Camino Real de Tierra Adentro

The Camino Real de Tierra Adentro (Spanish for "Royal Road of the Interior Land") was a 2560 kilometer (1,600 mile) long trade route between Mexico City and San Juan Pueblo, New Mexico, from 1598 to 1882.[1]

In 2010, 55 sites and 5 existing World Heritage Sites along the Mexican section of the route became an entry on the Unesco World Heritage List.[2] Those sites include historic cities, towns, bridges, haciendas and other monuments along the 1,400 km route between the Historic Center of Mexico City (independent World Heritage Site) and the town of Valle de Allende, Chihuahua.

The 404 mile (646 kilometer) section of the route within the United States was proclaimed as a part of the National Historic Trail system on 13 October 2000. El Camino Real de Tierra Adentro National Historic Trail is overseen by both the National Park Service and the U.S. Bureau of Land Management with aid from El Camino Real de Tierra Adentro Trail Assoc. also known as CARTA. A portion of the trail near San Acacia, New Mexico was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2014.[3]

Camino Real de Tierra Adentro
Map of El Camino Real de Tierra Adentro
LocationMexico and the United States
Governing body
WebsiteEl Camino Real de Tierra Adentro National Historic Trail
UNESCO World Heritage Site
CriteriaCultural: (ii), (iv)
Inscription6969 (4993rd Session)
Area3,101.91 ha (7,665.0 acres)
Buffer zone268,057.2 ha (662,384 acres)


Santa Fe church
The Spanish Mission of San Miguel in Santa Fe, New Mexico, it is the oldest church in the United States of America.


Long before the Europeans arrived, the various indigenous tribes and kingdoms that had arisen throughout the northern central steppe of Mexico had established the route that would later become the Camino Real de Tierra Adentro as a major hunting and trade route. The route connected the peoples of the valley of Mexico with those of the north through the exchange of products such as turquoise, obsidian, salt and feathers. By the year 1000, a flourishing trade network existed from Mesoamerica to the Rocky Mountains.[4]

European Incursion

Once the great Tenochtitlan was subdued, the conquistadors began a series of expeditions with the purpose of expanding their domains and obtaining greater wealth for the Spanish Crown. Their initial efforts led them to follow the established trails of the natives who exchanged goods between the north and the south.

In April 1598, a group of military scouts led by Juan de Oñate, the newly-appointed colonial governor of the province of Nuevo México, became lost in the desert south of Paso del Norte while seeking the best route to the Río del Norte. A local Indian they had captured named Mompil drew in the sand a map of the only safe passage to the river. This group arrived at the Río del Norte just south of present-day El Paso and Ciudad Juárez in late April, where they celebrated the Catholic day of Ascension on April 30, 1598 before crossing the river. They then mapped and extended the route to what is now Espaniola, where Oñate would establish the capital of the new province.[5] This trail became the Camino Real de Tierra Adentro, the northernmost of the four main "royal roads" - the Caminos Real - that linked Mexico City to its major tributaries in Acapulco, Veracruz, Audiencia (Guatemala) and Santa Fe.

After the Pueblo Revolt of 1680, which pushed the Spanish out of Nuevo México, the Spanish Crown decided not to abandon the province altogether but instead maintained a channel to the province so as not to completely abandon their remaining subjects in the province. The Viceroyalty organized a system, the so-called conducta, to supply the missions, presidios and northern ranchos. The conducta consisted of wagon caravans that departed every three years from Mexico City to Santa Fe along the Camino Real de Tierra Adentro. The trip required a long and difficult journey of six months, including 2–3 weeks of rest along the way.

Many were the uncertainties that the conducta and other travelers faced. River floods could force weeks of waiting on the banks until the caravan could wade through. At other times, prolonged droughts in the area could make water scarce and difficult to find. The most feared section of the journey was the crossing of the Jornada del Muerto beyond El Paso del Norte: A hundred kilometers of open desert without any oases to hydrate the men and beasts.

Beyond the sustenance needs, the greatest danger to the caravan was that of local assaults. Groups of bandits roamed throughout the territory and threatened the caravan from the current state of Mexico to the state of Querétaro, seeking articles of value. And from the southern part of Zacatecas onward to the north, the greatest threat was the native Chichimecas, which would become more likely to attack as the caravan progressed further north. The main objective of the Chichimecas was horses, but they would also often take women and children. The Presidios along the way would provide relays of troops to provide additional protection to the caravans; and at night in the most dangerous areas, the caravans would form a circle with their wagons with the people and animals inside.

Puente del Camino Real de Tierra Adentro de Ojuelos
Bridge of Ojuelos in the state of Jalisco, part of the Camino Real de Tierra Adentro, a declared UNESCO World Heritage Site along with 59 other sites on the route.
Plaza de San Francisco square where you can see the Templo de la Tercera Orden, and the Templo y Convento de San Francisco, whose construction began in 1567, in the city of Sombrerete, Zacatecas. You can see the Spanish influence mixed with local elements, such as the management of the pink quarry or the Tlaxcaltec elements at the entrance of the temple.
Hacienda de San Blas del Pabellón de Hidalgo, Aguascalientes
Hacienda de San Blas, in the town of Pabellón de Hidalgo, is a 16th-century hacienda, now maintained as a Museum of the Insurgency. It is a good example of the agricultural haciendas that fed the Camino Real de Tierra Adentro.

