GoCampingAmerica.com | Posted January
    2nd, 2016


    California’s Spanish


    Happy Camper Blog



    Over an era
    that spanned more than 50 years, Spanish missionaries devoted themselves to
    spreading Christianity and expanding Spain’s influence in the New World by
    establishing a string of missions along California’s El Camino Real (the
    Royal Road).

    Between 1769 and 1823, they established 21 of these missions, all
    of which have been restored or rebuilt. These architectural gems span from
    San Diego to San Francisco and are located on or near the state’s scenic
    Highway 101. Each one welcomes visitors to learn more about the role it
    played in this significant chapter in California history, and many still
    serve as active parishes.

    Here are some of the most notable missions to visit, in order from
    south to north: 


    San Diego de Alcala (1st

    This is where this historic era began when the first mission in
    California was established by Father Junipero Serra in 1769. The mission was
    rebuilt in 1931 and now serves as an active parish and cultural center where
    visitors can also tour the grounds and gardens, attend services and view the mission’s
    historic bell tower.


    San Juan Capistrano (7th

    First of all, if you’re wondering if the swallows really do still
    return to Capistrano, the answer is yes, and the mission celebrates their
    return each year by hosting a Mexican fiesta on St. Joseph’s Day, March

    Founded in 1775, the mission was severely damaged by an earthquake
    in 1812, and the original ruins can still be viewed on the property. There’s
    plenty for visitors to explore, including museum rooms and exhibits, gardens,
    fountains and arched walkways. One sight not to be missed is the Serra Chapel
    which contains a massive baroque-style hand carved altar from Barcelona that
    is covered in gold leaf.


    Santa Barbara (10th

    Known as “Queen of the Missions” for its beautiful architecture,
    Santa Barbara Mission was founded in 1786 and has served as the local parish
    church ever since. The mission was destroyed by an earthquake in 1925, but
    has been fully restored and offers spectacular views of the Pacific Ocean and
    the Santa Ynez Mountains. The mission features acres of beautiful gardens and
    contains a museum filled with historical art and artifacts. Visitors can
    choose to take a self-guided tour or one led by a docent.


    La Purisima Concepcion (11th

    Considered to be the best example of mission architecture, La
    Purisima Concepcion Mission is located 50 miles west of Santa Barbara in La
    Purisima Mission State Historical Park. Guided tours are offered, and the
    mission also schedules living history days where visitors can learn about
    mission life. According to California State Parks, plants were brought to La
    Purisima from the 20 other missions to create one of the finest collections
    of early California flora in existence. The park also contains 25 miles of
    hiking trails and pastures where horses, cattle, burros and sheep


    San Antonio de Padua (3rd

    Set on land that was once part of the Hearst Ranch, the
    picturesque San Antonio de Padua Mission is located 40 miles north of Paso
    Robles in the San Antonio Valley. It was dedicated in 1771 by Father Serra
    and is located in a peaceful setting, making it a popular choice for weddings
    and retreats.. A picnic area is also provided for those who come to learn
    more about this beautiful mission and to enjoy the natural beauty it is
    surrounded by.


    San Carlos Borromeo de Carmelo (2nd

    Founded in 1771 and also known as Carmel Mission, San Carlos
    Borromeo de Carmelo Mission was considered to be Father Serra’s favorite, and
    it’s easy to see why. It’s set in the beauty of picturesque Carmel amid
    mountains and the ocean, 115 miles south of San Francisco. The mission
    features elegant Moorish architecture and a quadrangle courtyard, along with
    tranquil gardens. Its scenic setting makes it one of the most popular with


    San Juan Bautista (15th

    Located 90 miles from San Francisco, San Juan Bautista Mission was
    founded in 1797 and is the largest of the 21 missions. It is also known as
    the “Mission of Music,” because when Father Estevan Tapis arrived to lead the
    mission, he shared his love of music with the Indians who lived there and
    established a choir that brought fame to the mission. It contains a beautiful
    campanario (bell tower) and the church, constructed of
    adobe walls that are three feet thick, features intricately painted designs
    on the interior. Due to its location near the San Andreas Fault, the mission
    is raising funds to retrofit the structure to protect it from future


    San Francisco de Asis, Mission Dolores, (6th

    Dedicated in honor of St. Francis of Assisi by Father Serra in
    1776, the mission takes its second name from a small lake that was once
    located nearby. The mission is located in the heart of San Francisco and is
    the city’s oldest structure, having survived both the 1906 San Francisco
    earthquake and the California Gold Rush. Today the site includes both the Old
    Mission and the larger Mission Dolores Basilica which was completed in