. This is the only mission in this format.

Population here averaged around 1,000 people and peaked in 1804 at 1,520. There were approximately 22,000 head of livestock here including cattle, sheep, goats, pigs, horses, and mules. Agriculturally, this was the third largest producer of the missions, harvesting significant amounts of wheat, barley, corn, beans, peas, lentils, garbanzos, and habas. There were also two large vineyards.

A significant event at this mission is the 1924 neophyte revolt. The mission was captured by rebels and held for a month. Sixteen Native Americans and one soldier were killed and seven Indians were condemned to death.

This location is not an active church so visitors will not be able to attend mass, rather they can enjoy the living history elements and attend one of the many special events hosted here including reenactments.

The 12th Mission – Founded August 28, 1791 126 High Street, Santa Cruz, CA

Mission Santa Cruz moved to its current location near the San Lorenzo River in 1793. It sits on the native site of Uypi, where common Native Americans included the Awaswas, Costanoans, and Yokuts.

The original church here was destroyed by an earthquake and it was replaced several times with new structures. The current mission chapel, built in 1931, is a one-third scale replica of the 1795 church. None of the original bells survived when the bell tower collapsed in 1840. The current bell is a 20th century replica.

Natural disasters like earthquakes and the close proximity to Branciforte (a pueblo founded with prison convicts from Guadalajara) limited the success of Mission Santa Cruz. Population beaked at just over 500 in 1796. Small amounts of grain and produce were harvested here, and there was a small her of less than 10,000 animals.

There are very few remaining original artifacts at the mission due to damage caused by the earthquakes and looting by the prisoners of Branciforte in 1818. However, nearby at the Santa Cruz Mission State Historic Park, you can see California’s only original neophyte housing. Also, in the small garden behind the mission, you can find the original hand-carved baptismal font.

Visitors here can attend mass at the mission’s Parish of the Holy Cross.

Nuestra Senora de la Soledad

The 13th Mission – Founded October 9, 1791 36641 Fort Romie Road, Soledad, CA

Mission Soledad is located in the Salinas River Valley 30 miles southeast of Monterey. Common Native Americans associated with this mission include the Chalon, Esselen, Yokuts, and Salinan. It is believed that the mission site is on an Esselen Village known as Chuttusgelis.

The original church was destroyed in 1824 by floods that plagued the area. A new chapel was built in 1932 and was restored in 1954. The bell, now hanging inside, is the original mission bell, cast in 1794 in Mexico City, and the original Stations Of The Cross oil paintings are located in the sanctuary.

Population at Mission Soledad was low, peaking at 687 in 1804. There were over 10,000 animals at the mission’s peak, and agriculturally, production was pretty low here, ranking in the lowest third of all the missions. Their primary crops were wheat, barley, corn, beans, and peas.

The Soledad Mission was abandoned for nearly 100 years. Restoration began in 1954. Visitors can see ruins of the old adobe mission walls and the Chapel and Padre’s wing sits in an actively farmed agricultural field.

Visitors can attend mass on select days at Mission Soledad, take a self-guided tour, or attend one of several special events held throughout the year like arts and crafts shows and concerts.

The 14th Mission – Founded June 11, 1797 43300 Mission Blvd, Fremont, CA

Mission San Jose is also sometimes called The Mission of the Most Glorious Patriarch Saint Joseph. It was built on the land of the Costanoan Ohlone People. Other common Native Americans here included Miwok, Patwin, and Northern Valley Yokuts.

The mission was the second most prosperous, but was destroyed in an earthquake in 1868. The church was restored between 1982 and 1985 and includes a gift shop and museum in the former padres quarters with maps, displays, and artifacts. Considered one of the most authentic mission structures in the state and features four of the original bells. The San Jose Mission was also well known for Fr. Narciso Duran’s orchestra and choir. The church remains open for mass, weddings, and baptisms.

The mission’s population was at its peak in 1831 with over 1,800 residents. This agricultural powerhouse had large herds of livestock with 12,000 cattle, 11,000 sheep, and 1,100 horses. The mission also produced vegetables, beans, corn, and barley, and had olive and fruit tree orchards and a vineyard.

Visitors here can attend mass, take an informational tour, or attend one of the many special events held here throughout the year.

San Juan Bautista

The 15th Mission – Founded June 24, 1797 406 Second Street, San Juan Bautista, CA 95045

Old Mission San Juan Bautista is also sometimes called The Mission of the Glorious Precursor of Jesus Christ, Our Lord San Juan Bautista. The Mission was established on the village of Popeloutchom, land of the Mutsun tribe of the Coastanoan people.

Located at the intersection of El Camino Real and El Camino Viejo, the mission sits near the only remaining Spanish Plaza in California. San Juan Bautista has been well restored, and the 12-block Spanish Plaza surrounding the mission contains 30 historic buildings. The original church was built without a bell tower and two bells were hung from a wooden rack. During the restoration in 1976, a companario was added with three bell openings. One of the original bells still hangs there today.

A few fun facts about San Juan Bautista is that this church acquired the largest collection of apostolate paintings of the mission chain, and it was the setting for the 1957 film Vertigo . This mission was also known for the Indian Boys Choir led by Fr. Estevan Tapis.

Population at the mission peaked in 1823 at just over 1,200. The mission produced over 90,000 bushels of peas, corn, beans, wheat, and barley, and there was a reasonable herd of livestock including cattle, sheep, swine, horses, and mules. Cattle were slaughtered on a weekly basis to provide food for the mission community. There were also orchards, gardens, and vineyards at this mission.

Mission San Juan Bautista hosts an annual Midwinter Solstice Illumination of the main altar and the public is invited to attend. This location has been an active Roman Catholic church since 1797 and the current church has been used continuously since 1812. This is a popular location for weddings. Visitors to San Juan Bautista can attend regular and special masses, or enjoy tours and field trips to explore the grounds and gardens and learn about the mission’s history and the people who lived there, including the Native people.

San Miguel Arcangel

The 16th Mission – Founded July 25, 1797 775 Mission Street, San Miguel, CA 93451

Mission San Miguel Arcangel, or Mission San Miguel, was founded by Father Fermin Francisco de Lasuen and built on the land of the Salinan people about half way between Los Angeles and San Francisco.

The current church was completed in 1818, and a unique feature of this mission is the colonnade with 12 differently sized arches. There are colorful murals painted on the interior of the church and are considered the most authentic and best preserved of all the missions.

A 2003 earthquake damaged the mission and it was closed until 2009 after it was fully restored. There was no traditional bell tower at Mission San Miguel, and bells were hung here from a wooden beam in an archway. A small bell rack was added in the early 1900s, and a full bell tower was built later. The bells were recast from broken bells donated by other missions. A second bell tower was added in the 1950s, but these bells are not real. They are made from cement.

In 1845, some of the mission buildings were sold and used as a store, dance hall, offices, and a saloon. One of the largest original mission era cemeteries is here on the east side of the church and over 2,000 Indians were buried here. There is also an impressive collection of artifacts in the mission museum.

At its peak in 1814, the population at San Miguel was just under 1,100. There was a large herd of livestock here at its peak, with over 24,000 animals in 1821. San Miguel also produced significant amounts of wheat, barley, corn, beans, and peas, and there were fruit orchards on the mission grounds.

Visitors to San Miguel can attend mass, the annual parish fiesta, participate in special events held here, or tour the grounds to see one of the most scenic California Missions.

Mission San Miguel

San Fernando Rey de Espana

The 17th Mission – Founded September 8, 1797 15151 San Fernando Mission Boulevard, Mission Hills, CA 91345

The San Fernando Mission, also known as the Mission Of Saint Ferdinand, King of Spain, was founded by Father Fermin Francisco de Lasuen and is located in the San Fernando Valley. The mission was established on the native site of Achooykomenga/Pasheeknga.

The highlight of this mission is the Long Building, or the Convento, which features a colonnade with 19 arches and measures 243 feet in length, which was built in 1822. The church you see today is a replica of the third church that was originally built in 1806, but destroyed in 1971 by an earthquake. A single bell hangs in the church here. While the church itself is simple, the altar, reredos, and pulpit are quite elaborate, carved from walnut, and date back to 1687.

Gold was discovered nearby in 1842, but lasted only about 4 years, and for many years following, treasure hunters dug up mission walls in search of gold, thinking that the padres had hidden it.

At its peak, the mission had a population of over 1,000, and in 1819, there were nearly 13,000 cattle and an average of 5,000 sheep. San Fernando harvested more than 150,000 bushels of wheat, barley, corn, beans, peas, garbanzos, and habas. There were also over 30,000 grapevines and more than 1,000 fruit trees.

Catholic weddings are conducted here every day except for Sunday, and the grounds are open for visitors daily.

San Luis Rey de Francia

The 18th Mission – Founded June 13, 1798 4050 Mission Avenue, San Luis Rey, CA 92068

Mission San Luis Rey de Francia was founded approximately five miles from Oceanside on a hill overlooking the valley of the village of Tacayme. The mission was joined by the Luisenos, or the Payomkowishum, and took up approximately six acres.

The church was built in 1815 and is the last surviving church that was laid out in cruciform design. Over the sanctuary, there is a cupola with 144 panes of glass on a wooden dome. This was added in 1829. There is one bell tower here with four bells, and an original hand-hammered Baptismal Font that can be seen in the museum. The many Roman arches along the front of the convento is one of San Luis Rey’s distinguishing features and have been fully restored.

The site of Mission San Luis Rey was used in the filming of episodes of Walt Disney’s 1950’s TV series, Zorro, the first pepper tree in California was planted here, and bullfights were held here in the quadrangle during the mission era.

San Luis Rey was the most prosperous of all the missions up to this point, with a population of nearly 3,000 in 1825. At the peak, there more than 57,000 head of livestock and harvesting over 400,000 bushels of beans, barley, corn, and grains.

Santa Ines Virgen y Martir

The 19th Mission – Founded September 17, 1804 1760 Mission Drive, Solvang, CA 93463

Mission Santa Ines Virgen y Martir was established in the Santa Inez Valley on the land of the Chumash and first populated by people from Santa Barbara and Purisima. It remains on its original site near the town of Solvang – an area founded in 1911 by the Danish.

The church that stands on-site today dates back to 1817, and was repainted in 1825. The original bell wall collapsed in 1911 and was rebuilt with five bells, but was restored to its original design in 1947. Three of the missions bells from 1804, 1808, and 1818 are currently on display in the museum. Also on display is a collection of vestments worn by Father Serra and others, some dating back to the 17th century.

The mission site also featured a grist mill and a fulling mill that date back to 1820 and 1821. These remains are currently unavailable to the public for viewing, but the California State Parks department is planning to develop a new state park dedicated to the site.

In 1824, violence against a neophyte by a soldier at the mission triggered the largest Indian uprising of the mission era here.

After the mission era and secularization, the mission site became California’s first seminary, Our Lady of Refuge in 1844.

Santa Ines was only in use during the mission era for about 30 years and the population peaked at under 800. The mission had a decent herd with over 9,000 head, and had a surprisingly high production of wheat.

San Rafael Arcangel

The 20th Mission – Founded December 14, 1817 1104 5th Avenue, San Rafael, CA 94901

San Rafael Arcangel was originally built as a sub-mission or hospital asistencia, just 15 miles north of San Francisco. It gained full mission status in 1822, and was only in operation for 12 years during the mission era.

The ruins of the mission were completely removed in 1870 and a replica chapel was built on the site in 1919. The original structure measured only 87 feet in length and 42 feet wide, with rooms for a hospital, storage area, chapel, and padre’s quarters. San Rafael was damaged badly during an Indian attack in 1828, but loyals saved the mission padre’s life by hiding him in nearby marshes.

Although the original mission structure never had a bell tower, there are three original mission bells on display in the museum. Three replica bells hang on a bell rack near the entrance to the chapel.