The Camino Real was actively used as a commercial route for 300 years, from the middle of the 16th century to the 19th century, mainly for the transport of silver extracted from the northern mines. During this time, the road was continuously improved, and over time the risks became smaller as haciendas and population centers emerged.

18th Century

During the 18th century, the sites along the Camino Real de Tierra Adentro increased significantly. The area between the villas of Durango and Santa Fe came to be known as "the Chihuahua Trail".

The villa of San Felipe el Real (today city of Chihuahua), established in 1709 to support the surrounding mines, became the most important commercial center and financial area along this segment.

The villa of San Felipe Neri de Alburquerque (today Albuquerque, New Mexico) was founded in 1706 and it also became an important terminal. Because of its defensive position on the Camino Real, the Villa de Alburquerque became the center of commercial exchange between Nuevo México and the rest of New Spain during the 18th century, trading cattle, wool, textiles, animal skins, salt, and nuts. This exchange occurred mainly with the mining cities of Chihuahua, Santa Bárbara and Parral.

And of course, Paso del Norte became another major terminal on the route. In 1765 the population of El Paso del Norte was estimated to be 2,635 inhabitants, which created what was then the largest urban center on the northern border of New Spain. El Paso del Norte became an important center of agriculture and rancheria, known for its wines, brandy, vinegar and raisins.

In the 18th century, the Spanish Crown authorized the establishment of Fairs along the Camino Real to promote commerce (although some form of these had already been existing for some time prior). Some of the most important Fairs along the Camino Real included the Fair de San Juan de los Lagos in Jalisco, the Fair de Saltillo, and the Fair de Chihuahua, which was of great importance to Nuevo México merchants. The Fair de Taos was also an important annual event where the Comanches and the Utes traded weapons, ammunition, horses, agricultural products, furs, and meats with the Spanish. Spain at the same time maintained a monopoly with the products of its northern provinces, thus no trade occurred with the French colony in Louisiana.

For the second half of the 18th century, the northern frontier of New Spain represented a fundamental interest for the Spanish Empire and its reformist policy, with the aim of ensuring Spanish sovereignty over its northern provinces, highly coveted geopolitically by other European powers - especially the English and the French.[6] The Spanish Crown labored to incorporate the natives into the social and economic welfare of its provinces and give them reasons to participate in the defense of the Spanish border.[6]

Thus, Captain Nicolás de Lafora (assigned by the then Marquis of Rubí) gives a description of the frontier of New Spain in his "Viaje a los presidios internos de la América septentrional", the product of an expedition that took place between 1766 and 1768. This expedition was part of a larger commission on the defensive issues and military capabilities entrusted by the Spanish Crown to the Marquis of Rubí, to assess the tactical placement of the Presidios, inspect troop readiness, review military regulations and propose what might be done to strengthen the government and the defense of the State. From its review, the Marquis proposed a line of Presidios along the northern frontier of New Spain, to be established from the Gulf of Mexico to the Gulf of California to protect itself from the Utes, Apaches, Comanches, and Navajos.[7] Don José de Gálvez, special commissioner to New Spain for Charles III, promoted a "Comandancia General de las Provincias Internas" ("General Commander of the Internal Provinces") for the northern provinces of New Spain. However, he also recognized that a long war with the natives would be impossible to win or sustain due to the lack of military resources in the area. With that view, he himself promoted the establishment of a strong peace in the provinces and a greater commercial presence in 1779.

In 1786, the nephew of José de Gálvez, Bernardo de Gálvez, viceroy of New Spain published his "Instructions" which included three strategies for dealing with the Natives: Continuing the military pressure on hostile and unaligned tribes; Pursuing the formation of alliances with friendly tribes; and promoting economic dependency with those natives who had entered into peace treaties with the Spanish Crown.

In the last decade of the 18th century, a tenuous peace was achieved between the Spaniards and the Apache tribes as a result of the aforementioned administrative and strategic changes. As a consequence, commerce along the Camino Real greatly expanded with products from all over the world, including products from the other provinces of New Spain, brought in over land; European products brought in by the Spanish fleet; and even those that came from the Manila galleon that arrived annually at Acapulco from the western Pacific. As an example, for this time, the most typical products sold by the merchants in the city of Parral along the "Chihuahua Trail" included: Platoncillos from Michoacán; Jarrillos from Cuautitlán of the State of Mexico; Majolica from the State of Puebla; Porcelain junks from China; and clay products from Guadalajara.

19th Century

The 19th century brought many changes for both Mexico and its northern border.

From the Napoleonic Wars at the start of the 19th century to the start of the Mexican War of Independence, the colonial government was unstable and struggled to continue sending resources to the northern provinces. This void led to the establishment of alternate suppliers and supply routes into those provinces. In 1807, American merchant and military agent Zebulon Pike was sent to explore the southwestern borders between the US and New Spain with the intention to find a trail to bring US commerce into Neuvo México and Nueva Vizcaya (Chihuahua). Pike was captured on 26 February 1807 by the Spanish authorities in northern Neuvo México, who sent him on the Camino Real to the city of Chihuahua for interrogation. While Pike was in this city, he gained access to several maps of México and learned of the discontent with Spanish domination.

