California History:  The Spanish Route 66

Unlike the Lewis and Clark expedition of 1804-1805 or the 1840s Oregon Trail, the Spanish northward trek through California is more famous for its 21 missions than the journey itself.  Today the same “Mission Trail” will lead you through the united states of California.

El Camino Real (The Royal Road or The King’s Highway) (1769-1823), 700 miles (California Highways)

  • CHL 784
  • Northern extension of the road (from present-day Mexico) taken by the Spanish as they established a series of 21 missions spaced about a day’s journey apart (two markers:  one at Mission Dolores and the other at Mission San Diego [see California Missions])
  • US 101 roughly traces this historic trail from Los Angeles to the Wine Country and I-5 between the Mexican border and Los Angeles (in the Bay Area, you can take El Camino Real all the way from San Jose to San Francisco)
  • “Serra Palm” site (1769, CHL 67), exact starting point of El Camino Real in Presidio Park, San Diego (

El Camino Real Bells (since 1906), 380+ and counting

  • Mission-bell guideposts marking the old El Camino Real (bells hung on an 11-foot high post and placed between San Diego and Sonoma)
  • 15 generations and three different styles over the years
  • Three markers installed in Baja California, Mexico
  • At one point only about 75 survived out of a total of 450
  • Originally spearheaded by California Federation of Women’s Clubs (
  • Caltrans appointed as guardian since 1974 (
  • Adopt-a-Bell project since 1996 (
  • Exhibit at Ventura County Museum of History and Art in Southern California (


City and County Location(s) in Bay Area [Vintage]
Alameda, Alameda Co.* ?
Fremont, Alameda Co.* Mission Blvd. and Paseo Padre Pkwy. (near I-680)
Mission Blvd. and Via San Dimas (near I-680)
Mission San Jose (see California Missions)
Oakland, Alameda Co.* Jack London Square [1963]
8th St. and Broadway [1915]
San Leandro, Alameda Co.* E. 14th St. and Davis St./Callan Ave. [1909]
Contra Costa Co.* ?
San Rafael, Marin Co.* US 101 near Central San Rafael exit
Mission San Rafael (see California Missions) [1910]
San Francisco, San Francisco Co.* San Jose Ave. and San Francisco Co. limit (near I-280) [1911]
Polk St. and California St. [1909]
Portsmouth Square (Chinatown) [1909]
Clay St. and Montgomery St. (Chinatown/Financial) [1909]
Kearny St. and Market St. (near Lotta’s Fountain) [1909]
Market St. and Geary St. (near Lotta’s Fountain) [1909]
Howard St. and 5th St. (South of Market) [1911]
Mission St. and 15th St. (The Mission) [1913]
Howard St. and 16th St. (The Mission) [1909]
16th St. and Mission St. (The Mission) [1909]
Dolores St. near 17th St. (The Mission) [1911]
22nd St. and Dolores St. (The Mission) [1909]
16th St. and Dolores St. (near Mission Dolores) [1909]
Mission Dolores (see California Missions) [1909]
Officers Club at The Presidio (see California Military History) [1909]
Belmont, San Mateo Co.* ?
Colma, San Mateo Co.* Greenlawn Memorial Park (main entrance and across El Camino Real)
El Camino Real near Valley St. [1910]
Daly City, San Mateo Co.* Contact us if you know the whereabouts of a mission-bell guidepost that was removed from Mission St. in front of the War Memorial Community Center.
Hillsborough, San Mateo Co.* El Camino Real and Floribunda Ave. (City Hall)
Menlo Park, San Mateo Co.* El Camino Real and Ravenswood Ave. (office park)
Willow Rd. and Middlefield Rd. (Sunset Publishing)
Millbrae, San Mateo Co.* El Camino Real and Meadow Glen Ave. [1962]
Redwood City, San Mateo Co.* El Camino Real and Claremont Ave.
El Camino Real and Chestnut St. (near Hwy. 84)
San Carlos, San Mateo Co.* El Camino Real and San Carlos Ave. (Caltrain Depot)
San Mateo, San Mateo Co.* El Camino Real and Baldwin Ave./Baywood Ave. (in front of a church near hospital)
South San Francisco, San Mateo Co.* El Camino Real and S. Spruce Ave. (near Golden Gate National Cemetery)
Los Altos, Santa Clara Co.* ?
Morgan Hill, Santa Clara Co.* Monterey Rd. and Main Ave. (Villa Mira Monte)
US 101 near Cochrane Rd. exit [2004]
US 101 near Dunne Ave. exit [2004]
US 101 near Tennant Ave. exit [2004]
Mountain View, Santa Clara Co.* El Camino Real and Castro St. (Mountain View Plaza) [1997]
Palo Alto, Santa Clara Co.* El Camino Real and Embarcadero Rd./Galvez St. (traffic island between shopping mall and high school)
El Camino Real and Embarcadero Rd./Galvez St. (Stanford University)
El Camino Real and University Ave./Palm Dr. (?)
San Jose, Santa Clara Co.* The Alameda and Shasta Ave. (across from movie theatre) – still there?
Monterey Rd. and Branham Ln.
Cadwallader Plaza? [1910]
25th St. (?) and San Jose Ave. [1909]
S. 1st St. and S. 2nd St. [1909]
Santa Clara, Santa Clara Co.* Pena Adobe (see California Adobes) [2002]
El Camino Real near Scott Blvd. (next to bank?)
Santa Clara University (near main entrance) [1996]
El Camino Real and Kiely Blvd./Bowers Ave. (?)
El Camino Real and Lawrence Expwy.
Sunnyvale, Santa Clara Co.* El Camino Real and Mathilda Ave. (near Civic Center)
El Camino Real near Wolfe Rd.
S. Mathilda Ave. and Iowa Ave. (in front of a bank)
Sonoma, Sonoma Co.* Sonoma Plaza (?)
Cline Cellars Vineyard
Mission San Francisco Solano (see California Missions)


An asterisk indicates San Francisco Bay Area destination; CHL means California Historical Landmark.

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