About the Trail

The Juan Bautista de Anza National Historic Trail (NHT) is the route traveled by the Anza colonizing expedition during the years 1775–1776. Starting in Sinaloa and Sonora, New Spain (which is now in Mexico), Anza led over 240 colonists to San Francisco to establish a mission and presidio. Contemporary interest in the trail developed after a memorable Bicentennial Anza Expedition Reenactment in 1976, led by equestrian and trail advocate George Cardinet and supported by communities along the trail. In 1990, the Juan Bautista de Anza NHT was formally established by Congress through an amendment to the National Trail System Act. Today, the mission of the trail is to:

  • Share the story of the Anza Expedition, including the American Indian tribal communities impacted and encountered by the journey.
  • Support development of a continuous, 1,200-mile, multi-use, non-motorized recreation trail, parallel to the historic trail route, between Nogales, Ariz., and the San Francisco Bay Area; and
  • Serve as a link among related historic, cultural, and natural sites along the historic route, connecting people to the modern legacy of the Anza Expedition.

Historical Importance of the Trail

In addition to Anza and Father Pedro Font, the expedition was composed of colonists that included 30 soldiers, their wives, and more than 100 children, as well as indigenous guides, vaqueros, muleteers, and servants, among others. The families reflected mostly the lower castes of colonial Spain—a mix of indigenous, African, and European heritage. The historic trail (also called the Anza Trail) connects Mexico to San Francisco and the 18th century to the 21st century.

The Anza Trail invites travelers to learn about the interweaving of the three elements of the Spanish plan for the colonization of its northern frontier: presidios (military forts), missions (religious centers), and pueblos (civilian towns) and makes connections to the current-day consequences of their historical actions. On June 27, 1776, the expedition families arrived in the area that is now San Francisco. Anza forged alliances with several tribes along the route, but ultimately, Spanish colonization advanced a devastating blow to the tribal world as it existed.

Today, the tribal communities whose lands Anza traveled through—Quechan, Ohlone, O’odham, Tongva, and many more—continue to thrive and pass on their traditions. The descendants of these colonist Californio families also commemorate their heritage along the Anza Trail. The current 1,200-mile Juan Bautista de Anza National Historic Trail connects history, culture, and outdoor recreation from Nogales, Arizona, to the San Francisco Bay area. A marked auto route approximates the areas where the expedition traveled. Several communities, public lands, and parks offer developed segments of the Anza Recreation Trail for walking, hiking, horse riding, and bicycling.


Juan Bautista de Anza
National Historic Trail

National Park Service

Expedition History – Maps – Junior Ranger Activity

Web De Anza

Borderland Institute – San Diego State University – Imperial Valley

Trail Diaries – Correspondence – Expedition Members

Anza Trail

Anza Trail Foundation

Interactive Trail Map – Auto Route – Trail Hikes