California History


Juan Bautista de Anza Historic Trail

The Juan Bautista de Anza National Historic Trail is part of the National Park Service's program, United States National Historic Trail and National Millennium Trail programs. The trail is  1,210-mile long, and extends  through the California desert and coastal areas in Southern California and the Central Coast to San Francisco. Pictured is the trail marked by a road sign in Santa Barbara County. Nogales on the U.S.-Mexico border in Arizona is where the trail begins on the Southern end.

Counties the trail passes through:  

ARIZONA: Santa Cruz, Pima, Pinal, Maricopa, Yuma

CALIFORNIA:  Imperial, San Diego, Riverside, Los Angeles, Ventura, Santa Barbara, San Luis Obispo, Monterey, San Benito, Santa Clara, San Mateo, San Francisco, Alameda, Contra Costa,

The trail route 1775-1776

The Trail roughly follows the route that  Juan Bautista de Anza took from New Spain-Colonial Mexico through the Las Californias Province, to deter British and Russian colonial efforts by founding a presidio and mission at the Monterey Bay harbor. The expedition went further north, with the first European sighting of the San Francisco Bay a surprise. They retraced their trail the following year, changing the course of Spanish colonization by establishing a major land route north.

The same trail was taken again in 1781 by Spanish soldiers and settlers to establish Los Angeles, Ventura and Santa Barbara.

There's an Anza Trail Foundation that fights to retain the trail lands for their historic value.

Who is Juan Bautista de Anza?

Juan Bautista de Anza was a Spaniard who traveled by ship to North America. The Spanish Captain led a 1776 expedition via this now historic trail to bring over 240 Spanish soldiers and their families (around 300 people) to establish the city of San Francisco, Mission Dolores and the San Francisco Presidio.

Only one death occurred during the journey (wife of a soldier died in childbirth). Juan Bautista de Anza was liked by his travel companions, as evidenced in the journal entry written by him on April 14, 1776:

"Having concluded my tasks, at two in the afternoon I began my return march in company with Father Fray Pedro Font, seven soldiers of my command, because two had gone to notify Commander Rivera and another had remained at the mission of San Gabriel ; the commissary who came with the expedition; six muleteers of the expedition, because the rest who came are remaining voluntarily, and four of them I left as deserters and thieves sentenced to work on the fort of San Francisco until his Excellency shall make some other disposition; two of the three cowboys who came, for the other likewise remained here; and four of my servants.

At two in the afternoon, then, I set forth over the same road by which I had come. We followed it to the east-southeast for four leagues, for the most part through some hills, from which we descended to the river of Monte Rey, where, in the place which they call Buenavista , at six in the afternoon we halted for the night, having traveled three hours and covered four leagues.

This day has been the saddest one experienced by this presidio since its founding. When I mounted my horse in the plaza, the people whom I have led from their fatherlands, to which I am returning, remembering the good or bad treatment which they have experienced at my hands while they have been under my orders, most of them, especially the feminine sex, came to me sobbing with tears, which they declared they were shedding more because of my departure than of their exile, filling me with compassion. They showered me with embraces, best wishes, and praises which I do not merit. But in remembrance of them, and of the gratitude which I feel to all, and the affection which I have had for them ever since I recruited them, and in eulogy of their faithfulness, for up to now I have not seen a single sign of desertion in anyone of those whom I brought to remain in this exile, I may be permitted to record this praise of a people who, as time goes on, will be very useful to the monarchy in whose service they have voluntarily left their relatives and their fatherland, which is all they have to lose."

Trail happenings:

A permanent Anza Trail Exhibit was unveiled in the first full-scale Anza Trail exhibit in Martinez, California. It is a multi-sensory experience with interactive displays. Location: Martinez Adobe at John Muir National Historic Site

Information about the trail and maps are available at

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