In 1821, after 11 years of struggle, Mexico gained its independence from Spain. The Camino Real maintained an important role in this period, since travelers brought communication about the events that were taking place in the center of the country to the towns and villages of the internal provinces. During the Mexican War of Independence, the Camino Real was used by both forces, rebels and royal forces. For example, after the liberator Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla launched the war of independence, he used the road to retreat from the Battle of the Bridge of Calderón fought on the banks of the Calderón River 60 km (37 mi) east of Guadalajara in present-day Zapotlanejo, Jalisco northward, eventually arriving at the Wells of Baján in Coahuila where he was captured and executed by royal forces.

Templo de Nuestra Señora del Refugio located in Hacienda La Pedriceña, in the now community of Los Cuatillos, in the municipality of Cuencamé, Durango. In this hacienda you can find Baroque paintings, and multiple mansions that served to manage the property. The chapel of the hacienda was built in the 18th century. The "Cry of Dolores" that is celebrated every year in Mexico on 15 September to remember the call of Independence given by Miguel Hidalgo, was organized from this hacienda by the president Benito Juárez in 1864.

Between 1821 and 1822, after the end of the war for the Independence of Mexico, The Santa Fe Trail was established to connect the US territory of Missouri with Santa Fe. At first, US merchants were arrested and imprisoned for bringing contraband into Mexican territory; however, the growing economic crisis in northern Mexico gave rise to an increased tolerance of this type of trade. In fact, the Santa Fe Trail (Sendero de Santa Fe) provided needed markets for local products (such as cotton) and manufactured products from New Mexico, so New Mexicans looked favorably on this new trade route. By 1827, a lucrative and commercial connection had been forged between Missouri, New Mexico and Chihuahua.

In 1846, the dispute over the Texas-Mexico border with the United States gave rise to the subsequent invasion by US military forces and the Mexican–American War began. One of these forces was commanded by the general Stephen Kearny, who traveled by the Santa Fe Trail to seize the capital of New Mexico. Another of the forces commanded by Colonel Alexander William Doniphan defeated a small group of Mexican contingents on the Camino Real in the Los Brazitos area south of what is now Las Cruces, New Mexico. Doniphan's forces went on to capture El Paso del Norte and, later, the city of Chihuahua. During 1846 - 1847, the Camino Real de Tierra Adentro became a path of continuous use, with American forces using it to travel into the interior of Mexico. On their journey, many American travelers kept journals and wrote home about what they saw as they travelled. One of the soldiers provided an estimate of the population of several cities along the Camino, including: Algodones, New Mexico with 1,000 inhabitants; Bernalillo with 500; Sandía Pueblo with 300 to 400, Albuquerque without an estimated number but extant for seven or eight miles along the Rio Grande; Rancho de los Placeres with 200 or 300; Tomé with 2,000; Socorro, described as a "considerable city"; Paso del Norte with 5,000 to 6,000, and Carrizal, Chihuahua with 400 inhabitants. The soldiers even kept notes of the products, prices, and animals that they found on their journeys.

With the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo signed in February 1848, the war officially ended, with Mexico ceding most of its northern territories to the US, including parts of what are now the US states of New Mexico, Colorado, Arizona, and all of California, Nevada and Utah. At that time, the Camino Real de Tierra Adentro was divided forever between two countries, and over time many of its stories have faded or been lost to time; however, its cultural legacy remains today.

Uses of the name and controversies

El Camino Real de Tierra Adentro National Historic Trail by Samat Jain
The section of the road that runs through US territory, a total of 646 kilometers, was declared "National Historic Trail" in October 2000.

The name is sometimes a source of confusion, since during the Viceroyalty of New Spain all roads passable by horse and cart were called "Camino Real," and a significant number of roads throughout the viceroyalty bore this designation. Similarly, all of the interior territories outside of Mexico City were once called "Tierra Adentro", and particularly the northern parts of the Kingdom. This is why the portion of the road between Querétaro City, and Saltillo was alternatively called "La Puerta de Tierra Adentro" ("The Door of Tierra Adentro"). There have historically been several designated "Caminos Reales de Tierra Adentro" throughout New Spain, perhaps the 2nd most important one after the road to Santa Fe being the one that led out of Saltillo, Coahuila to the Province of Texas. The US state of New Mexico recently copyrighted its use of "El Camino Real de Tierra Adentro" to protect its legal rights to the name in the US, regardless of the fact that the US state of Texas has not pursued or promoted its own historical claim to the same.

World Heritage Site

Plate awarded by UNESCO to the recognized sites of the section of the road that runs through Mexican territory.

The section of the road that runs through Mexican territory was identified for consideration by the United Nations World Heritage Committee for Education, Science and Culture (UNESCO) as a World Heritage List in November 2001, under the cultural criteria (i) and (ii), which referred to: i) Representing a masterpiece of the creative genius of man; and ii) Being the manifestation of a considerable exchange of influences, during a specific period or in a specific cultural area, in the development of architecture or technology, monumental arts, urban planning or landscape design. 2010, UNESCO further validated the road's importance under criteria (iv) Offering an eminent example of a type of building, architectural, technological or landscape, that illustrates a significant stage of human history. Finally, on August 1, 2010, UNESCO designated this road as an officially-recognized World Heritage site, along with another 24 new sites from various countries of the world. The designation identified a core zone of 3,102 hectares with a buffer zone of 268,057 hectares distributed across 60 historical sites.

