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Historic painting depicting the start of the Anza expedition.
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Juan Bautista de Anza National Historic Trail

The National Park Service manages the Juan Bautista de Anza National Historic Trail in partnership with agencies, organizations and private landowners in California and Arizona.

The national trail starts in Nogales, Arizona, and travels to San Francisco, California, and east around the San Francisco Bay for a distance of 1,200 miles. Each year, thousands of visitors relive a portion of the epic story that tells of the first overland colonizing expedition from Mexico to California.

It was in 1776 that Commander Anza led a group of almost 300 settlers, soldiers, and their families across the Sonoran and Colorado Deserts in search of a better way of life along the edge of the Spanish Empire. These settlers to Alta, California, represented a broad range of the ethnic groups and cultures that lived along the Spanish frontier. Coming mostly from what is now northern Mexico, these first non-indigenous settlers to California were descended from Spanish settlers, Indian groups from Mexico, and freed African slaves that had migrated across New Spain. This melting pot of cultures marked a new page of history for San Francisco in 1776.

Today, visitors to the Anza Trail follow in the footsteps of these early pioneers. They hike the hundreds of miles of recreational trail that follow the historic route. Others explore history by visiting the dozens of historical sites and missions that are associated with the Anza Trail. Still others explore the rural trail segments on horse back or on mountain bikes in landscapes that have stayed virtually the same since the Anza expedition. No matter where they go or what they do on the trail, visitors today feel and see the legacy of the descendants of this epic story.


  • Over half of the members of the Anza Expedition were children - none of whom died during the nine-month expedition from Tubac to San Francisco.
  • Today, visitors to the trail can hike, ride, or bike on almost 300-miles of recreational route along the Anza Trail.
  • Over two-dozen different state parks and five national parks partner with the Anza Trail to manage and interpret segments of the historical route.
  • Anza and the expedition's priest wrote extensive daily journals describing the many different Native American tribes they interacted with along the way. Today, they offer a colorful picture of life in California and Arizona at the end of the 18th century.


  • Get away from the roar of traffic and discover a little bit of wilderness along the Anza Trail in downtown Los Angeles. The Anza Trail follows the Los Angeles River for five miles and then the Rio Honda for another seven as they meander through the city. An 80-yard long mural depicting the Anza Expedition as well as images from the local indigenous tribe adorns the walls of the flood canal along the trail as it passes by Griffith Park. This is a particularly lush segment of the river corridor as artesian springs have broken into the river channel, creating a dense canopy of cottonwoods, willows, and California fan palms. Shorebirds and other aquatic life are visible along this completely accessible segment of the trail. Bikers, hikers, and equestrians are all welcome along this segment of the trail corridor.
  • The Anza Trail passes through Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area a 150,050 acre recreation area on U.S. Highway 101. An off-road recreational route for the Anza Trail is marked within the park. It includes the Native American Culture Center at Satwiwa, the Satwiwa Native American Indian Natural Area and Rancho Sierra Vista. For more information contact Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area, 805-370-2300.
  • Channel Islands National Park: Off U.S. Highway 101 in the vicinity of the Ventura Marina. The visitor center is located along the coast where the Anza expedition traveled. It provides interpretation of the Chumash culture and may provide interpretation of the Anza expedition in the future. For more information call the Channel Islands National Park at 805-658-5700.
  • Hikers and bikers in the Bay Area can take the local BART train right to the beginning of a particularly pleasant segment of the Anza Trail. Running from Bay Point to Oakley, this 17-mile segment of the trail, coined the Delta de Anza, follows irrigation canals and takes users through orchards, vineyards, and pastureland east of San Francisco. The trail segment here is fully accessible and can be used year round.


  • The southern Arizona segment of the Anza Trail from the border in Nogales to Tucson offers a tremendous number of different venues to explore the trail. The National Park Service has developed rural trail segments on private property along the Santa Cruz River corridor. Traveling north along the river, the six-miles of trail from Tumacacori National Historical Park to the state park at Tubac Presidio is exceptionally good for bird watching. These segments are primarily for hikers and equestrians. Farther north, as the river channel enters Tucson, miles of paved trail along the river channel are completely accessible and open to all users. The best time to visit all of these Arizona segments is from the fall to the spring to avoid the summertime heat.
  • Tumacacori National Historical Park is located 18 miles north of Nogales, Arizona or 45 miles south of Tucson on Interstate 19. Dating from 1691, this mission (now a national park) hosted Father Font for several days while Anza completed preparations for his colonizing expedition at Tubac Presidio. Call the Tumacacori National Historical Park for more information, 520-398-2341.


The National Park Service is working with Mexico's Instituto Nacional de Historia y Antropologí (INAH) to define and interpret the Anza Trail in the Mexican states of Sinaloa, Sonora, and Baja California Norte. This winter, INAH and the NPS will mark portions of the Anza Trail in Baja California and begin to distribute guides in Spanish for the Mexican portion of the trail. Eventually, trail visitors will be able to drive the Anza Trail auto route following a continuous trail that takes them through both countries along the border.

National Park Service Photos
Six riders reenact the journey on horseback.
Mountain biking up a dirt trail.
A distant storm approaches the Anza trail.

Anza Trail Information:
State Tourism Information:
Arizona Office of Tourism
(888) 520-3444

Greater Phoenix C&V Bureau
(877) 255-5749
(602) 254-6500

Metropolitan Tucson C&V Bureau
(520) 624-1817

Road and Highway Alerts
Dial 511 within Arizona
(602) 651-2400
Access code 7623

California Division of Tourism
(800) TO-CALIF
(916) 322-288

Los Angeles C&V Bureau
(800) 366-6116
(213) 624-7300

San Diego Visitor Information
(619) 236-1212

Road and Highway Alerts
Within CA (800) 427-ROAD
(916) 445-1534

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