Later, San Rafael became California’s first sanitarium, and in 1846, John C. Fremont used the mission as headquarters during the Mexican-American War. There was also a significant boat-building operation here.

San Rafael peaked in population in 1826 with just over 1,000 people. Livestock collections were small and agricultural output was low. However, there were vineyards and orchards here that were known for their excellent pears.

San Francisco Solano

The 21st Mission – Founded July 4, 1823 114 East Spain Street, Sonoma, CA 95476

Mission San Francisco Solano, also known as Mission Sonoma, is located in the middle of Sonoma about 40 miles north of San Francisco at the village of Huchi. Indians who joined the mission belonged to the Coast Miwok, Pomo, Suisunes, Wappo, and Patwin tribes. This mission was only in operation for 11 years.

The Mission today is part of Sonoma State Historic Park and is no longer an active Catholic church. The buildings here were rebuilt between 1911 and 1913, and restored in 1943-1944. The Bear Flag Revolt took place in Sonoma in 1816, across from the Mission, and a monument to commemorate the event is located nearby.

The church here is small, measuring 105-feet by 22-feet, and an original 1829 bell hangs on a wooden frame outside the mission. The padre’s quarters is now a museum where you can find several artifacts and exhibits, and mission era paintings can be viewed in the dining room.

Population at San Francisco Solano peaked at just under 1000. They had a reasonable herd of livestock with over 5,000 head, although this was the smallest herd of all the missions. Agricultural production was limited due to the lack of time to establish productive crops. There was a large vineyard here though.

San Francisco Solano was originally established without approval, and marks the end of California’s Mission Trail.

Frequently Asked Questions

How many missions are there in California? There are 21 missions in California that were established between 1769 and 1833. All 21 are still standing.

Who built the California missions? The California missions were built by Spanish Franciscan friars, led by Father Junípero Serra with support from Spanish military forces and Native American labor.

Why did the Spanish establish missions in California? The Spanish established missions in California to spread Christianity, exert political control, facilitate economic development, secure territory and expand their Spanish influence in the region.

Can you visit the California missions? All 21 of the original missions are open to visitors and feature tours, a gift shop and museum, and most of them hold mass on Sundays.

Is there a mission in Mission Viejo? Despite the name, Mission Viejo does not have an actual mission. However, it is believed that Spanish explorers made efforts to establish one in the area. When Mission San Juan Capistrano was constructed, the former mission site became known as Mision Vieja, which translates to “Old Mission” in Spanish.

Historic Sites In Orange County

Heidi Deal is the author of the Newcomers Handbook to Living In Los Angeles & Orange County, and a children’s book author specializing in history and human rights.

Amateur Traveler

Missions of California (with Map) – All 21 California Missions from South to North

I grew up in California where every 4th-grade student needs to learn about California history and needed, when I was a kid, to make a model of one of the missions of California. For those of you who didn’t here is a guide to the 21 missions that the Spanish built in what is now California.

Mission San Juan Bautista

Mission San Juan Bautista

Missions of California with Map - All 21 California Missions from South to North #california #missions #history #spanish #father-serra #places #map

California Mission History

Missions of california map, mission san diego de alcala – san diego, mission san luis rey de francia – san luis rey, mission san juan capistrano – san juan capistrano, mission san gabriel arcangel – san gabriel, mission san fernando rey de espana – mission hills, mission basilica san buenaventura – ventura, mission santa barbara – santa barbara, mission santa inã©s – solvang, mission la purisima conception – lompoc, mission san luis obispo de tolosa – san luis obispo, mission san miguel arcangel – san miguel, mission san antonio de padua – jolon, mission nuestra senora de la soledad – soledad, mission san carlos borromeo de carmelo – carmel, mission san juan bautista – san juan bautista, mission santa cruz – santa cruz, mission santa clara de asis – santa clara, mission san jose – fremont, mission san francisco de asis, mission dolores – san francisco, mission san rafael arcangel – san rafael, mission san francisco solano – sonoma.

When the Spanish wanted to settle what is now the state of California they sent soldiers and priests. The soldiers built forts or presidios in the strategic locations of San Diego , Santa Barbara , Monterey , and San Francisco. The priests built a series of missions that stretch from what is now the border with Mexico to Sonoma. The missions were part of a longer chain of missions that started in Baja California with the founding of the mission in Loreto, Mexico by Father Juan María Salvatierra in 1697. That line of missions extended into Alta California in 1769 led by Franciscan Father (now Saint) Junípero Serra.

These missions were self-sufficient communities where the friars and sometimes thousands of native converts (neophytes) would cultivate the land. Some of these missions became the nucleus around which California cities like Los Angeles , Santa Clara, San Francisco, or Sonoma would build. Some of these missions were ignored by later town planners. Some like Mission Soledad will be found in the middle of a farmer’s field. All of California’s missions were closed when Mexico ruled California. Between 1834 and 1836 all of California’s missions were closed and the mission fathers were evicted. While the idea was to return much of the land to the native people, in reality, it created a series of rich ranch owners who bought or were given the land.

These days most of the missions are again Roman Catholic parishes. Some are state parks. All of the missions were in ruin at one time but have since been restored or reconstructed.

Mission San Diego de Alcala

Founded : July 16, 1769 Order of creation : 1st mission Status : Roman Catholic church Location : 10818 San Diego Mission Rd., San Diego

Landmarks in California were sometimes named by the Spanish after the saint whose feast day was closest to the day of discovery. San Diego was originally named San Miguel when the explorer Juan Rodríguez Cabrillo saw it in 1542 near the feast day of Saint Michael the Archangel, but when the explorer Sebastian Viscaino returned to the bay in 1602 it was closer to the feast day of Saint Didacus of Alcalá and so it was renamed, San Diego. Saint Didacus was a Franciscan missionary who brought Christianity to the Canary Islands in the 1400s. So when the Franciscan Friars Serra, Parron, and Palou founded the first church in what would become California, they named it, as it turns out, for one of their missionary predecessors.

This is not the original site of the mission. It was founded on an area overlooking the harbor but a lack of freshwater caused the fathers to move the mission inland 5 years after it was founded. 5 different parties were dispatched from Mexico to found this mission. 3 came by ship and 2 by land. Of the 219 colonists in the first 4 groups, near half of them died on the way or shortly after arriving. The biggest killer was scurvy. Father Serra came with the 2nd land party. He was 56 years old at the time, 5′ 2″ tall, 120 pounds and walked with a limp. It was perhaps not the most auspicious start.

The mission (then in ruins) was returned to the Roman Catholic church on May 23, 1862, by President Lincoln.

Notable : This mission is not only the oldest mission, and therefore the oldest surviving structure in the state, but also has the first historic cemetery. The mission also has a garden with trees that date back to the time of the early missionaries.

Mission San Luis Rey de Francia, Oceanside, California

Founded : June 13, 1798 Order of creation : 18th mission Status : Roman Catholic church, National Historic Landmark Location : 4050 Mission Ave., San Luis Rey

This mission was named for Saint and King of France Louis IX. Louis IX led the 7th and 8th crusades in the 1200s and died while on the 8th crusade. It is one of two mission named for a king and was also one of the largest and most prosperous, giving San Luis Rey de Francia the moniker the “King of the Missions”. It was founded by fathers Antonio Peyrí and José Faura. The mission was occupied by the U.S. Army for sometime before it was returned to the church in 1865. But then the mission sat derelict for some years before it was restored in 1892. The current church which seats 1000 people was the 3rd one constructed at the mission and was built in 1815. There is also a large (6 acre) central square in the mission complex.

Notable : The gardens contain the first pepper tree planted in California which was transported from Peru.

Mission San Juan Capistrano, CA 9-17

Founded : November 1, 1776 Order of creation : 7th mission Status : Non-Profit Location : Ortega Hwy. at Camino Capistrano, San Juan Capistrano

This mission is the start of what became Orange County California. In November of 1775, the first mission was destroyed by a Kumeyaay war party only a month after it was founded.

It was founded for good by Father Serra in 1776, but that was not the end of its ill-fortune.  A great stone church was finished in 1806 which was considered the Jewel in the Crown of the California Missions. It was destroyed only 6 years later in 1812 by an earthquake. The earthquake killed 40 worshippers and a couple of bell-ringers.

It is named for the Italian warrior saint John of Capistrano who led a crusade against the Ottoman Empire at the siege of Belgrade in 1456 when he was 70 years old.

The mission was given back to the Roman Catholic Church by Lincoln in 1865 and the church still owns the land but the mission is run by a non-profit organization.

Notable : The mission is known for the annual migration of swallows from Mexico and Central America on March 19th. Urbanization has significantly decreased the number of swallows which used to number 6,000 at a time. In 2012, the mission started a project to attract the swallows back which includes bird calls and a stationary nest wall.

Notable: The mission is the only surviving church where Father Serra said mass.

Mission San Gabriel Arcángel

Founded : September 8, 1771 Order of creation : 4th mission Status : Roman Catholic Church Location : 428 South Mission Drive, San Gabriel, 91776

Mission San Gabriel Arcangel was founded on the hills north of modern-day Montebello but moved to its current location in 1775. Although named after an angel, just like Los Angeles , this mission is 8 miles east of downtown LA. This was one of the most prosperous of all the missions and once controlled a quarter of the livestock and grain of the whole mission system. At its peak in 1829, the mission’s herds included 25,000 cattle and 15,000 sheep.

It is patterned after a Moorish fortress similar to the style of the Cathedral in Córdoba, Spain. It was founded by Fathers Serra, Pedro Benito Cambón, and Angel Fernandez Somera y Balbuena. It was at this mission that Fr. José Zalvidea introduced the first of California’s large scale vineyards.

The first American to reach Alta California by land was Jedediah Smith, who was welcomed to Mission San Gabriel Arcangel in 1826. The mission was returned by President James Buchanan in 1859.

The roof of the original mission was destroyed by fire on July 11, 2020.

Notable : It has stations of the cross which were painted by Native American converts.

Mission San Fernando Rey de España

Founded : September 8, 1797 Order of creation : 17th mission Status : Roman Catholic Church Location : 15151 San Fernando Mission Blvd., Mission Hills, 91345

If you want your mission to be well regarded, it does not hurt to name it after the king. This mission is named in honor of King Ferdinand III of Spain (also the Archduke of Austria, King of Hungary, Croatia, and Bohemia, and Holy Roman Emperor). King Ferdinand was pretty important. The Convento, pictured above, has a colonnade with 19 arches and is the largest freestanding adobe building in California.

This is a large mission and at its peak in 1829 it had large herds of cattle (12,800 ) and sheep (5,000) and a population of around 1,000 people. The first California Gold strike happened on one of the mission’s ranches in 1842 and the mission was damaged by people looking for gold that they thought (mistakenly) was hidden in the walls by the padres.

The church began having services again in 1923 and the mission was restored in the 1940s. The mission needed to be rebuilt again after the damage done to it by the 1971 San Fernando earthquake.

  • Brand Park across the street from the mission has a statue of Father Serra.
  • Comedian Bob Hope and his wife Delores are buried in the Bob Hope Memorial Gardens on the grounds. Hope converted to Catholicism 7 years before his death.
  • Adults:  $5.00
  • Children (ages 7-15):  $3.00

Ventura: Mission San Buenaventura

Founded : Easter Sunday, March 31, 1782 Order of creation : 9th mission Status : Roman Catholic Church Location : 225 E. Main St., Ventura, 93001

The mission was named in honor of philosopher, scholar, and Saint Bonaventure who lived in Italy in the 1200s. Buenaventura was an early leader of the Franciscans who founded California’s missions. The church was named as a minor basilica by Pope Francis in 2020. This is the last of the six missions dedicated by Father Serra. It was originally planned to be the 3rd mission but was delayed because of a shortage of military escorts. The current church is the 3rd on the site.

