Our website will probably be different from others you have used. There are not a lot of windows to explore, nor is there anything to buy. Everything you get here is free and we encourage you to use what you get to the fullest. This site is a source of waypoints, comments about certain features of the mission trail and photos that we hope will give you a look at what it is like to stand on the trail. After thoroughly reading the rest of this page, you will need to go to the Waypoints page and follow the directions there. You aren’t going to get a complete understanding about all aspects of El Camino Real and the missions, but you will have a better grasp of hiking in Baja on the old mission trail. We hope that you will be encouraged to dig deeper and learn more about it. The trail is disappearing and will continue to do so unless we save it.
How to Use This Site
We have divided El Camino Real into 11 sections. Each refers to the segment that runs from one mission to the next. It all starts with the first mission in the Californias, which is Loreto. Our website covers only those missions generally heading north, even though others were built in Baja as well.
- Loreto to San Javier
- San Javier to Comondú
- Comondú to La Purísima
- La Purísima to Guadalupe
- Guadalupe to San Ignacio
- San Ignacio to Santa Gertrudis
- Santa Gertrudis to San Borja
- San Borja to Calamajué
- Calamajué to Santa María
- Santa María to San Fernando
- San Fernando to El Rosario
Most of the waypoints on this website have a label starting with a letter that refers to its section of trail. The number next to the section letter indicates the waypoint’s place in the sequence. An asterisk means that this part of trail can be seen while on location or from Google Earth or both (i.e., C75*).
Many waypoints have a lowercase letter next to the section letter (i.e., Fd58*). The second letter indicates that this is actually a trail option that is true ECR. There are many of these, and it is good to remember that El Camino Real is really a web of trails that usually converge at the various missions.
While exploring the trail on Google Earth, you will see several icons. Click on these to view a photo associated with the waypoint or read a comment. The mission icon, of course, indicates the location of a mission. Due to the small windows on our GPS units, many of our waypoint names are abbreviated . H2O refers to water sources and we used these waypoints when we were exploring the trail. Many of them are still showing, and we have decided to leave them. The same goes for Rcho, which means rancho. We have labeled some of the more famous cuestas (steep hillsides climbed by a switchbacking trail), but there are many that are not marked. Since we have organized our labels and comments going northward from Loreto, we recommend that you explore them on Google Earth in the same direction.
We have tried to be accurate in the placing of the waypoints because that is the purpose of this website. However, it is good to remember that the waypoints and the photos too were collected over 18 years of hiking in Baja, and so mistakes will likely be made. Waypoints may be incorrect in their position, and photos may be attached to the wrong waypoint. Also, not every waypoint has been placed on a known piece of trail. Many of them act as place-markers so that it is easier to follow the existing parts of the trail. This is important on Google Earth, and it was even more important to us while hiking the trail. Also, we have noticed on Google Earth that some waypoints have somehow migrated off the trail.
We have traveled, usually by foot, over nearly the entire ECR from Loreto to El Rosario to try to ground truth the trail (certify that it is actually there). We have visited some segments as many as six times to finally satisfy ourselves about the exact location of the trail. We have used numerous historical accounts, local ranchers, and some websites to help give us insights. We have had friends join us over the years so we could have more eyes looking for the trail. In short, we have done what we could to be as accurate as we possibly can, but there will be mistakes.