Camino Real, El [Span.,=The Royal Road]. There are Camino Reals in most former Spanish possessions, including four in former Spanish territory in the United States. Probably the best-known American trail of this name, also called the Mission Trail, leads north from San Diego to San Francisco and beyond, running some 530 mi (853 km). The name is most commonly applied to the part of the trail north of Los Angeles. El Camino Real connected California's Franciscan missions and ran through such settlements as Santa Barbara, San Luis Obispo, San Juan Capistrano, Carmel, and Sonoma. The missions were mainly founded by two priests, Fr. Junípero Serra and his successor, Fr. Fermín Lasuén, in the period from 1769 to 1803. Together they established 18 of the 21 missions, many of them still extant and some extensively renovated, that flourished until the Mexican government ordered their secularization in 1833. Today, the surviving mission churches are houses of worship, tourist attractions, and icons of Spanish-American architecture. Route 101 follows much of the the old trail's route. The name El Camino Real also designates the 700 mi (1,100 km) New Mexican trail that was pioneered by Juan de Oñate in 1598 and formed the lifeline of Spain's New Mexican colony.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.