UNESCO identified / recognized 60 sites along the road in their declaration of the road being a World Heritage site. Five of them (Mexico City, Querétaro City, Guanajuato City, San Miguel de Allende and Zacatecas) had been separately recognized as a World Heritage site in the past.[8] It should be mentioned that the original historical route does not exactly match the route identified by UNESCO, since UNESCO's declaration omitted several sections of the historical route such as the portion that ran north of Valle de Allende in Chihuahua and the portion that ran through the famous Hacienda de San Diego del Jaral de Berrio in the Mexican State of Guanajuato,[9] a key point for the route, to cite 2 samples. For this reason, a possible expansion of the declaration has been proposed for the future. Currently, the Instituto Nacional de Antropología e Historia is conducting research to find and gather evidence for additional portions and sites of the original stretches of the historical road, such as bridges, pavements, haciendas, etc. that might be added to the original UNESCO designation.

Declared Sites

Mexico City and State of Mexico
Museo Nacional del Virreinato 3
Old College of San Francisco Javier in Tepotzotlán, February 2018.

1351-000: Historic center of Mexico City.
1351-001: Old College of San Francisco Javier in Tepotzotlán.
1351-002: Aculco town.
1351-003: Bridge of Atongo.
1351-004: Section of the Camino Real between Aculco and San Juan del Río.

Zocalo Panorama seen from rooftop restaurant
Panorama of Plaza del Zócalo with Palacio Nacional at front and flanked by the Metropolitan Cathedral, the Former City Hall and its twin building.
State of Hidalgo

1351-005: Templo and exconvento de San Francisco in Tepeji del Río de Ocampo and bridge.
1351-006: Section of the Camino Real between the bridge of La Colmena and the Hacienda de La Cañada.

Saint Francis of Assisi Church, Tepeji del Rio, Hidalgo State, Mexico

Templo and exconvento de San Francisco in Tepeji del Río de Ocampo

Puente Camino Real.

Bridge of La Colmena.

State of Querétaro

1351-007: Historic center of San Juan del Río.
1351-008: Hacienda de Chichimequillas.
1351-009: Chapel of the hacienda de Buenavista.
1351-010: Historic center of Querétaro City.


Templo y exconvento de San Agustín in Querétaro City.

Iglesia de San Francisco, Queretaro

Templo y exconvento de San Francisco de Asís in Querétaro City.

08013-Casa de la Corregidora

Casa de la Corregidora in Querétaro City.

Acueductos Ciudad de Querétaro México

Querétaro City Aqueduct.

Templo Parroquial

Capilla de Nuestra señora de Guadalupe in San Juan del Río.

State of Guanajuato

1351-011: Bridge of El Fraile.
1351-012: Antiguo Real Hospital de San Juan de Dios in San Miguel de Allende.
1351-013: Bridge of San Rafael in Guanajuato City.
1351-014: Bridge La Quemada.
1351-015: City of San Miguel de Allende and Sanctuario de Jesús Nazareno de Atotonilco.
1351-016: Historic center of Guanajuato City and its adjacent mines.

Iglesia del Hospital de San Juan de Dios de San Miguel de Allende, Guanajuato

Antiguo Real Hospital de San Juan de Dios in Guanajuato City.

Senora de la Salud

Iglesia de Nuestra Señora de la Salud in San Miguel Allende.

Parroquia 14

Parroquia de San Miguel Arcángel in San Miguel Allende.

Guanaguato at night

Guanaguato City panorama.


Juárez Theatre in Guanajuato City.

State of Jalisco

1351-017: Historic center of Lagos de Moreno and bridge.
1351-018: Historic set of Ojuelos de Jalisco.
1351-019: Bridge of Ojuelos de Jalisco.
1351-020: Hacienda de Ciénega de Mata.
1351-021: Old Cemetery of Encarnación de Díaz.


Parroquia de la Asunción de María in Lagos de Moreno.


Parroquia de Nuestra Señora del Refugio in Lagos de Moreno.

Lagos de Moreno restos coloniales

Bridge of Lagos de Moreno.

Puente del Camino Real de Tierra Adentro de Ojuelos

Bridge of Ojuelos de Jalisco.


Mummy in Lagos de Moreno.


Church in Encarnación de Díaz.


Old Cemetery in Encarnación de Díaz.

State of Aguascalientes

1351-022: Hacienda de Peñuelas.
1351-023: Hacienda de Cieneguilla.
1351-024: Historic center of the Aguascalientes City.
1351-025: Hacienda de Pabellón de Hidalgo.

Catedral de Aguascalientes (vista de frente)

Aguascalientes City Cathedral.

Saint Blaise Church, Pabellon de Hidalgo, Rincon de Romos, Aguascalientes State, Mexico

Templo de San Blas in Pabellón de Hidalgo.

State of Zacatecas

1351-026: Chapel of San Nicolás Tolentino of the Hacienda de San Nicolás de Quijas.
1351-027: Town of Pinos.
1351-028: Templo de Nuestra Señora de los Ángeles of the town of Noria de Ángeles.
1351-029: Templo de Nuestra Señora de los Dolores in Villa González Ortega.
1351-030: Colegio de Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe de Propaganda Fide.
1351-031: Historic center of Sombrerete.
1351-032: Templo de San Pantaleón Mártir in the town of Noria de San Pantaleón.
1351-033: Sierra de Órganos.
1351-034: Architectural set of the town of Chalchihuites.
1351-035: Section of the Camino Real between Ojocaliente and Zacatecas.
1351-036: Cave of Ávalos.
1351-037: Historic center of Zacatecas City.
1351-038: Sanctuary of Plateros.