The first mission was only 3 blocks from the ocean which has had some drawbacks. In 1812 it had to be abandoned briefly after an earthquake and a subsequent tidal wave. Both Mission San Juan Capistrano and San Buenaventura were attacked in 1818 by an Argentinian Pirate Hippolyte de Bouchard.

The mission was known for its elaborate water distribution system and gardens until they were destroyed by floods in 1860. The mission was returned to the Catholic church by President Abraham Lincoln in 1862.

Notable : The mission museum holds two old wooden bells which are unique in the mission system.

Mission Santa Barbara

Founded : December 4, 1786 Order of creation : 10th mission Status : Roman Catholic Church Location : 2201 Laguna St., Santa Barbara , 93105

When Father Serra died in 1784, Father Fermín Lasuén took charge of the California missions. He would keep that role for 4 years longer than Father Serra. Santa Barbara was the first of the missions that he established. It is often called the “Queen of the Missions”.

The current mission is the 4th to have been built on the location. It was built in 1820 after the 3rd adobe church was heavily damaged by an earthquake in 1812. It needed major rebuilding after another strong earthquake struck just 5 years later in 1825.

The mission was founded on the feast day of Saint Barbara who was an early Christian martyr from modern-day Lebanon. She is the patron saint of those who work with explosives: armorers, artillerymen, military engineers, miners. The legend goes that Barbara was beheaded for her faith with her father actually carrying out the sentence. She became associated with things that explode because on his way home her father was struck by lightning and burned up.

Many of the stories of Saint Barbara are more legend than history so in the 1960s the Catholic church removed her feast day from their calendar, but she still has this mighty fine mission named after her.

When the missions were secularized in 1833, the archives of all the California missions were moved to Mission Santa Barbara. The mission was restored to the Franciscans (rather than the local diocese) in 1865 by Abraham Lincoln. It is still home to a community of Franciscan Friars.

Notable : Next door to the mission is the city’s Mission Historical Park where you can see ruins of some of the original facilities such as the tanning vats and aqueduct.

tour of california missions

Founded : September 17, 1804 Order of creation : 19th Status : Roman Catholic Church, National Historic Landmark Location : 1760 Mission Drive â€¢ Solvang , CA  93463

Old Mission Santa Inés is one of the best-preserved of the missions which is one of the reasons that it is a National Historic Landmark. It is a very Spanish looking building in the very Danish looking town of Solvang .

Mission Santa Inés (or Santa Ynez) was founded by Fr. Estévan Tapis on September 17, 1804. Like the other local missions, it also had to be rebuilt after the 1812 earthquake.  Many of the native Chumash left after a rebellion in 1824 started by the beating of a local Chumash young man at the hands of a Mexican soldier. In 1844, it became the site for the first seminary in California. It was returned to the Catholic church in 1962 by president Lincoln.

The mission is named for St Agnes of Rome who was a virgin who was martyred in 304 A.D. at the age of only 12 or 13. The story goes that she was condemned when she refused the advances of a rich young man. She is considered the patron saint of betrothed couples and virgins.

Mission La Purisima Conception - Lompoc

Founded : December 8, 1787 – Feast of the Immaculate Conception Order of creation : 11th mission Status : La Purisima Mission State Historic Park , National Historic Landmark Location : 2295 Purisima Rd., Lompoc, 93436

Founded by Father Fermín Lasuén, this mission was founded on the feast day of the Immaculate Conception so the full name of the mission translated is “Mission of the Immaculate Conception of the Most Blessed Virgin Mary”.  It was originally founded closer to the present city of Lompoc but was destroyed by the 1812 earthquake. When it was rebuilt, the mission was moved into the hills.

Because it was not incorporated into a town it is the best example of the complete mission complex. You can still see the layout where the pottery shop, blacksmith, Indian barracks, kitchens, tallow vats, etc were located. It was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1970.

All the missions had similar ranches and outbuildings at one time. The tallow vats recall a time when the missions had large herds of cattle but limited markets for goods. In the early 1800s, the missions sold the hides and tallow (rendered fat) from their cattle which were shipped  “around the Horn” to the East Coast. It was not practical at that time to ship meat those distances. If you are interested in reading more about Mexican California and the hide business I would recommend the classic book Two Years Before the Mast .

It is one of only two missions that have no current connection with the Catholic Church.

Notable : The mission is part of a large (1,934-acre) park with numerous hiking trails.

Day Use Parking Fees:

  • $6.00 per vehicle
  • $5.00 – for Seniors (62 and over) per car

Mission San Luis Obispo de Tolosa

Founded : September 1, 1772 Order of creation : 5th mission Status : Roman Catholic Church Location : 782 Monterey St., San Luis Obispo , 93401

The 5th mission in the system was founded in 1772 by Father Serra and named in honor of Saint Louis of Anjou.  Louis was the son of the king of Naples who was a hostage for 7 years after his father lost a war to the King of Aragon. During that time he was educated by Franciscan friars. When he was freed and became his father’s heir on the death of his elder brother, he renounced the throne and took the Franciscan vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience instead. He became a bishop at a young age and was known for serving the poor and feeding the hungry. He only lived to the age of 23.

When the food supplied dwindled at the Monterey mission (the 2nd mission), Father Serra sent a hunting party to the “valley of the bears” which had been noted on the exploration of central California. The hunting party was so successful that Father Serra decided to build a mission in the area.

The original mission was burned down by local natives. The mission gained a tile roof when it was reconstructed because the natives had set fire to the original thatched roof.

Notable : The museum has a collection of historic photographs of California.

Mission San Miguel (3)

Founded : July 25, 1797 Order of creation : 16th mission Status : Roman Catholic Church, National Historic Landmark Location : 801 Mission St., San Miguel, 93451

Mission San Miguel Arcangel was founded by Father Lasuen and named for the Archangel Michael. One of the later missions, Mission San Miguel filled in the gap between Mission San Antonio and Mission San Luis Obispo . The idea was to make the missions a single day’s ride apart. The mission had to be rebuilt in 1812 after being destroyed by fire in 1806.

When the missions were secularized, Mission Archangel Saint Michael was taken over by the William Reed family. It was later the site of a grisly murder in 1848 of the entire family and the family servants by a band of 6 thieves.

The mission was restored to the Catholic church by president Buchanon in 1859. It was closed for 3 years after it suffered major damage in an earthquake in 2003.

Notable : It has some of the best-preserved murals of the missions.

Mission San Antonio de Padua-2-14

Founded : July 14, 1771 Order of creation : 3rd mission Status : Roman Catholic Church Location : Mission Creek Rd., Jolon, 93928

Mission San Antonio de Padua may be the most remote of the missions. It is in a rural setting west of Highway 101 (El Camino Real, the King’s highway) that connects the missions. It sits between Paso Robles and King City. The nearest town, Jolon, would have a population smaller than the mission had at one time. Its nickname is “The Mission That Time Forgot”.

The mission was named after Saint Anthony of Padua who was a Franciscan priest from the early 1200s who was known for his preaching and his love for the poor. He is considered the patron saint of the poor. It seems ironic that the mission that is most off the beaten track would be named for him as he is also the patron saint of lost things.

It was founded by Father Serra in 1771. It was the first of the missions of Alta California to have an iconic fired red clay tile roof. When the missions we secularized, no one made a bid for Mission San Antonio. It was restored over a 50 year period starting in 1903. It is being maintained by 35 private families and is in danger of closing again as it needs a $12–15 million earthquake retrofit being required by the state of California.

The mission sat for a time on the large ranch of William Randolph Hearst but now it is surrounded by Fort Hunter Liggett Military Reservation. The best time to see the mission is in the Spring when the hills surrounding it are filled with wildflowers.

Notable : The mission has a collection of musical instruments and colored note sheet music used to teach the native people.

Mission Nuestra Señora de la Soledad

Founded : October 9, 1791 Order of creation : 13th mission Status : Roman Catholic Church Location : 36641 Ft. Romie Rd., Soledad , 93960

The Soledad Mission was founded by Father Lasuén in 1791. This mission sits in the middle of a farmer’s field in the rich agricultural Salinas Valley. It is named, coincidentally perhaps, Our Lady of Solitude. It was named after Mary the mother of Jesus. The mission’s livestock herds grew to 6,000 cattle and 4,950 sheep just prior to secularization, but there were not that many native people in the area so the mission’s largest population was 687 in 1804.

The smaller population may be why the agricultural production at the mission put it in the bottom 3rd of all missions even though it is in one of the richest agricultural regions of what is now California. These days the vineyards of the Santa Lucia Highlands look down on the site of the old Mission. Tourists in the region are drawn to Pinnacles National Park .

Mission Soledad survived floods by the nearby Salinas River in 1824, 1828, and 1832. Many of the local natives (the Chalon people) died in an epidemic that broke out after the 1828 flood. One starts to wonder if skipping the number 13 might have been wise.

The Soledad mission fell into ruins after the secularization of the missions with its building materials mined for other construction projects. It was not rebuilt until 1954 and reopened in 1955 as a parish church.

Carmel Mission (1)

Founded : June 3, 1770 Order of creation : 2nd mission Status : Roman Catholic Church, Minor Basilica Location : 3080 Rio Rd., Carmel , 93923

Carmel ’s mission, San Carlos Borromeo de Carmelo, was founded by Father Serra on Pentecost Sunday, June 3, 1770. It is named for Carlo Borromeo who was a cardinal and the Archbishop of Milan in the 1500s. His accomplishments include the founding of seminaries because he felt that some of the church’s abuses came from priests who were ignorant of the faith. St Carlos is the patron saint of seminarians and bishops.

The original location of this mission was in Monterey near the presidio (fort). It was “two gunshots from the beach”. It was relocated to what is now Carmel near the mouth of the Carmel River in 1771 because the Monterey site lacked good agricultural land. The original church became the chapel of the presidio and later the San Carlos Cathedral. The current San Carlos Cathedral building was rebuilt in stone in 1794. It is the oldest continuing functioning church in California.

The Carmel Mission became the main headquarters of the California Missions in 1973. It was reportedly Father Serra’s favorite mission in part because of its location near the Spanish capital of California in Monterey. Father Serra died at the Carmel Mission of tuberculosis in 1784 at the age of 70. Father Lasuen also died at this mission in 1803 at the age of 67.

Carmel Mission was restored to the Catholic Church in 1859.

Notable: Both Father Serra and Father Lasuen, the first two presidents of the California Missions are buried at the Mission.

Mission San Juan Bautista

Founded : June 24, 1797 Order of creation : 15th mission Status : Roman Catholic Church, California State Landmark, National Historic Landmark Location : Second and Mariposa Sts. in San Juan Bautista , 95045

Mission San Juan Bautista was founded on the feast day of the nativity of Saint John the Baptist in 1797 and was named for him. It was founded by Father Lasuen but the site he picked has one big flaw. If you stand in front of the church and look to the right you will see the land drop off less than twenty feet from the side of the church. That drop-off is the famous San Andreas Fault which is the source of many of California’s earthquakes. The mission was heavily damaged in 1800 and 1906 but never closed.

While the placement has its flaws this is the largest of the mission’s church’s with 3 aisles and it has been in continuous daily use for mass since 1797. That would be pretty amazing for any of the missions, let alone one so inconveniently located.

This is one of my favorites of the California Missions because so much of the town has been preserved as well. It sits on a square with The Plaza Hotel (1814), The Plaza Hall (1868), The Plaza Stable (1874). In all, there are 30 different historic buildings in the area include the rather diminutive Old Town Jail.

The mission was featured in the 1958 Alfred Hitchcock film Vertigo, but the bell tower in the movie existed only in Hollywood.

