Stretching from San Diego to Sonoma along the El Camino Real, California’s missions followed the trail made by the Spanish army as it tried to establish an empire in the New World. Priests built 21 missions from 1769 to 1823 along the road, where they conducted masses, maintained the road and hosted travelers. Father Junipero Serra founded nine of them.
San Diego de Alcala
Father Serra founded California’s first mission in 1769. Masses are still held in San Diego de Alcala's adobe church, which has a historic cemetery and gardens with centuries-old flowers and fruit trees.
San Diego de Alcala 10818 San Diego Mission Rd. San Diego, CA 92108-2429; 619-281-8449 begin_of_the_skype_highlighting 619-281-8449 end_of_the_skype_highlighting
San Juan Capistrano
The seventh mission in California, most of San Juan Capistrano was destroyed in an 1812 earthquake, but the 1777 Serra Chapel is the oldest building still in use in California and the only surviving church where Serra said mass. A fiesta on March 19 celebrates the return of cliff swallows.
Serra Chapel Ortega Hwy. at Camino Capistrano San Juan Capistrano, 92693 949-248-2049
San Gabriel Arcangel
Father Serra founded San Gabriel Arcangel in 1771, east of Los Angeles. Unique to the historic mission design, it is the most like a fort. A winery, graveyard and kitchen gardens are still intact.
San Gabriel Arcangel 537 W. Mission Dr. San Gabriel, CA 91776 626-282-5191
Father Serra established San Buenaventura, the ninth mission, in 1782 in the San Fernando Valley. The convent is the largest freestanding adobe in the state. The buildings have been restored and a 300-year-old statue of Saint Ferdinand is in the church altar.
San Buenaventura 225 E. Main St. Ventura, CA 93001 805-648-4496
San Luis Obispo de Tolosa
Serra founded the fifth mission at San Luis Obispo de Tolosa in 1772. Restored, it contains rare and authentic relics that belonged to the priest, early photographs and Chumash Indian crafts. It was the first mission to use tiles for a roof to deflect flaming arrows from native warriors.
San Luis Obispo de Tolosa 782 Monterey St. San Luis Obispo, CA 93401 805-543-6850
San Antonia de Padua
Father Serra dedicated San Antonia de Padua, the third mission, in 1771 near Paso Robles in the oak and grasslands of the San Antonio Valley. Famous for its archway bells, it is largely restored.
San Antonia de Padua Mission Creek Rd. Jolon, CA 93928 831-385-4478
San Carlos Borromeo de Carmelo
Father Serra founded the second mission, San Carlos Borromeo de Carmelo, south of San Francisco in 1770. The mission’s Moorish design includes a star-shaped window. It was the ecclesiastical capital of California and his headquarters until his death. He is buried there.
San Carlos Borromeo de Carmelo 3080 Rio Rd. Carmel, CA 93923 831-624-3600
Santa Clara de Asis
Santa Clara de Asis was the eighth mission established by Father Serra. Founded in 1777, it is now Santa Clara University, marked by original willows that line the street now called The Alameda in San Jose.
Santa Clara de Asis 500 El Camino Real Santa Clara, CA 95953 408-554-4023
San Francisco de Asis, Mission Dolores
San Francisco de Asis (Mission Dolores) is the oldest building in San Francisco. Dedicated to St. Francis in 1776 by Father Serra, the interior of the original church is intact and the wall paintings well preserved.
San Francisco de Asis (Mission Dolores) 3321 16th St. San Francisco, CA 94114 403-621-8203