Pueblo de Pinos

Iglesia Principal of the town of Pinos.


Colegio de Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe de Propaganda Fide.


Plaza de San Agustin in Zacatecas City.


Cajas Reales in Sombrerete.


Iglesia de Santo Domingo in Sombrerete.


Sanctuary of Plateros.

State of San Luis Potosí

1351-039: Historic center of San Luis Potosí.

Capilla de San Pedro en Hacienda Gogorron

Chapel of San Pedro in Hacienda de Gongorron.

Calle universidad(1)

Calle Universidad street

State of Durango

1351-040: Chapel of San Antonio of the Hacienda de Juana Guerra.
1351-041: Churches in the town of Nombre de Dios.
1351-042: Hacienda de San Diego de Navacoyán and Bridge del Diablo.
1351-043: Historic center of the Durango City.
1351-044: Churches in the town of Cuencamé and Cristo de Mapimí.
1351-045: Chapel of the Refuge in the Hacienda de Cuatillos.
1351-046: Iglesia Principal of the town of San José de Avino.
1351-047: Chapel of the Hacienda de la Inmaculada Concepción of Palmitos de Arriba.
1351-048: Chapel of the Hacienda de la Limpia Concepción of Palmitos de Abajo.
1351-049: Architectural set of Nazas.
1351-050: Town of San Pedro del Gallo.
1351-051: Architectural set of the town of Mapimí.
1351-052: Town of Indé.
1351-053: Chapel of San Mateo of the Hacienda de San Mateo de la Zarca.
1351-054: Hacienda de la Limpia Concepción of Canutillo.
1351-055: Templo de San Miguel in the town of Villa Ocampo.
1351-056: Section of the Camino Real between Nazas and San Pedro del Gallo.
1351-057: Ojuela Mine.
1351-058: Cave of Las Mulas de Molino.

Panoramica plaza de armas Durango

Plaza de Armas in the Historic centre of Durango City.


Templo de Cuencamé.


Town of Mapimí.

Nazas Camino Real

Town of Nazas.

Ojuela 47

Ojuela Mine.

State of Chihuahua

1351-059: Town of Valle de Allende


Location of the sixty recognized Mexican sites along the El Camino Real de Tierra Adentro-declared World Heritage Site

United States Historic Trail

From the Texas-New Mexico border to San Juan Pueblo north of Española, the original route (at one point designated U.S. Route 85 in the US but later superseded with US Interstate Highways 10 and 25) has been designated as a National Scenic Byway called El Camino Real.

Pedestrian, bicycle, and equestrian trails have been added to portions of the trade route corridor over the past few decades. These include the existing Paseo del Bosque Trail in Albuquerque and portions of the proposed Rio Grande Trail. Its northern terminus, Santa Fe, is a terminus also of the Old Spanish Trail and the Santa Fe Trail.

Along the trail, parajes (stop overs) that have been preserved today include El Rancho de las Golondrinas.

Fort Craig and Fort Selden are also located along the trail.


El Camino Real de Tierra Adentro Trail Association (CARTA) is a non-profit trail organization that aims to help promote, educate, and preserve the cultural and historic trail in collaboration with the National Park Service, the Bureau of Land Management, the New Mexico Department of Cultural Affairs and various Mexican organizations. CARTA publishes an informative journal, Chronicles of the Trail, quarterly that provides people with further history and current affairs of the trail and what CARTA, as an organization, is doing to help the trail.

Chihuahua Trail

The Chihuahua Trail is the name used to describe this route as it passes from New Mexico through the state of Chihuahua to central Mexico.

By the late 16th century, Spanish exploration and colonization had advanced from Mexico City northward by the great central plateau to its ultimate goal in Santa Fe. Until Mexican independence in 1821, all communications between New Mexico and the rest of the world was restricted to this 1,500-mile (2,400 km) trail. Over it came ox carts and mule trains, missionaries and governors, soldiers and colonists. When the Santa Fe Trail sprang up between Santa Fe and Missouri, traders from the United States extended their operations southward down the Chihuahua Trail and beyond to Durango and Zacatecas. Ultimately superseded by railroads in the 19th century, the ancient Mexico City-Santa Fe road was revived in the mid-20th century as one of the great automobile highways of Mexico. The part that runs from Santa Fe, New Mexico to El Paso, Texas, US State Highway 85, pioneered by Franciscan missionaries in 1581, may be the oldest highway in the United States.

See also


  1. ^ Snyder, Rachel Louise. "Camino Real" American Heritage, April/May 2004.
  2. ^ "Camino Real de Tierra Adentro – World Heritage List". UNESCO. Retrieved 5 August 2010.
  3. ^ "Weekly list of actions 11/03/14 through 11/07/14". National Park Service. Retrieved 23 November 2014.
  4. ^
  5. ^
  6. ^ a b
  7. ^ "Linea de Presidios de la Frontera Novohispana: 1770 - 1780".
  8. ^ UNESCO World Heritage Convention (2010). "List of sites of the Camino Real de Tierra Adentro".
  9. ^

Further reading

  • Dictionary of American History by James Truslow Adams, New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1940
  • Boyle, Susan Calafate. Los Capitalistas: Hispano Merchants and the Santa Fe Trade. Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 1997.
  • Moorhead, Max L. New Mexico's Royal Road. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1958.
  • Palmer, Gabrielle G., et al.. El Camino Real de Tierra Dentro. Santa Fe: Bureau of Land Management, 1993.
  • Palmer, Gabrielle G. and Stephen L. Fosberg. El Camino Real de Tierra Dentro. Santa Fe: Bureau of Land Management, 1999.
  • Preston, Douglas and José Antonio Esquibel. The Royal Road. Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 1998.