  • Largest of the mission churches. The museum has two music books with the color notes system used to teach the native people.
  • Look closely at the church floor tiles and you can see animal footprints from when the tiles dried in the sun during the original construction

Mission Chapel, Santa Cruz Mission

Founded : August 28, 1791 Order of creation : 12th mission Status : Roman Catholic Church, State Historic Park. Location : 126 High St., Santa Cruz , 95060

When Father Lasuen founded Mission Santa Cruz he named it for the Holy Cross. He did not put this mission on a fault line, but he did have some problems with the location. The very first winter this small mission flooded and was moved to a nearby hill over the next 3 years. The larger problem with the mission’s location was that the town of Branciforte was built next to the mission in 1797 (one of only 3 secular towns authorized by the Spanish). The gambling and smuggling that the mission fathers said were happening in Branciforte were too much of a temptation for the native people.

The mission church was destroyed by an earthquake in 1857. The mission was returned to the church in 1859, by President Buchanan. The current mission church was built in 1931 and is a one-third scale model of the original church. The only surviving adobe building is a dormitory where neophytes (native converts) lived.

Mission Santa Clara de Asis

Founded : January 12, 1777 Order of creation: 8th mission Status : Roman Catholic Church, Santa Clara University chapel Location : 500 El Camino Real, Santa Clara, 95953

Mission Santa Clara was the last mission founded by Father Serra, just a few months before his death. It was the first of the California missions to be named for a woman, in this case for Saint Clare of Assisi. Saint Clare was an early follower of Saint Francis of Assisi in the early 1200s. She founded the second Franciscan order the Order of Poor Ladies or later known as the Poor Clares. There are still something like 20,000 nuns in this order all over the world.

Like so many other missions it fell victim to floods, fires, and earthquakes and has been relocated and/or rebuilt 5 times but never abandoned.  The mission bells were sent by King Charles III in 1777 and have been rung each evening as was his request (or these days a recording of the bells is played which we hope still fulfills the deal).

In 1851 the mission was given to the Jesuits who founded Santa Clara University which was the first university in California. Today the mission is the university chapel. The current mission site dates from 1822, but the building was rebuilt after it was destroyed by fire in 1926.

Mission San Jose

Founded : June 11, 1797 Order of creation : 14th mission Status : Roman Catholic Church Location : 43300 Mission Blvd., Fremont, 94539

Mission San Jose was founded by Father Lasuen in 1797 in what is now the San Ramon Valley in the San Francisco East Bay. When the native people in that area were hostile to the Spanish it was moved further south to what is now Fremont. While many cities grew up around missions as we have seen and often took the same name of the mission, Mission San Jose is not as it turns out located in the city of San Jose . Both were however named for Saint Joseph the legal father of Jesus. Although someone later screwed up and put a sign on the mission that declared it the San Jose de Guadalupe… which it was not. To add to the confusion, the mission was founded on the feast day of Saint Barnabas whose real name was also Joseph but who was given the nickname Barnabas which means “son of encouragement”.

The current mission building is not original. The original mission on that site was destroyed by an earthquake in 1868 and the current building was a reconstruction built in 1982 based on the design from the 1830s. At its height, the mission controlled much of the farmland on the east side of San Francisco Bay and extending into the Sacramento River Delta. When it was secularized in 1832, its herds had grown to 12,000 cattle, 12,000 sheep, and 13,000 horses.

Mission San Francisco de Asis

Founded : October 9, 1776 Order of creation : 6th mission Status : Roman Catholic Church, Minor Basilica, California Historic Landmark Location : 3321 16th St., San Francisco, 94114

While the United States was trying to declare independence well to the east, Father Serra founded this mission which is now in the middle of San Francisco’s vibrant and delicious Mission District. It was named in honor of St. Francis of Assisi, the founder of the Franciscan Order. The mission was first situated a couple of modern blocks away near Camp and Albion Streets but had to be moved uphill to its current spot due to flooding. It was moved near Lake Delores (or possibly Delores Creek as there is some debate whether the lake ever existed) and is therefore also known as Mission Delores.

St Francis was known for his love of nature and animals. If an urban mission seems odd to be named after this saint then remember that even by the 1830s there was only one building between the mission and the presidio. Did you know that Saint Francis, who was born in the late 1100s traveled to Egypt to try and convert the Sultan to end the crusades? Or that Francis was the first one to set up a live nativity scene?

The farms of Mission Delores ran as far south as San Mateo and over to Alameda in the east bay. It had as many as 11,000 head of sheep and 11,000 head of cattle. After secularization and during the California Gold Rush, portions of the mission’s buildings were used as saloons and gambling halls. From 1920 to 1941, San Francisco relocated the cemeteries in the city, moving 150,000 bodies south to Colma. The cemetery at the mission, though, was not moved. Some 5,000 native people (Ohlone, Miwok) are buried there along with the first Mexican governor, Luis Antonio Arguello, and other notable figures.

The mission is easy to overlook these days as it sits next to a large basilica that was built in 1918.  The mission is the oldest surviving building in San Francisco.

Mission San Rafael Arcangel

Founded : December 14, 1817 Order of creation : 20th mission Status : Roman Catholic Church Location : 1104 Fifth Ave., San Rafael, 94901

Mission San Rafael was founded by Father Vicente Francisco de Sarría not as its own mission originally but as a sub-mission of the San Francisco Mission to care for those who became sick. It is located only 20 miles north of San Francisco right by Mount Tamalpais, but if you know the micro-climates of California you know that the weather in San Rafael is much warmer and sunny than it can be in San Francisco. The mission San Rafael prospered and was awarded full mission status only 5 years later.

It was named for the Archangel San Rafael whose name, fittingly, means ‘God heals’. If you don’t recognize San Rafael as one of the 3 archangels mentioned in the bible then you clearly have a Protestant bible that does not have the book of Tobit which is in the Catholic Bible as one of the books of the Apocrypha. Rafael is the patron of good health and travelers.

After secularization, the mission was abandoned by 1844 but was used as the headquarters for John C. Fremont during the Bear Flag Revolt in 1846 during the Mexican-American War. The mission buildings were torn down in 1870. All that is left of the original mission is a single pear tree from its orchard. The current chapel was built in 1949 as a replica of the original mission chapel. As with many of the mission restoration projects, it was funded in part by the Hearst family.

Mission in Sonoma

Founded : July 4, 1823 Order of creation : 21st mission Status : Sonoma State Historic Park Location : 20 E. Spain St., Sonoma, 95476

This was the last and the furthest north of the California missions when it was founded in 1823. It is also the only Mexican mission in that it was founded after Mexico achieved independence from Spain and before Mexico secularized the missions. Its presence was to offset the growing Russian presence at Fort Ross in Northern California. It was founded by Father José Altimira from Mission San Francisco whose original plan was to move the mission from San Francisco. If you have experience San Francisco weather you can understand why someone would want to make that move. Father Altimira was at first denied permission from Father Sarria the president of the missions but was eventually allowed to build this mission but not to move the mission from San Francisco.

This mission is named for Saint Francis Solanus who was a Franciscan missionary from Spain who worked in South America. This Saint Francis is the patron saint of Argentina, Bolivia, Chile, Paraguay, and Peru and also a patron of protection from earthquakes… which as we have seen could be important in California Missions.

The mission only existed as a mission for 11 years before it was secularized. The old mission church was replaced in 1841 to become the parish church by Mariano Vallejo.

In 1846, Americans in the area started the Bear Flag Revolt to declare California independent of Mexico. They raised the Bear Flag across from the mission. The mission was restored to the Catholic church by Lincoln in 1861 but it was later bought and used as a warehouse. It was purchased by the state of California in 1906 as a state park and restored in 1913. The original vineyards are now part of the Sebastiani Vineyards.

Notable : On the west wall of the church there is a commemorative wall with the names of the neophytes (native converts).

Missions of California with Map - All 21 California Missions from South to North #california #missions #history #spanish #father-serra #places #map

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Chris Christensen

by Chris Christensen

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3 Responses to “Missions of California (with Map) – All 21 California Missions from South to North”

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Ramon Castillo-Rabaneda

We are beginning to plan a youth pilgrimage from New York to visit the most important Missions of California (I am from Spain) mid July.

How can we get this brochure, or how to print it? Also, we would like to look for convent, monasteries, places where be hosted as pilgrims (No hotels) to experience a real pilgrimage. Do you have some information about lodging in some of the missions? We estiamted about 40/50 persons (1 bus) maximum Thanks

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Chris Christensen

You can print the blog post if you like… but there is no brosure.

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A Guide to Southern California Missions

A Guide to Southern California Missions

The 21 mission system stretches from San Diego to Sonoma. Here's everything you need to know about Southern California's missions.

Sona P.

February 26, 2021

If you ever wished to travel back in time to Alta California, the Southern California missions might just be your ticket. Established around 1769, the 21 mission system stretches from San Diego all the way to Sonoma.

Though they're from a bygone era, these missions carry a lasting legacy of cultural, historic, and architectural merit. Check out this guide to the Spanish missions in California to discover their unique features.

Southern California Mission

tour of california missions

San Diego de Alcalá

Set among vibrant rose gardens, tangled vines, and serene ponds, Mission Basilica San Diego de Alcalá stands tall as the oldest of the 21 Spanish missions in California . Located on San Diego Mission Road—roughly one mile east of Qualcomm Stadium—this historic landmark plays a unique role in the Golden State’s history. 

Established in 1769 by Father Junípero Serra, Mission Basilica San Diego de Alcalá strived to increase Christian influence over the land's native people. Growing tensions resulted in a clash between the local villagers and the missionaries on November 4th, 1775.

Parts of the mission were damaged by fire during this tumultuous time, resulting in the first of many reconstructions. Father Serra oversaw the placement of adobe walls and clay tile roofs—fireproof installations that inspired many architects to come.

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Today, the mission's original monastery is one of it's main highlights. Along the corridor, a series of statues stand in tribute to the 21 Southern California missions and their leaders. There’s a lovely flower-filled meditation garden on-site as well as a fountain by the central cistern. There’s also a museum containing Father Serra’s original crucifix and baptismal documents, along with robes and Indian artifacts from local villagers.

The five-bell campanario—once used to signal times of prayer, work, and dining—is still intact. Every July, all five bells are rung in unison to celebrate the mission’s anniversary.  

San Diego de Alcalá remains an active Catholic Church, with Sunday masses held both in English and Spanish. Whether you’re a devout Catholic or simply interested in history, this outstanding landmark will offer you a rare and captivating glimpse at life in Alta California.

San Luis Rey de Francia 

Known as the “King of Missions,” Mission San Luis Rey de Francia extends over six acres and is perched on a hill overlooking San Diego. With all its walls and structures still intact, this mission stands proud as a treasured token of Alta California's cultural heritage.

Founded in 1798 by Father Fermin Lauser, this cross-shaped adobe building combines elements of Spanish, Mexican, and Moorish architecture. When it was built, the mission was one of the largest outposts, covering a thousand-plus square miles in Riverside and San Diego counties. 

Out of California's 21 missions , San Luis Rey de Francia is perhaps the most historic. After the mission system collapsed, a lot of the artwork was transported to this mission. Today, San Luis Rey de Francia holds one of the largest collections of Mexican art from its era of colonization.

Located on Missions Avenue in Oceanside, San Luis Rey de Francia is also home to California’s first pepper tree, which was planted in 1803.

tour of california missions

San Juan Capistrano

Located an hour south of Los Angeles, San Juan Capistrano is a charming walking town with a mission visited by hundreds of thousands of people each year. When you arrive, a free audio tour guides you through an area filled with fragrant gardens, koi ponds, and stunning relics.

Founded by Father Serra on November 1, 1776, Mission San Juan Capistrano was the seventh of its kind to be established along El Camino Real. Serra Chapel—where the Spanish missionary often performed mass—is the only working part of the mission today. When you arrive, light a candle and admire the beauty of the oldest California building still in use. 

Completed in 1906, the Great Stone Church is among the most breathtaking chapels on the West Coast. Dubbed the “American Acropolis,” the church fell victim to a tragic earthquake that claimed the lives of 42 parishioners. Some believe the church is still home to a ghost named Magdalena who was killed in the wreckage. Despite some speculations of paranormal activity, the haunting ruins forever stand as a testament to the mission’s perseverance.

