Become a Junior Ranger

Becoming a Junior Ranger: Navigation

A white, spanish colonial style mission bell tower.

How to Become a Trail Junior Ranger

1. Download the Junior Ranger Program and print it front to back.

2. Complete the program by using the official map and guide brochure and the illustrations and information on this page (see below).

3. Once you are done, Email us (at a photo of your completed booklet. Be sure to include your full name, address, and telephone number in the email, in addition to the booklet. We'll check your answers and send you an exclusive Junior Ranger badge!

Note: the "contact us" email, and the email listed above are the same.

Due to the current Novel Coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic and changes in office hours, please expect a slight delay in receiving your Junior Ranger badge. Thank you for your understanding.


Or you can mail your booklet to:

(expect a few weeks for response time)

National Trails
National Park Service
50 W. Broadway, Suite 950
Salt Lake City, Utah 84101


Junior Ranger Illustrations

Use the illustrations below to complete the junior ranger activity booklet.

An illustration of a scene in a desert setting, animals, wagons, carts, and people in armor walk in one direction.
An illustration of a caravan of Spanish explorers. Notice the animals, people, livestock, carts, horses, and other elements that make up this group of travelers.
An illustration of a scene in a desert setting. Spanish explorers are gathered around canvas tents, livestock wandering, native people cooking and bringing in wagons to trade goods.
An early scene of Spanish explorers, trading with indigenous people.
An illustration of a scene in a desert setting, domesticated animals, people and traders walk around.
Soldiers, missionaries, indigenous people, domesticated animals, and traders interact.
An illustration of a scene in a desert setting, with covered wagons and emigrants camping.
Covered wagons and trading caravans start to appear from the east.

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.


Trail Timeline

4,000 BP

During the Archaic Period people were living in brush huts near the floodplain of the Rio Grande in what is now Keystone Park. Human occupation of the Rio Grande Valley dates to at least 12,000 years ago


Aztec ruler Moctezuma II surrenders Tenochtitlán to Spanish conquistador Hernán Cortés. Mexico City is established on the site of the Aztec capital.


Francisco Vásquez de Coronado and his army of 1,100 camp near the Tiwa pueblo of Kuaua, near modern Bernalillo.


Juan do Oñate leads first Spanish colonists up the Rio Grande, blazing what would become known as El Camino Real de Tierra Adentro. Onate settles on Ohkay Owingeh Pueblo lands, and the first Spanish capital is established at San Juan do los Caballeros.


The Spanish capital is relocated from San Juan do los Caballeros to La Villa Real de la Santa Fe de San Francsico de Asis (Santa Fe).


Spanish ranches and villages are established along El Camino Real north of Isleta Pueblo, including Pajarito and Atrisco, independent communities now within the greater Albuquerque area.


German trader Bernardo Gruber dies on the Jornada del Muerto after fleeing jail at Sandía Pueblo and the cruelties of the Spanish Inquisition.


On August 10th, nearly two dozen pueblos and their allies revolt over the Spanish practices of extracting payments, forcing conversion to Catholicism, and brutally suppressing native religion. The Spanish flee south and the pueblos regained their homeland for 12 years.


The Spanish return to New Mexico and begin rebuilding missions and settlements.


La Villa de Alburquerque is established, with today’s “Old Town” and plaza as its historic center.


The Tomé grant is settled after the Rio Grande shifts west, creating an inner valley branch of El Camino Real through the Tomé Plaza.


Still a rough camp in 1760, the paraje of Doña Ana is settled as a town in the 1840s.


San Elizario is established as a military presidio to protect citizens of El Paso del Norte from Apache attacks.


US Lieutenant Zebulon Pike illegally enters Spanish territory while exploring the West. Pike is captured and taken down El Camino Real to Mexico City.


Mexico gains its independence from Spain. The Santa Fe Trail opens with the arrival of William Becknell’s trading party from Missouri. El Camino Real de Tierra Adentro becomes known as the “Chihuahua Trail” for traders moving goods between Santa Fe and towns to the south.


Missouri volunteers under Colonel Alexander W. Doniphan defeat a Mexican unit at the Battle of Bracitos, go on to take El Paso del Norte, and march into Chihuahua.


Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo establishes American control over about half of Mexico’s lands, including the lands traversed by El Camino Real north of El Paso del Norte.


New Mexico becomes an incorporated, organized territory of the US on September 9.


American-Mexican border is redefined through the Gadsden Purchase, which for 10 million dollars brought nearly 19 million acres of land between Texas and California into American hands.


Battle of Valverde, the first major battle of the Civil War in the Southwest, takes place north of Fort Craig in February.


Fort Selden is established to protect the Mesilla Valley.


The region’s first operational railroad, the Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe Railway, enters New Mexico Territory by way of Ratón Pass; the rails reach El Paso, Texas, in 1881.


New Mexico Territorial Highway Commission appropriates funds to reengineer La Bajada section of El Camino Real for automobile traffic.


New Mexico achieves statehood; State Highway 1 incorporates many sections of El Camino Real.


US Route 66 is built over parts of El Camino Real in central New Mexico, including the steep descent known as La Bajada.


New Mexico’s roadside historic markers begin to tell the trail’s history. In 1992 many of the 82 El Camino Real markers are installed as part of the Columbus Quincentenary Commemorations.


El Camino Real de Tierra Adentro is added to the National Trails System on October 13.


Sites on the El Camino Real de Tierra Adentro in Mexico inscribed on the World Heritage List.


Last updated: April 22, 2020

Contact the Park

Mailing Address:

National Trails
El Camino Real de Tierra Adentro National Historic Trail
PO Box 728

Santa Fe, NM 87504


(505) 988-6098

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