External links

Coordinates: 22°36′29″N 102°22′45″W / 22.60806°N 102.37917°W

El Camino Real de los Tejas National Historic Trail

The El Camino Real de los Tejas National Historic Trail is a National Historic Trail covering the U.S. section of the El Camino Real de Los Tejas, a thoroughfare from the 18th-century Spanish colonial era in Spanish Texas instrumental in the settlement, development and history of Texas. The National Park Service designated the El Camino Real de los Tejas National Historic Trail as a unit in the National Historic Trail system in 2004.

The modern highways Texas 21 (along with Texas OSR) and Louisiana 6 roughly follow the original route of the trail.

Engle, New Mexico

Engle is an unincorporated community in Sierra County, New Mexico, United States.Engle was a station on the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railway and New Mexico State Road 51 passes through the community. Elephant Butte Reservoir and Truth or Consequences lie to the west and the San Andres Mountains are to the east.

Fort Conrad

Fort Conrad was a U.S. Army fort established by in New Mexico Territory, in 1851, in Socorro County, New Mexico.

Fort Conrad was located near modern Tiffany, New Mexico. It was on the west side of the Rio Grande a little up river from the river crossing of the Rio Grande to the west bank of the river by the Camino Real de Tierra Adentro from Valverde. Because of its poor location it was later abandoned for Fort Craig in 1854.

Fort Craig

Fort Craig was a U.S. Army fort located along El Camino Real de Tierra Adentro, near Elephant Butte Lake State Park and the Rio Grande in Socorro County, New Mexico.

The Fort Craig site was approximately 1,050 feet east-west by 600 feet north-south (320 by 180 m) and was located on 40 acres (16 hectares).

Fort Selden

Fort Selden was a United States Army post, occupying the area in what is now Radium Springs, New Mexico. The site was long a campground along the El Camino Real de Tierra Adentro. It was the site of a Confederate Army camp in 1861. The U. S. Army established Fort Selden in 1865 for the purpose of protecting westward settlers from Native American raids, the post fell into disrepair after the American Civil War. It was ultimately abandoned in 1891, due in large part to the decision to expand Fort Bliss and the lack of any expenditures for repair of the facility.

Geronimo Trail Scenic Byway

Geronimo Trail Scenic Byway is a US National Scenic Byway commemorating Chiricahua Apache warrior Geronimo. The road is also recognized by the New Mexico Department of Transportation as a scenic and historic byway. The town of Truth or Consequences, New Mexico lies at the center of this trail with a southern end at San Lorenzo, Grant County, New Mexico and a northern end at Beaverhead Ranger Station. The Federal Highway Administration gives the total length of this scenic road as 154.0 mi (247.8 km).

Geronimo Trail incorporates several New Mexico state highways passing along Elephant Butte Dam, Elephant Butte Lake State Park, Caballo Lake, Caballo Mountains and Black Range Mountains. It is connected to the Trail of the Mountain Spirits Scenic Byway in the southwest and El Camino Real De Tierra Adentro in the northeast. Towns along its southern route starting from San Lorenzo include Kingston, Hillsboro, Caballo, Williamsburg, and the ghost town of Lake Valley which is located 18 mi (29 km) south of the trail from Hillsboro on NM 27. From Truth or Consequences north, there are Elephant Butte, New Mexico, Cuchillo, Winston and Chloride.

Grand Enchantment Trail

The Grand Enchantment Trail (acronym "GET") is a wilderness recreation trail running 770 miles (1,240 km) between Phoenix, Arizona and Albuquerque, New Mexico. It crosses the Arizona Trail and Continental Divide Trail and at Albuquerque it meets the Rio Grande Trail and El Camino Real de Tierra Adentro.

Jornada del Muerto

The name Jornada del Muerto is translated loosely from Spanish, historically referring to it as the "Journey of the Dead Man", though the modern literal translation is closer to "The Working Day of the Dead". As a geographic name, "Jornada del Muerto" is the desert region the Conquistadors had to cross to make it from Las Cruces to Socorro, New Mexico. As a name-place, "Jornada del Muerto" is a loose translations of "single day's journey of the dead man" hence "route of the dead man") in the U.S. state of New Mexico was the name given by the Spanish conquistadors to the Jornada del Muerto Desert basin, and the particularly dry 100-mile (160 km) stretch of a route through it.

The trail led northward from central Spanish colonial New Spain, present-day Mexico, to the farthest reaches of the viceroyalty in northern Nuevo México Province (the area around the upper valley of the Rio Grande). The route later became a section of the Camino Real de Tierra Adentro.

