Discoveries America National Parks

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Experience the history, culture and heritage of all 21 missions that comprise California's Historic Mission Trail roughly tracing El Camino Real (The Royal Road) resulting in the birth of several major cities in California.


  • All 21 California Missions which were established in Alta California, over a route of nearly 600 miles, creating the northernmost section of California's El Camino Real.
  • From San Diego to Sonoma, these missions established a foothold in California for the Spanish Crown, introducing a new culture, spreading European religion, agricultural practices, and eventually forms of government.
  • Beginning in 1769 Spanish Franciscan missionaries led by Father, now Saint, Junípero Serra began establishing missions, the first of which was San Diego de Alcalá.
  • Today, most of the California missions are still active parish churches and welcome visitors to appreciate mission architecture, cultural treasures, historic museums, and rediscover the origins of modern California.  
  • 76 minutes

NP23 REVIEW: School Library Journal 

Gr 5 Up-This documentary begins with a helpful discussion that addresses the reasons for founding the 21 historical missions... The content consists of an overview of each mission. Notable facts are brought out, and unfamiliar words are defined with accompanying images... The presentation is straightforward and thorough, supplemented with colorful images and maps. VERDICT Offering an ongoing topic of study for California students, this well-done video, with its thoughtful discussion of the subjection of Native people, is a valuable companion to history and social studies classes.-

NP23 REVIEW: Video Librarian 

... serves up trademark stunning visuals while offering a rich and detailed history lesson about the system of Spanish-era Catholic missions along California’s Pacific Coast. One is reminded that the separation of church and state is a relatively recent phenomenon in world history. The establishment of Catholic missions was part-and-parcel of Spain’s colonization efforts in the New World in the late 1700’s: churches were strategically planted (roughly one day of horseback travel apart) in areas with the most potential to reach and convert indigenous populations. The background story of these churches offers a fascinating look at the social, geographical, and political history in the region. Today, the 21-mission system (covering an area from south to north ranging about 600 miles) is a combination of museums, schools and universities, and churches—with most of the latter still regularly hosting worship services. Some of the missions have been moved from their original locations and re-established while others have not even been repainted since they were first erected. California’s missions continue to hold a fascination for travelers, who will appreciate this informative, beautifully-lensed overview. Highly recommended. Aud: P. (C. Block)