Last updated: June 13, 2022
Trail Brochure Information
The Trail Yesterday
El Camino Real de Tierra Adentro is the earliest European American trade route in the United States. Tying Spain’s colonial capital at Mexico City to its northern frontier in distant New Mexico, the route spans three centuries, two countries, and 1,600 miles. El Camino Real was blazed atop a network of indigenous footpaths that connected Mexico’s ancient cultures with those of America’s Southwest. El Camino Real de Tierra Adentro began in Mexico City. The historic road runs from there to Queretaro, Guanajuato, Aguascalientes, San Luis Potosi, Zacatecas, Durango, and Ciudad Chihuahua. As the “Royal Road of the Interior Lands,” the road was the economic, social, and political lifeline between Mexico City and its northern provinces, and ultimately the wagon road brought Spanish colonists into today’s New Mexico.
Once travelers crossed the arid plains of northern Chihuahua, they followed the Rio Grande Valley north into New Mexico. Many of the historic parajes (campsites) and early settlements created by the Spanish colonists became today’s modern cities in the Rio Grande Valley. In the United States, the trail stretches from the El Paso area in Texas, through Las Cruces, Socorro, Belen, Albuquerque, and Santa Fe to Ohkay Owingeh (San Juan Pueblo), the first Spanish capital in New Mexico.
The trail fostered exchanges between people from many backgrounds, including American Indians, Spaniards, Mexicans, New Mexicans, and Americans. From 1598, when the first Spanish colonizing expedition made its way up the Rio Grande, through the mid-1880s, the wagon road was the main thoroughfare between Mexico and New Mexico. The trail corridor is still very much alive, more than 120 years after the railroad eclipsed its commercial use.
The Trail Today
The trail corridor nurtures a lively exchange of ideas, trade, traditions, customs, and language between Mexico and the American Southwest. Recognition as an international historic trail commemorates a shared cultural and geographic heritage. It helps eliminate cultural barriers and enriches the lives of people living along El Camino Real de Tierra Adentro. Added to the National Trails System in October 2000 by the US Congress, El Camino Real de Tierra Adentro National Historic Trail extends 404 miles from south of El Paso, Texas, to Ohkay Owingeh Pueblo, New Mexico. Visit some of the places featured here to experience the trail today.
Check out the trail timeline to learn more about how things progressed overtime on El Camino Real de Tierra Adentro.
Junior Ranger Illustrations
Use the illustrations below to complete the junior ranger activity booklet.