Lava Gate

Lava Gate is an narrow area in the Jornada del Muerto, in the southern part of Socorro County, New Mexico. The Lava Gate creates a gap that trends north northwest to south southwest, between the malpaís (lava fields) of the Jornada del Muerto Volcano to the northeast and the foothills of the Fra Cristobal Range to the southwest. Its midpoint lies at an elevation of 4,573 feet / 1,394 meters. The Lava Gate provided a path for the Camino Real de Tierra Adentro from the interior of the Jornada del Muerto to the Rio Grande at Paraje, Socorro County, New Mexico.

Ojuelos de Jalisco

Ojuelos de Jalisco is a colonial town and municipality in the state of Jalisco, Mexico. The town's 1990 population was 7,265, although by the year 2010 it had increased to 11,881.It sits at the junction of Mexico Highways 51, 70, and 80.

The municipality is located in the North-Central region of Mexico. It is bordered by 3 states: Guanajuato, Zacatecas and Aguascalientes. Also, it is located at a very closed proximity of the state of San Luis Potosi. All of the above makes of Ojuelos one of the municipalities with the most borders in Mexico. It also borders with the Lagos de Moreno municipality in the state of Jalisco.


Paraje, a Spanish term meaning in English place or spot. Paraje is a term from the original Spanish speaking settlers, in use among English speakers in the southwestern United States, particularly in New Mexico, that refers to a camping place along a long distance trail where travelers customarily stopped for the night. A paraje can be a town, a village or pueblo, a caravanserai, or simply a good location for stopping.

Parajes typically are spaced 10 to 15 miles apart and feature abundant water and fodder for the travelers' animals (oxen, cattle, sheep, donkeys, mules and horses). The early Spanish caravans were largely ox-drawn carts and the oxen and herds of cattle and sheep could only make these short distances in a day without cost to the animals, because they needed to graze for several hours each day to stay in health. Horses and mules could make much longer distances in a day, up to 60 miles without cost to the animal, so long as they had water and grazing, but after a few days would have to graze and rest for a day or two to recover if grazing was not available. In the most arid desert regions of these routes it was sufficient if the paraje had water, scarce at the best of times, but lethal if not available to man or beast, particularly in the hot, dry seasons of the year.

A route between two parajes, that is difficult but must be traversed in one day because there is no water along the way, was known as a jornada. The Jornada del Muerto in New Mexico, probably the oldest and most well known of these jornadas, had parajes along its course, from south to north Paraje de Robledo, with grazing along the Rio Grande,, Paraje de San Diego, on a plateau overlooking the water and grazing below in the Rincon Valley on the Rio Grande, Paraje del Perrillo, a waterhole in the Jornada in the vicinity of Point of Rocks, Laguna del Muerto, a desert playa, seasonally a lake, with grazing along its retreating shoreline. and the Paraje de Fray Cristóbal, with grazing along the eastern bank of the Rio Grande on the northern end of the Jornada.The Jornada del Muerto is the most well known of these jornadas, but there were others. Another was the jornada between Tucson and the Pima Villages on the Gila River. A third was El Camino del Diablo, the route across the Sonoran Desert between Caborca, Sonora and the Yuma Crossing and the Anza Trail from the Yuma Crossing to the coastal mountains of Southern California across the Colorado Desert.

In New Mexico, one notable paraje on El Camino Real de Tierra Adentro is El Rancho de las Golondrinas in La Cienega, New Mexico, located between the Rio Grande and Santa Fe, New Mexico, is a museum of life in old Nuevo México.

Paraje, Socorro County, New Mexico

Paraje, was a populated place along the east bank of the Rio Grande, in Socorro County, New Mexico, now a ghost town. It is located north northeast of the Fra Cristobal Range.

Paraje de San Diego

Paraje de San Diego was a camping place, overlooking the Rio Grande, along the route of the Jornada del Muerto. It was located 5 leagues north of the Paraje de Robledo and "half a league from the river".Bishop of Durango, Pedro Tamarón y Romeral, wrote of this location during his 1760 visitation to New Mexico:

"... on May 12, which found us in Robledo at a frosty dawn, when smokes were seen in the nearby Doña Ana sierra. This gave us some anxiety, but when we continued our journey, we began to realize that the great amount of smoke indicated that a forest was burning. And a little farther on, opposite the conflagration, we found a black cross about a vara and a half high and as thick as a man’s thumb at the side of the road, and at its foot a deerskin sack containing two pieces of fresh venison and a deerskin. The Apaches, who must have been in the Doña Ana sierra, put it there. By this means they indicated that they were at peace and that we should give them food and buy the deerskin. The experienced guides gave this interpretation. And therefore they left a knife in exchange for the deerskin and kept putting pieces of bread and tobacco leaf in the sack. And a short distance away, for we were on the lookout, two Indians on horseback were sighted. They were coming to see what had been left for them.""On this day, the twelfth of the month and the sixth of the journey, we came to the Jornada del Muerto. To prepare for it, a detour is made to seek the river at a place called San Diego (paraje de San Diego). The night is spent there. Everything necessary is made ready. It is about half a league from the river. Barrels are brought for the purpose. These are filled with water for the people. On the morning of the thirteenth the horses were taken to the river to drink. Somewhat later all the food for the journey was prepared, and at half past seven we left that post with considerable speed, stopping only to change horses."During this thirteenth day they had traveled 20 leagues until eight-thirty at night, when they halted opposite the Sierra de Fray Cristóbal. After a 10 league journey on the 14th of May, the Bishop reached the Rio Grande again at eleven‑thirty, at the Paraje de Fray Cristóbal, leaving the Jornada del Muerto.The location given by Bishop Tamarón places Paraje de San Diego on the heights overlooking the Rincon Valley north of San Diego Mountain above Tonuco Draw, southeast of the location of Rincon, New Mexico. At the time the Bishop wrote the Rio Grande must have had a different course than today to be half a league away. It would have to pass close to the east side of the valley close to the foot of the bluffs where the paraje was located and at the foot of San Diego Mountain.