Mission San Juan Capistrano is also believed to have launched California’s wine industry with its first vineyard planted in 1779. 

tour of california missions

San Fernando Rey de España

Located on San Fernando Mission Boulevard, Mission San Fernando Rey de España is the 17th Southern California mission . Upon arrival, you’re first greeted by a charming gift shop full of assorted trinkets. The museum is one of the landmark’s prime attractions—it features old mission rooms decorated with period artifacts and Indian-inspired artwork.

Founded in 1797, Mission San Fernando Rey de España’s location was not chosen at random. A rich water supply, endless fields, and local wildlife all contributed to San Fernando Rey de España becoming the epicenter of rural production and leather goods.

In 1842, a mission rancher found gold hiding in the walls of Placerita Canyon and made history as the first to stumble upon this element in Alta California.

tour of california missions

Santa Barbara Mission

Founded in 1786, Mission Santa Barbara consists of four adobe churches, the last of which was completed in 1820. As with most Southern California missions , this locale withstood many earthquakes throughout its lengthy history. In 1925, a routine Sunday mass was disrupted by collapsing beams and shaking grounds. Miraculously, no one was hurt and a 1927 restoration brought the church back to its original form.

The beautiful lawn of Mission Santa Barbara makes an ideal picnic spot suitable for the whole family. View the ocean from the mission steps and picture Spanish missionaries watching out for ships—both friend and foe. 

Most of Santa Barbara’s cultural events continue to take place right here. Each Memorial Day, local artists gather for I Madonnari—a street-painting festival held all throughout the mission’s grounds. 

tour of california missions

San Juan Bautista 

Established on June 24, 1797, Mission San Juan Bautista was dubbed the “Mission of Music.” This is partly due to the work of Father Esteban Tapis, who handcrafted hymnals and color-coded the sheets for those who wished to study music. The hymnaries were so large that choirs were expected to read them one at a time.

When you arrive, you’ll notice that most wooden doors are painted green on the outside. This color was fabricated by the missionaries to symbolize the water of life and the rebirth it brought.

Mission San Juan Bautista also features a model of the historic landmark. The adobe clays were brought over from other missions and the original timbers were cut to frame the entire building. An occupational therapist oversaw this project as a part of a rehabilitation process for patients with paranoid schizophrenia.

tour of california missions

San Miguel el Arcángel

Mission San Miguel el Arc á ngel , the 16th of its kind, was built overlooking El Camino Real in 1769. Dubbed the “Mission along the High way,” San Miguel el Arc á ngel was perhaps the most visible of the missions due to its unique location. The mission was established after the death of Father Serra, whose life-size statue remains a beloved landmark for many visitors.

The interior of Mission San Miguel el Arc á nge l is vibrant, with colorful murals and frescoes covering many of its walls. Walk along the corridors and marvel at decorations that have been left untouched since their installation in 1821.

Mission San Buenaventura 

Ninth in the Southern California mission chain, Mission Basilica San Buenaventura was the last to be founded by Father Serra himself. During Holy Week—the seven day period between Palm Sunday and Easter—the sound of wooden bells could be heard all around the area. These bells are unique to this mission and are shrouded in mystery.

While exploring the area, make sure to check out the ornately tiled fountain and wander around the mission garden's palm trees and wonderful floral arrangements.

tour of california missions

Mission Santa Ines

Father Estevan Tapis established Mission Santa Ines in 1804, making it the 19th in the chain of California missions . Praised for its breathtaking views of the Santa Ynez River Valley and San Rafael mountain ranges, the mission remains an all-time tourist favorite. 

The area includes 15 buildings and historic sites which reflect the lives of the native Chumash residents who lived under Mexican rule. The adobe brick—similar to other missions—was an intrinsic part of Mission Santa Ines’ construction.

Today, the mission remains an active church with regular mass and audio tours which guide visitors through the beautiful oak-co vered area.

tour of california missions

Mission San Antonio de Padua 

Mission San Antonio de Padua—located in central California’s Valley of the Oaks—is renowned for its Spanish tiles, waterproof thatched roofs, and innovative irrigation system. Built in 1771, the mission was the third of the 21 missions in California . 

The mission is now home to various colored music sheets that were once used to educate the Native Americans of the land. This site also holds a large collection of musical instruments from the mission’s heyday, including harps, violins, pianos, and guitars.

Today, the mission serves a different purpose—one of solitude and retreat. Isolated nearly 200 years ago, the tranquility of Mission San Antonio de Padua offers a break from the hectic cycle of the outside world, even if just for a moment.

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Enjoy A Unique Road Trip or Virtual Tour of the California Missions

Posted by Savvy Cali Girl Contributing Author | May 5, 2021 | Places To Go | 0

Enjoy A Unique Road Trip or Virtual Tour of the California Missions

If you’ve never visited the California missions, you are in for a treat! They are beautiful, educational and located throughout California. They are an ideal destination to add to any California road trip. Additionally, virtual tours are available online through the California Missions Foundation.

**Disclaimer**

The businesses and events highlighted are in no way a “Best Of…” list. They are simply places and activities our Savvy Cali Girl contributors have deemed worthy of a shout out. If you want us to tell our readers about your favorite place, tag us with #scgplacestogo and we’ll catch you next time we come through town! All images are the property of the Savvy Cali Girl Blog unless other attributes are noted. 

The Fourth Grade California Missions Project

Students across California learn and create projects based the California missions. In addition, since the mission locations stretch across the state from San Diego all the way to San Francisco, most students are within a car ride to a mission in their area. As a result, many students enjoy field trips with their class in fourth grade.

Both of our children recreated a mission in fourth grade and took a field trip to Mission San Diego de Alcalá. On top of that, we also took the opportunity to visit San Juan Capistrano since it was a nice day trip from San Diego.

Personally, I enjoyed helping with their projects, going on field trips and having a little extra family trip. It was a bonding opportunity. It also doesn’t hurt that the missions are gorgeous places to visit and the weather is generally cooperative at that time of year.

If you are unable to travel to each of the missions, you can also visit each of them virtually. The link provided here is to the California Missions Foundation which provides virtual tours.

California Missions Map

California Missions Foundation Map

Native American History and The Establishment of the California Missions by the Spanish

Juana Maria of the Nicoleño Tribe of California

Juana Maria, Last Surviving Member of the Nicoleño Tribe via Wikipedia Commons

I would be remiss if I left out the more difficult history of the California missions established by the Spanish. In most cases, native American populations resisted the occupation of the Spanish. In fact, many missions were relocated after they were established. The new locations could be fortified against attacks from the local Native American tribes.

The missions were ravaged by disease as working conditions for the people of the tribes were usually atrocious. Activists try to accurately portray the true cost of the Spanish missions in California, including atrocities by the Spanish and the Franciscans.

You can read more here in an article published in 2016 by Caitlin Harrington, the Lesser-Told Story of the California Missions.

“A photograph of a Native American woman, believed to be Juana Maria, who was the last surviving member of her tribe, the Nicoleño. This photograph was found alongside a picture of Maria Sinforosa Ramona Sanchez, wife of George Nidever, with whom Maria had lived while at the Santa Barbara Mission.” Source: Wikipedia Commons.

The Gardens of the California Missions

Most missions today have gardens  with flowers, climbing vines, and ornamental trees. When the missions were initially established, gardens referred to in journals were, in actuality, nearby farms used to sustain the mission inhabitants.

While many visitors today enjoy gorgeous blooms and overgrown trees in quaint courtyards, the missions of the 1700’s experienced drought challenges. In fact, they didn’t even drill wells but instead constructed dams and aqueducts, hence their vulnerability to the climate. If you ‘d like to know about the horticultural history, Gardens of the California Missions by Tom Brown , is an excellent resource and linked here for you.

To illustrate, Cardinell-Vincent Company of San Francisco, distributed actual photographs as sepia toned postcards from the late 1800’s and early twentieth century. They illustrate the true austerity of the missions. The link here will take you to a full gallery of them.

Cardinell-Vincent Postcards of the California Missions

Cardinell-Vincent Postcards of the California Missions via missionscalifornia.com

California Missions of San Diego and Los Angeles

Clearly, Southern California missions are among the most beautiful but I am quite biased honestly. They hold fond memories with my own children. On top of that, the weather is usually perfect for wandering the grounds of any of the missions.

San Diego de Alcalá

Located the furthest south of any of the sites, this mission is the earliest of the sites as well. Established in 1769 by Father Junipero Serra, the Spanish envisioned a chain of sites throughout the region. In this way, they spread their faith, political influence and overall territory.

The most prominent feature is the campanario, a wall forty-six feet high, holding five massive bronze bells. Mater Dolorosa is the largest of the bells and weighs 1,200 pounds!

Today, the parish is still active and the historical elements are well preserved for visitors. Even the room where Father Junipero is original, surviving native american attacks and natural disasters.

California Missions - San Diego de Alcala

Bernard Gagnon Image via Wikipedia Commons

King of the California Missions, San Luis Rey de Francía

The church at San Luis Rey is best known for its wooden cupola and dome, letting light stream in. The very first pepper tree is also planted at this site, brought from Peru in 1830.

California Mission San Luis Rey de Francía was established by Father Lasuén in 1798. Affectionately called the “king of the Missions,” its land size boasts three times that of other missions. In addition, it had a large population and prodigious crop production.

Interestingly, it is one of only two Franciscan missions, the other being Mission Santa Barbara.

Mission San Luis Rey de Francía

User Geographer via Wikipedia Creative Commons

San Juan Capistrano

Mission San Juan Capistrano is famous for a few different reasons but primarily the home of the annual cliff swallows migration. The birds return each spring from South America.

The mission is named for the 15th-century Franciscan, St. John Capistran. The chapel is the oldest standing building in California and contains a beautiful cherry altar from Barcelona.

Mission San Juan Capistrano in Southern California

Katie Evensen Photo via Pexels

Today, there are tours,  a cute coastal city filled with shops and eateries, surrounds the mission. You can spend the day walking and never see your vehicle again until the day is done.

With spring in the air, check out the Mission San Juan Capistrano Facebook . As you can see, the courtyard is in full bloom!

Mission San Gabriel Arcángel

Found in 1771 by Father Serra, Mission San Gabriel Arcángel lies just east of downtown Los Angeles. The design of the mission is based on the Cathedral of Cordova in Spain.

This mission was incredibly productive and supplied many other missions throughout California. It is still a working and active Roman Catholic church.

Mission San Gabriel Arcángel

Robert A. Estremo Image via Wikipedia

San Fernando Rey de España

Father La Suen founded this mission in 1797. It was located between coastal San Buenaventura and San Gabriel further inland. As a result, it was a waypoint for travelers and provided a safe, comfortable place to stay.

Mission San Fernando Rey de España

Wikipedia Creative Commons Attribution via User “Geographer”

Mission Basilica San Buenaventura

This site was found in 1782 in what is today Ventura, California. In June 2020, it was elevated to a minor basilica. All that remains are the church and the gardens which overlook the Pacific Ocean.

In all honesty, have you ever seen such a beautiful panorama for a proposal or engagement photos? In any case, a stop here along your road trip would be phenomenal.

Mission Basilica San Buenaventura

Ricardo Holden Image via Wikipedia

Central California Missions

The missions of Central California are located among some of the most beautiful locations along the coastal corridor. The views are endless and the drives scenic. It is worth the cost of a rental car to cruise this region of California and explore the California missions here. If you take a road trip, the Central California coast is a must!

California Missions, Santa Barbara

Santa Bárbara, Queen of the California Missions 

While you may easily recognize Santa Barbara architecture, there is actually a mission located there with tremendous views. It was established in 1786 by Father Lasuén and is know as the “Queen of the Missions.” It eventually became the headquarters for all of the California missions.

The mission has a massive water treatment system pictured below. Originally built by the Chumash Indians under the direction of the Franciscans, it is still in use today. This site experienced extensive development in and around the mission, including presidios, the harbor and in later days educational institutions.