Point of Rocks (Sierra County, New Mexico)

Point of Rocks is a 5,115 foot / 1,559 meter summit of a group of hills also known as Point of Rocks, in the Jornada del Muerto plateau, in Sierra County, New Mexico. The hills were known to the Spanish as the Cerros del Perrillo (Hills of the Little Dog).

Polvadera, New Mexico

Polvadera (La Polvadera de San Lorenzo) is an unincorporated community and census-designated place in Socorro County in central New Mexico, USA. It is located on the west bank of the Rio Grande, near the mouth of the Rio Salado, and on the western spur of El Camino Real de Tierra Adentro.

San Luis Potosí City

San Luis Potosí, commonly called SLP or simply San Luis, is the capital and the most populous city of the Mexican state of San Luis Potosí. The city lies at an elevation of 1,864 metres (6,115 feet). It has an estimated population of 824,229 in the city proper and a population of approximately 1,221,526 in its metropolitan area, formed with the neighbour city of Soledad de Graciano Sánchez and other surrounding municipalities, which makes the metropolitan area of Greater San Luis Potosí the eleventh largest in Mexico.

The city is in the west-central part of the state of San Luis Potosí, at 22.16°N, 100.98°W. The municipality has an area of 1,443.14 square kilometres (557.20 square miles). It is part of the macroregion of Bajío.The city is named after Louis IX of France (also known in Mexico as San Luis Rey de Francia, Saint Louis, King of France), who is the city's patron saint. Potosí was added in reference to the fabulously rich mines of Potosí, Bolivia, discovered some forty years before the city was founded, as the exploitation of silver and gold mines in Cerro de San Pedro, near San Luis, was the main reason for the founding of the city in 1592.Now, the city is one of the main industrial centres in central Mexico with a prolific manufacturing industry. A number of foreign industries have chosen to invest in San Luis Potosí in the last decades thanks to its strategic location for trade, as the city is located halfway between Mexico City and the United States border, as well as in the middle of the triangle formed by the three largest cities in Mexico: Mexico City, Guadalajara, and Monterrey.Besides its industry-based economy, recently the city has been promoted as a touristic destination in central Mexico by state and federal programs. San Luis Potosí's historic center displays a great mixture of different artistic styles in many buildings and is a major example of colonial architecture in Mexico. In 2010, the historic center was listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site within Camino Real de Tierra Adentro.

Santa Fe Trail

The Santa Fe Trail was a 19th-century transportation route through central North America that connected Franklin, Missouri with Santa Fe, New Mexico. Pioneered in 1821 by William Becknell, who departed from the Boonslick region along the Missouri River, the trail served as a vital commercial highway until the introduction of the railroad to Santa Fe in 1880. Santa Fe was near the end of the El Camino Real de Tierra Adentro, which carried trade from Mexico City.

The route skirted the northern edge and crossed the north-western corner of Comancheria, the territory of the Comanches, who demanded compensation for granting passage to the trail, and represented another market for American traders. Comanche raiding farther south in Mexico isolated New Mexico, making it more dependent on the American trade, and provided the Comanches with a steady supply of horses for sale. By the 1840s, trail traffic along the Arkansas Valley was so heavy that bison herds could not reach important seasonal grazing land, contributing to their collapse, which in turn hastened the decline of Comanche power in the region.The American army used the trail route in 1846 for the invasion of New Mexico during the Mexican–American War.After the U.S. acquisition of the Southwest ending the war, the trail helped open the region to U.S. economic development and settlement, playing a vital role in the expansion of the U.S. into the lands it had acquired. The road route is commemorated today by the National Park Service as the Santa Fe National Historic Trail. A highway route that roughly follows the trail's path through the entire length of Kansas, the southeast corner of Colorado and northern New Mexico has been designated as the Santa Fe Trail National Scenic Byway.

Socorro County, New Mexico

Socorro County is a county in the U.S. state of New Mexico. As of the 2010 census, the population was 17,866. The county seat is Socorro. The county was formed in 1852 as one of the original nine counties of New Mexico Territory. Socorro was originally the name given to a Native American village (see: Puebloan peoples) by Don Juan de Oñate in 1598. Having received vitally needed food and assistance from the native population, Oñate named the pueblo Socorro ("succor" in English).

Socorro County is home to multiple scientific research institutions including New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology, the National Radio Astronomy Observatory and its associated Very Large Array, the Magdalena Ridge Observatory, and the Langmuir Laboratory for Atmospheric Research. Federal public lands in Socorro County include parts of the Cibola National Forest, the Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge, the Sevilleta National Wildlife Refuge, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) Socorro Field Office, parts of the Salinas Pueblo Missions National Monument, and parts of the El Camino Real de Tierra Adentro National Historic Trail.

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