Today, this California mission is located right off the 101 freeway, close to all the attractions on State Street. We were there quite early and caught the sun peeping over the eastern hills. It was peaceful and an opportunity to reflect before the busy noise of the day began.

The Town of Santa Barbara

Take time to visit the nearby town of Santa Barbara. You can learn more about State Street and what is available in and around the area with our post, Santa Barbara, Stroll Down State Street: Eats & Treats, Things To Do and a Boutique Hotel Stay .

Want to spend a long weekend in just this one zip code? Why not take advantage of Santa Barbara as a destination in and of itself? Without a doubt, the proximity to other coastal cities is a huge advantage since you spend less time packing and more time just enjoying activities.

Places To Go in Santa Barbara

Santa Inés, A Favorite Among the California Missions

Located near Solvang and popular California wine regions, Mission Santa Inés, is now restored thanks to a grant by the Hearst Foundation. The site was originally a waypoint for travelers along the Central California Coast among the missions.

Santa Inés Mission

If I could stop for a quiet picnic at a mission, Santa Ines would be my choice. Why? They have a gorgeous view of the valley, shade trees, and ample parking.

I particularly enjoyed the peaceful walkway with benches. I was there in the morning when the dew was shaken off the pepper tree leaves by gentle breezes. It was like a light sprinkle and felt like a small blessing for the upcoming day.

Clearly, it was a moment of zen at the onset of a long drive north.

Mission Santa Inés in California

La Purísima Concepción

The Mission of La Purísima Concepción was founded by Father Lasuén in 1787. Marked by earthquakes and revolts, It faced challenges like many of the other missions. Located in Lompac, it is a linear architecture instead of the standard square configuration.

In addition, it is actually one of the very few California missions that do reenactments. Oddly, after extensive renovations, a dedication was held December 7, 1941, an infamous day in American history.

La Purisma Concepcion is a quaint mission, hidden away across a little bridge. You’re greeted by two massive ambassadors (a pair of very large pigs) who seem quite happy to see you. I didn’t venture too close in case I was misreading their seemingly happy snorts. Now, in the distance, you can clearly see the terracotta colored building.

Unfortunately, we weren’t able to enter due to covid restrictions, but they do offer a QR code for a 360 virtual tour which is helpful. There is also a visitor center located in the same parking area. Again, we were not able to enter, but many hikers were heading out as explored this area.

La Purísima Concepción Scan QR Code

Mission San Luis Obispo de Tolosa

The Mission San Luis Obispo was founded in 1772 by Father Junipero Serra and is one of the only missions still stands on its original site. It has undergone many different renovations by different groups since it was established.

Today, though, it sits at the center of downtown San Luis Obispo, restored structurally and reflecting an architectural style more representative of its history. I was expecting a large site but it actually seemed rather small in comparison to places like San Diego or Santa Barbara.

Since our trip was during spring, we actually stopped to enjoy our lunch in their courtyard which was in full bloom. I must admit I indulged in photos of the blooms and neglected to remember to catch the front of the mission!

Mission San Luis Obispo de Tolosa

Harrison Lai Image via Wikipedia Creative Commons

The Town of San Luis Obispo

If you have the time, San Luis Obispo boasts a treasure trove of activities. There are any number of outdoor activities from hiking to kayaking but also a huge variety of wineries and restaurants in and around the area.

One of our most popular posts provides an in-depth look at the town from the point of view of a potential student at Cal Poly, How to Decide if Cal Poly, SLO is the Right School for You . Another post, San Luis Obispo, California’s Hidden Gem: Places to Eat, Sleep & Play , takes you through additional interesting locations.

San Miguel Arcángel

Wow! I have to admit, I was not expecting such a beautifully restored mission when we pulled off the freeway. Truly, just off the exit with nothing much else in sight, lies the church and mission buildings. I wish I could have toured the buildings and enjoyed the serene courtyard. Indeed, COVID restrictions limited us to the parking lot running the length of the site.

Father Lasuén and Father Buenaventura Sitjar founded the mission in 1797. It features some of the most beautiful interior spaces of the California missions.

Unfortunately, earthquakes continue even into the recent the 21st century, requiring repair and restoration. The last restoration was done by the California Missions Foundation and a source of much the historical information referenced in this blog post.

California Mission San Miguel Arcángel

Mission San Antonio de Padua

Father Junipero Serra founded this mission in 1771. Mission San Antonio de Padua is a rather remote location in comparison to many of the other missions. Hence, we were unable to visit in person on this trip.

Today, it is an operating parish, retreat and historical site for visitors. There is a lot see and experience here, much of it, as it was used in the past.

California Mission San Antonio de Padua

Mission San Antonio de Padua via Wikipedia Commons

Nuestra Señora de La Soledad

Founded in 1791 by Father Lasuén, Mission Nuestra Señora de La Soledad is located in Soledad, California. During its development, the mission was ravaged by floods from the Salinas River. It lay abandoned for nearly a century. Eventually, in the 1940’s it was sold back to the Catholic church who began restorations with the help of Native Daughters of the Golden West.

Now, Mission Soledad was closed on the day we were road trippin on the 101 unfortunately. It is a good reminder to check any special destinations for their hours of operation. While this wasn’t entirely out of the way, some of them are not as conveniently located. In any case, Soledad is in a rather rural farming location with rows of lettuce as far as the eye can see.

Mission Nuestra Señora de La Soledad

Northern California Missions

The scenery really does change from rolling hills and sprawling scenery to truly green, misty valleys. Again, the views are stupendous with terrific cities to explore along the way like Santa Cruz and San Francisco. To be clear, I was not able to visit each and every site personally but wanted to add history even for those I did not visit on this particular trip. The post will be updated as California continues to open after the COVID closures of 2020 and 2021.

San Carlos Borroméo de Carmelo

San Carlos Borromeo de Carmelo was founded in 1770 by Father Serra. Interestingly, it is the only mission with its original bell tower and bell. It is commonly referred to as the Carmel Mission today.

The oldest residential dwelling in California, the Carmel mission Orchard House was built circa 1774. In addition, there are four museums and/or exhibits on the site. The image displays how remote most of these locations were at the time.

Historic San Carlos Borroméo de Carmelo

The San Carlos Mission circa 1893 via Wikipedia Commons

Mission San Juan Bautista

Located just off the 101, visiting this mission is easy and convenient. Normally, there are museum exhibits and a gift shop but they were closed temporarily until health restrictions are lifted.

With a state park also situated here, it is a nice place for a break from the road.  Cruise through old time saloons, the mission exhibits or the cute downtown area. There is ample parking and a variety of options for all ages.

Valley View of California Mission San Juan Bautista

San Francisco de Asís, California Mission Dolores

Located in the Mission District, the San Francisco de Asís mission is now referred to as Mission Dolores. “Mission Dolores” is thus named for a nearby creek.

In addition, it is the oldest surviving structure in San Francisco, founded in 1776 by Father Francisco Palóu. This mission and its accompanying basilica remain at the heart in the city San Francisco.

San Francisco de Asís, California Mission Dolores

David Vives Photo via Unsplash

Mission Santa Cruz

Founded in 1791, Mission Santa Cruz was flooded early on by the San Lorenzo River. Consequently, it was rebuilt on a hillside overlooking the river.

Due to natural disasters, revolts and attacks by multitudes of groups, the only surviving original structure is a building which served as housing for Yokut and Ohlone Native American families. Today, there are replicas of buildings and lots of events held here.

While I was unable to visit several missions due to time constraints on this road trip, Mission Santa Cruz is part of my future California bucket list. I hope to explore the site and especially the city of Santa Cruz itself. Feel free to drool over the images from the area or get excited about so many activity options via the Visit Santa Cruz County Website.

Mission Santa Cruz

Mission Santa Cruz via Wikipedia Creative Commons

Visit Santa Cruz County Website

Santa Clara de Asís

This mission also suffered from earthquakes, fires, and floods. As a result, it also relocated from its original site established in 1777. In 1851, a college was created at the mission site, the only mission to do this by the way, becoming Santa Clara University.

Because this mission is located on campus, access is limited and photography not possible at the moment. The best photo I found was actually on the Visit Santa Clara website which is linked here .

Visit Santa Clara Website

Mission San José

I truly wish there was time to visit Mission San José in person as there were few current resources. Certainly there is a great deal of historical information however.

Initially, it was quite successful but an earthquake destroyed a majority of its buildings. Today, the church is one of the most authentic restorations in California. Hence, the opportunity to explore this site further is undeniable.

Mission San José

Mission San José Image via Wikipedia Creative Commons

San Rafael Arcángel

Nestled within the town of San Raphael, lies Mission San Rafael Arcángel. Today, it has an active parish and school. The site was originally founded in 1817 as a hospital. It offered better rehabilitation due to the East Bay climate versus nearby missions.

While it is an incredibly compact site, there is still room for gorgeous blooms all along its perimeter. In addition, I fell in love with pink hue of the church and several other buildings.

San Rafael Arcángel Mission in Northern California

Mission San Francisco Solano

In 1823 in Sonoma, the last mission was established. Originally, the site was supposed to be the new location of Mission San Francisco de Asís but the approval was denied. Instead, an entirely new mission was created.

This link provided contains all of the most current information regarding the mission history, visitor information including closures, hours of operation, etc..

Mission San Francisco Solano

Mission San Francisco Solano Image via Wikipedia Creative Commons

Resources for More Information About California Missions

I listed a few resources below. If you’re doing the fourth grade mission project or want to dig deeper into the history, they may help you.

missionscalifornia.com Pentacle Press offers this website as a resource for students, their parents, teachers and visitors.

californiamissionsfoundation.org The California Missions Foundation objective is preserving and protecting the missions.

californiamissionguide.com This site is a travel site with links to others. They have resources for visitors but also for teachers and students.

Let Us Know Your Experience!

If you visit the California missions, feel free to add your experiences about the missions or the area in the comment section below. While a short trip through California certainly has many options, any site could be added to virtually any itinerary.

The search function of the blog will also allow you to find information for a particular destination or activity. Browse and save to your Pinterest board or other social accounts for future reference. Whether you are a mobile user or on the desktop or tablet, that function will help you find what you need quickly.

About The Author

Savvy Cali Girl Contributing Author

Savvy Cali Girl Contributing Author

Savvy Cali Girl is comprised of a handful of contributors who appreciate and embody the spirit of California. We've banded together to showcase everything we love about the Golden State because we have a shared passion for writing, fun, travel, and entrepreneurship. Our goal is to help you experience California to its fullest and live a balanced life while doing it. ​ We'll provide creative inspiration for savvy ways to do business, fun things to enjoy, and places to visit along the way. As a lifelong California native, you may even find a few insider tips. Don't be surprised if travel becomes a focus as restrictions loosen!

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tour of california missions

Learn about the new leaders of 16 missions worldwide — from California to Cambodia

They will begin their service in July

Missionaries sing during a missionary conference in Antananarivo, Madagascar.

Missionaries sing during a missionary conference in Antananarivo, Madagascar, on Monday, Feb. 20, 2023.

Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News

The following new mission presidents and companions have been called to serve by the First Presidency. They will begin their service in July.

Guillermo A. Alvarez and Pati Alvarez

Guillermo A. Alvarez and Pati Alvarez

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

Guillermo A. Alvarez , 60, and Pati Alvarez , four children, Jardines de la Asunción Ward, Guatemala City Palmita Stake: Bolivia Cochabamba South Mission. Elder Alvarez is an Area Seventy and former stake president, bishop, MTC branch president and missionary in the Guatemala Quetzaltenango Mission. He was born in Guatemala City, Guatemala, to Julio Alfredo Alvarez and Edna Graciela Monzón Hurtado.

Sister Alvarez is a former stake Relief Society president, ward Young Women president, ward Primary president, institute teacher and seminary teacher. She was born in Guatemala City, Guatemala, to Francisco Pineda Garrido and Fulvia Margoth Vela López de Pineda.

Bryce Byers and Danielle Byers

Bryce Byers and Danielle Byers

Bryce Byers , 55, and Danielle Byers , six children, Hillcrest 6th Ward, Orem Utah Hillcrest Stake: Perú Lima South Mission, succeeding President Ray Holt and Sister Jackie L. Holt. Brother Byers is a Primary teacher and temple ordinance worker and a former stake presidency counselor, high councilor, bishop, bishopric counselor, ward Young Men president and missionary in the Spain Bilbao Mission. He was born in Pocatello, Idaho, to Thomas Quentin Byers and Martha Ann Byers.

Sister Byers is a Primary teacher and temple ordinance worker and a former ward Relief Society president, ward Young Women president and Sunday School teacher. She was born in Pocatello, Idaho, to Brent Dee Morris and Kathryn Lucille Morris.

Ray Carter and Cathy Carter

Ray Carter and Cathy Carter

Ray Carter , 63, and Cathy Carter , four children, Dunwoody Ward, Atlanta Georgia Stake: California Modesto Mission. Brother Carter is an elders quorum president and temple ordinance worker and former stake president, high councilor, stake YSA adviser, bishop, ward Young Men president; and missionary in the Argentina Cordoba Mission. He was born in San Diego, California, to Wayne Bryant Carter and Patricia Ann Carter.

Sister Carter is a ward Young Women presidency counselor and temple ordinance worker and former stake Relief Society presidency counselor, stake Young Women presidency counselor, stake Primary presidency counselor, stake temple and family history consultant, stake YSA adviser, ward Young Women president and missionary in the Colorado Denver Mission. She was born in Berkeley, California, to Joseph Dean Madsen and Helen Joyce Madsen.

Richard Paapa Dadzie and Ida Dadzie

Richard Paapa Dadzie and Ida Dadzie

Richard Paapa Dadzie , 52, and Ida Dadzie , five children, Abokobi Ward, Accra Ghana Adenta Stake: Nigeria Uyo Mission, succeeding President Daniel A. Abeo and Sister Evelyn Abeo. Brother Dadzie is a stake presidency counselor and a former high councilor, stake clerk, stake Young Men president, bishop, bishopric counselor, elders quorum president, ward mission leader, ward pianist and missionary in the Ghana Accra Mission. He was born in Gomoa Abonko, Ghana, to Kow Akyempem Dadzie and Veronica Arhin Dadzie.

Sister Dadzie is a Sunday School teacher and Relief Society teacher and a former ward Primary president, ward Relief Society presidency counselor and Primary teacher. She was born in Anto, Ghana, to Benedict Kwamena Ackon and Grace Awortwe.

Allen Hicken and Alisa Hicken

Allen Hicken and Alisa Hicken

Allen Hicken , 54, and Alisa Hicken , six children, Chelsea Ward, Ann Arbor Michigan Stake: Cambodia Phnom Penh East Mission. Brother Hicken is an Area Seventy’s executive secretary and a former high councilor, stake executive secretary, bishop, seminary teacher and missionary in the California San Diego Mission (Cambodian-speaking). He was born in Logan, Utah, to Dee Allen Hicken and Judy Ann Hicken.

Sister Hicken is a Primary activity leader and Primary teacher and a former stake Relief Society presidency counselor, ward Young Women president, ward Primary presidency counselor, Relief Society teacher and Primary music leader. She was born in Phoenix, Arizona, to Robert Paul Harbrecht and Sherrie Louise Harbrecht.

V. Daniel Lattaro and Ana Lattaro

V. Daniel Lattaro and Ana Lattaro

V. Daniel Lattaro , 50, and Ana Lattaro , three children, Villa Colón Ward,Montevideo Uruguay North Stake: Argentina Santa Fe Mission, succeeding President Terry M. Slezak and Sister Kristie L. Slezak. Elder Lattaro is an Area Seventy and former stake president, bishop, seminary teacher, institute teacher and missionary in the Argentina Buenos Aires South Mission. He was born in Montevideo, Uruguay, to Washington Aldo Lattaro and Maria Rosario Gonzalez.

Sister Lattaro is a ward Relief Society president and former stake Relief Society president, stake Primary president, ward Relief Society presidency counselor, self-reliance specialist, seminary teacher, Sunday School teacher and missionary in the Uruguay Montevideo Mission. She was born in Minas, Uruguay, to Ramon Adolfo Chappe and Irma Nelly Hernandez.

Estevan P. Leal and Danielle A. Leal

Estevan P. Leal and Danielle A. Leal

Estevan P. Leal , 38, and Danielle A. Leal , two children, Portal do Morumbi Ward, São Paulo Brazil Ferreira Stake: Portugal Porto Mission. Brother Leal is a stake presidency counselor and former high councilor, stake clerk, bishopric counselor, seminary teacher, ward mission leader and missionary in the Brazil Manaus Mission. He was born in São Bernardo do Campo, Brazil, to Ademar Leal and Alicia Del Transito Paredes Navarro Leal.

Sister Leal is a ward Relief Society president and former stake Young Women president, stake Relief Society secretary, ward Primary president and ward Primary presidency counselor. She was born in Santo André, Brazil, to Sergio Gonçalves de Almeida and Neusa Siqueira.

Daren A. Lovell and Cami Lovell

Daren A. Lovell and Cami Lovell

Daren A. Lovell , 59, and Cami Lovell , six children, Johnson Fort Ward, Enoch Utah Stake: Ghana Accra North Mission. Brother Lovell is a temple ordinance worker and former stake president, stake presidency counselor, high councilor, bishop, bishopric counselor, elders quorum president, ward Young Men president and missionary in the Spain Madrid Mission. He was born in Delta, Utah, to Austin Nielson Lovell and Meredith Adelyn Anderson Lovell.

Sister Lovell is a ward Relief Society president and temple ordinance worker and former ward Young Women presidency counselor, ward Primary presidency counselor and Primary music leader. She was born in Salt Lake City to Newell John Hatch and Mary Ann Mecham Hatch.

Krist McFarland and Sheryl McFarland

Krist McFarland and Sheryl McFarland

Krist McFarland , 63, and Sheryl McFarland , five children, North Field 2nd Ward, Pleasant Grove Utah North Field Stake: Nevada Las Vegas East Mission. Brother McFarland is a Primary teacher and a former stake president, stake presidency counselor, bishopric counselor, ward Young Men president, ward Sunday School president and missionary in the Kentucky Louisville Mission. He was born in Mount Ayr, Iowa, to Gary Ray McFarland and Susan Kaye McFarland.

Sister McFarland is an institute teacher and former ward Relief Society president, ward Primary president, Young Women adviser, Relief Society teacher, Primary teacher, Primary music leader and Primary pianist. She was born in Honolulu, Hawaii, to Alvin Floyd Williams and Ruth Marian Williams.

Vusimuzi N. Msiza and Keagile L. Msiza

Vusimuzi N. Msiza and Keagile L. Msiza

Vusimuzi N. Msiza , 51, and Keagile L. Msiza , three children, Vosloorus Ward, Bedfordview South Africa Stake: Zimbabwe Bulawayo Mission, succeeding President William Coleman and Sister Philomina Coleman. Brother Msiza is an elders quorum president and a former stake president, high councilor, stake Young Men presidency counselor, bishop, elders quorum president and missionary in the South Africa Cape Town Mission. He was born in Leslie, South Africa, to Levi Msiza and Beauty Tozi Mahlangu.

Sister Msiza is a ward Young Women president and a former ward Relief Society president, ward Relief Society presidency counselor, ward Primary presidency counselor, ward temple and family history consultant and self-reliance specialist. She was born in Soweto, South Africa, to Moatisi Daniel Mahlasi and Emily Mokoena.

Curtis Oscarson and Mary Oscarson

Curtis Oscarson and Mary Oscarson

Curtis Oscarson , 44, and Mary Oscarson , three children, Elk Hollow Ward, North Salt Lake Utah Stake: Brazil Rio de Janeiro South Mission, succeeding President Aroldo B. Cavalcante and Sister Christiana Cavalcante. Brother Oscarson is a Young Men adviser and former high councilor, bishopric counselor, branch presidency counselor, elders quorum president, Sunday School teacher, temple ordinance worker, Church Service missionary and missionary in the Brazil Belo Horizonte Mission. He was born in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, to David A Oscarson and Kathleen Roundy Thorne.

Sister Oscarson is a ward Young Women presidency counselor and former stake Relief Society presidency counselor, stake Young Women camp director, ward Relief Society president, Gospel Doctrine teacher, Primary teacher, and temple and family history consultant. She was born in Portland, Oregon, to Warren Herman Winter and Patricia Jeanne Winter.

Ryan D. Robinson and Elena M. Robinson

Ryan D. Robinson and Elena M. Robinson

Ryan D. Robinson , 62, and Elena M. Robinson , eight children, Crystal Falls Ward, Cedar Park Texas Stake: México Mexicali Mission. Brother Robinson is a stake president and former high councilor, bishop, bishopric counselor, elders quorum president, Young Men adviser, seminary teacher and missionary in the Mexico Monterrey Mission. He was born in Ogden, Utah, to Gary Scott Robinson and Connie Robinson.

Sister Robinson is a Primary teacher and former stake Primary president, ward Relief Society president, ward Young Women president, Young Women adviser, Primary music leader and seminary teacher. She was born in Urbana, Illinois, to Merlin Henry Forster and Vilda Mae Forster.

Michelle H. Russell and J.R. Russell

Michelle H. Russell and J.R. Russell

J.R. Russell , 51, and Michelle H. Russell , four children, Walnut Hills Ward, Des Moines Iowa Mount Pisgah Stake: Idaho Pocatello Mission, succeeding President Scott Herrod and Sister Deanna Herrod. Brother Russell is a stake presidency counselor and former bishop, bishopric counselor, Gospel Doctrine teacher, Young Men adviser and missionary in the Nevada Las Vegas Mission. He was born in Seattle, Washington, to Robert Orvin Russell and Patricia Lee Russell.

Sister Russell is a choir director and former stake Young Women president, stake Young Women presidency counselor, ward Relief Society presidency counselor, Young Women adviser, Relief Society service coordinator, Relief Society teacher and Primary music leader. She was born in Tulsa, Oklahoma, to Richard Curtis Huffaker and Judy Huffaker.

Mark Sheffield and Heather Sheffield

Mark Sheffield and Heather Sheffield

Mark Sheffield , 47, and Heather Sheffield , four children, Newcastle Ward, Sandy Utah Granite Stake: Washington Yakima Mission, succeeding President Phil Welch and Sister Anita Welch. Brother Sheffield is a bishop and a former high councilor, stake assistant clerk, stake assistant executive secretary, ward Sunday School president, elders quorum presidency counselor and missionary in the Florida Fort Lauderdale Mission. He was born in Bountiful, Utah, to Thomas Heber Sheffield and Geraldine Sheffield.

Sister Sheffield is a ward Young Women presidency counselor and a former stake Young Women secretary, Young Women adviser, Sunday School teacher and Primary teacher. She was born in Salt Lake City to James Michael Groscost and Cheryl Lynn Groscost.

Shannon B. Tilley and R. Clark Tilley

Shannon B. Tilley and R. Clark Tilley

R. Clark Tilley , 58, and Shannon B. Tilley , six children, Vintage Ranch Ward, Gilbert Arizona Greenfield Stake: México Puebla North Mission, succeeding President Helamán Montejo and Sister Carmen Montejo. Brother Tilley is a Young Men adviser and Sunday School teacher and former stake presidency counselor, YSA stake presidency counselor, stake Young Men presidency counselor, stake Self-Reliance facilitator, stake Mission Preparation teacher, bishop, ward Young Men president, Gospel Doctrine teacher, scouting district chair and missionary in the Ecuador Quito Mission. He was born in Ogden, Utah, to Clarence H. Tilley and Joyce C. Tilley.  

Sister Tilley is a ward missionary and Sunday School teacher and former stake Primary president, stake Young Women camp director, stake Self-Reliance facilitator, ward Young Women presidency counselor, ward Primary presidency counselor, ward Young Women camp director, Young Women adviser, seminary teacher, Gospel Doctrine teacher and Relief Society teacher. She was born in Phoenix, Arizona, to Lindsay Anderson Brady and Darlene Dorothy Bills Brady.

Arnaldo D. Ullua and Silvana Ullua

Arnaldo D. Ullua and Silvana Ullua

Arnaldo D. Ullua , 53, and Silvana Ullua , five children, Funes Ward, Rosario Argentina West Stake: Argentina Neuquén Mission, succeeding President Steven E. Pennington and Sister Rachel Pennington. Brother Ullua is an elders quorum president and former stake presidency counselor, high councilor, bishop, branch president, temple ordinance worker and missionary in the Argentina Buenos Aires South/West Mission. He was born in Rosario, Argentina, to Arnaldo Pascual Ullua and Regina Lucia Plocharczyk.

Sister Ullua is a stake Young Women president and former ward Relief Society president, ward Young Women president, ward Primary president, ward Primary presidency counselor, seminary teacher and missionary in the Argentina Buenos Aires North Mission. She was born in Rosario, Argentina, to Saul Francisco Jansa and Nelida Marcos.

  • New mission presidents and companions called to serve beginning in 2024
  • Read more about recently called stake, temple and mission leaders

Ingenuity: Damage puts end to ground-breaking Mars helicopter mission

  • Published 4 days ago
  • Nasa Perseverance Mars rover

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Watch Ingenuity's first flight: It climbed to 3m, hovered and then landed

Nasa's Ingenuity Mars helicopter, which made history by achieving the first powered flight on another world, has suffered mission-ending damage.

In a statement, Nasa said the aircraft was forced to perform an "emergency landing" that damaged its rotors.

The space agency's Bill Nelson said the aircraft was "the little helicopter that could" and had racked up far more flights than had been intended.

He said Ingenuity had "paved the way for future flight in our Solar System".

Broken rotor blade

Ingenuity is said to remain "upright" but images showed that "one or more of its rotor blades" were damaged and it was "no longer capable of flight".

Nasa said the circumstances were being investigated.

"Ingenuity has paved the way for future flight in our Solar System, and it's leading the way for smarter, safer human missions to Mars and beyond," Mr Nelson, the Nasa administrator, said in a video message on social media.

"That remarkable helicopter flew higher and farther than we ever imagined and helped Nasa do what we do best - make the impossible, possible."

Ingenuity reached the Red Planet in February 2021 by riding on the belly of the Perseverance rover.

It was meant to be on a short technology demonstration to prove flight was possible in the ultra-thin Martian atmosphere.

Mars chopper

The vehicle went on to support Perseverance in its exploration of Jezero Crater by previewing areas of Mars that might be of interest, helping the wheeled robot and its drivers on Earth pick the right path.

Before its mission came to an end on Thursday, Ingenuity performed 72 flights and flew more than 14 times farther than originally planned.

Many will mourn the passing of the plucky chopper but its withdrawal from service has probably come at the right time, the BBC's science correspondent Jonathan Amos says.

The Perseverance rover is about to undertake some long, fast drives as it seeks to climb up on to the rim of Jezero Crater.

If still functional, Ingenuity would, in all likelihood, have struggled to keep up with Perseverance, or at the very least held up the rover's exploration.

Graphic showing Nasa's Mars helicopter Ingenuity

Related Topics

More on this story.

Mars rover celebrates 1,000 days of science

  • Published 13 December 2023

Ingenuity helicopter to fly over the hills of Mars

  • Published 14 December 2022

Nasa successfully flies small helicopter on Mars

  • Published 19 April 2021

Shadow

IMAGES

  1. All 21 California Missions

    tour of california missions

  2. California Missions of the Central Coast

    tour of california missions

  3. Daily Light of Christ : Explore California's 21 Historic Catholic Missions

    tour of california missions

  4. California Missions Road Trip

    tour of california missions

  5. Exploring the California Missions

    tour of california missions

  6. How to Photograph California’s Missions (Part Two)

    tour of california missions

VIDEO

  1. Part of the history: early missions in California #travel

  2. What to do with your California Mission project once you've gotten your grade

  3. California Missions and More

  4. "Mission California" (Description in comments)

  5. Mission Soledad

COMMENTS

  1. Visiting the 21 California Missions (2024 Guide + Map!)

    January 13, 2024 by Dhara Planning to visit the 21 California missions? The Spanish missions of California are laid out along the old El Camino Real, and make for a fascinating historical road trip along the coast.

  2. California Missions Seven Day Road Trip Guide

    The 21 California Missions Here are each of the 21 missions from south to north, click on the image to learn more about each one. San Diego De Alcala Location: San Diego Founded Order: 1st San Luis Rey De Francia Location: Oceanside Founded Order: 18th San Juan Capistrano Location: San Juan Capistrano Founded Order: 7th San Gabriel Arcangel

  3. Quick Guide to California's 21 Spanish Missions

    1. Mission Basilica San Diego de Alcalá , San Diego Built in 1769 and fully restored in 1931, this mission has a striking 46-foot-tall tower (campanario) holding five bells, the largest weighing 1,200 pounds. Information signs guide visitors through the bougainvillea-covered buildings and immaculate gardens.

  4. The California Missions

    The California Missions. From San Diego to Sonoma, 21 missions create a unique trail of history across California. The red wax seals on the map bear the brands used by each of the California missions. Click here to see a video tour of each of the California Missions. To learn more about an individual mission and its history click on the name of ...

  5. California Missions Road Trip: 21 Historic Sites in 7 Days

    Between 1769 and 1823, 21 missions were established between San Diego and the San Francisco area. They were connected by a great road - El Camino Real - the royal road -, and existed to convert the many "savage" Native groups that had called California home before it was colonized by Spain via Mexico.

  6. California Mission Trail 8 Day Package

    Day 1: Arrive San Francisco A welcome get acquainted dinner is planned to meet with your professional historian-guide. Two nights accommodations in the San Francisco area. (D) Day 2: San Francisco de Asis

  7. Virtual Tour

    Virtual Tour 3-D Imaging Re-creates Living Spaces Used In Mission Times For the past several years, CMF has been working with archaeologists to piece together the long-disappeared Indian Quarters that once housed upwards of 1,000 Salinan at Mission San Miguel.

  8. A Beginner's Guide to the California Missions Trail

    Born from the ancient footpaths traversing the coast between California's twenty-one Spanish missions, the California Missions Trail or El Camino Real in California ("The Royal Road") as it is also known connects historic missions, pueblos, and presidios over an 800-mile long pilgrimage walk.

  9. The California Missions Trail

    The 21 missions that comprise California's Historic Mission Trail are all located on or near Highway 101, which roughly traces El Camino Real (The Royal Road) named in honor of the Spanish monarchy which financed the expeditions into California in the quest for empire.

  10. California Missions

    1. Mission Basilica San Diego de Alcalá, San Diego Built in 1769 and fully restored in 1931, this mission has a striking 46-foot-tall tower (campanario) holding five bells, the largest weighing 1,200 pounds. Information signs guide visitors through the bougainvillea-covered buildings and immaculate gardens.

  11. California Missions Road Trip Day 1: San Diego to Pasadena

    Details. Miles: 74 miles from the first to the third mission, 114 miles if you add in Pala, more if you go to Pasadena. This information is from my road trip in 2017. Since it is hard to guess where everyone will stay the night before, I picked a coffee shop close to the mission as my recommendation for coffee/breakfast.

  12. A Complete Guide to All the California Missions

    The 10th of the California missions, the Santa Barbara Mission was founded by Franciscan Friar Fermin de Lasuen on the Feast of St. Barbara, December 4, 1786. ... 1786. You can visit the grounds for free on any day except holidays, but you must purchase an $8 tour ticket to gain admission to the gate portions of the property that include ...

  13. Best California Missions: Easy, Beautiful Cali Road Trip Stops

    By: Rob Taylor Published: October 29, 2021 - Last updated: September 19, 2023 A very unique road trip to plan is driving El Camino Real to visit California missions. Between historic chapels and gardens, so some of the most interesting small museums, this road trip is a great way to understand California's colonialist history and influences.

  14. California Missions Pilgrimage United States Catholic Tours

    San Francisco · Sonoma County · Mission San Juan Bautista · Carmel by the Sea · Mission San Luis Obispo · Old Mission Santa Barbara · Los Angeles · Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels · Hollywood · Garden Grove · San Juan Capistrano · Mission San Luis Rey · San Diego · Mission Basilica San Diego de Alcala

  15. A Tour of California's Spanish Missions

    TRAVEL A Tour of California's Spanish Missions A poignant reminder of the region's fraught history, missions such as San Miguel are treasured for their stark beauty Jamie Katz May 2011 The...

  16. Home

    Join us in supporting all initiatives to scout, map, mark, certify, sustain, and promote the California Missions Trail: A long-distance trail rooted in the past that provides spiritual, recreational, and economic benefits for the future. MAKE THE PLEDGE Change the way you see the trail

  17. California Missions Videos

    California Missions Video Tours Click the links below to watch video tours of each of the 21 California Missions. Video courtesy Cultural Global Media archives and music provided by our esteemed CMF member Dr. Craig Russell and vocal ensemble Chanticleer.

  18. Missions Map

    Founded: July 4, 1823 The 21st California Mission. The 1840 church was restored in 1913. The restored mission complex includes the church, the padres' quarters (now a museum), and a large quadrangle.. For more information about this mission, visit our mission page where you will find lots of information whether you are a student, educator or a person looking to learn more about the mission.

  19. California Missions

    Here's a look at the 21 Spanish Missions on the California Mission Trail. Want to know more about Mission San Juan Capistrano and the rest of the missions? Here's a look at the 21 Spanish Missions on the California Mission Trail. ... take an informational or educational tour, or attend a university or community event held here. San Buenaventura ...

  20. California Missions

    Day 4 | Thursday, September 16, 2021: Mission San Luis Obispo - Old Mission Santa Barbara - Los Angeles. After breakfast, we will start our day with a guided tour of the beautiful Church, gardens, school and museum that holds a collection of its artifacts at San Luis Obispo de Tolosa Mission. We will have lunch en route to Santa Barbara, a ...

  21. Missions of California (with Map)

    All of California's missions were closed when Mexico ruled California. Between 1834 and 1836 all of California's missions were closed and the mission fathers were evicted. While the idea was to return much of the land to the native people, in reality, it created a series of rich ranch owners who bought or were given the land.

  22. A Guide to Southern California Missions

    Built in 1771, the mission was the third of the 21 missions in California. The mission is now home to various colored music sheets that were once used to educate the Native Americans of the land. This site also holds a large collection of musical instruments from the mission's heyday, including harps, violins, pianos, and guitars.

  23. Enjoy A Unique Road Trip or Virtual Tour of the California Missions

    It was a bonding opportunity. It also doesn't hurt that the missions are gorgeous places to visit and the weather is generally cooperative at that time of year. If you are unable to travel to each of the missions, you can also visit each of them virtually. The link provided here is to the California Missions Foundation which provides virtual tours.

  24. New leaders of 16 missions worldwide

    The following new mission presidents and companions have been called to serve by the First Presidency. They will begin their service in July. Guillermo A. Alvarez, 60, and Pati Alvarez, four children, Jardines de la Asunción Ward, Guatemala City Palmita Stake: Bolivia Cochabamba South Mission.

  25. Ingenuity: Damage puts end to ground-breaking Mars helicopter mission

    The first vehicle to achieve powered flight on another planet suffers rotor damage three years into tour. ... Before its mission came to an end on Thursday, Ingenuity performed 72 flights and flew ...