Juan Bautista de Anza, Captain of the Royal Presidio at Tubac, Sonora, (now southern Arizona), set out on an important expedition in the fall of 1775. This journey had its meager beginnings in the Mexican towns of Culiacán and Horcasitas, where tradesmen and their families joined the company. Viewed in Colonial New Spain as an important colonizing effort, Anza provided military escort for more than 240 people and 1,000 head of livestock moving from Tubac to San Francisco, California. This was an expedition of more than 2,700 miles, with most of the company mounted on horseback and other pack animals. Anza is credited with opening an overland route from Sonora to the missions and settlements of Alta California, and recording valuable information on his exploration of the San Francisco Bay area as an excellent harbor for further Spanish use.
Although the Anza Trail began in Culiacán, the portion of route established between Nogales, Arizona and San Francisco, California was designated by Congress as a National Historic Trail in 1990. The National Park Service (NPS) administers the trail, but works in partnership with federal, state, and local government agencies, as well as private landowners who manage or own lands along the trail route.
The Juan Bautista de Anza National Historic Trail meanders through terrain ranging from extreme deserts to mountains and along coastal areas between Nogales, Arizona and San Francisco, California. The trail crosses public lands primarily administered by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) Yuma Field Office and Phoenix District in Arizona. There is an auto tour route that closely parallels the trail and follows Interstate Highways 8, 10, and 19 between Yuma and Nogales, Arizona. Contact agencies or landowners associated with specific trail segments for access to the historic route. Do not cross private lands without permission.
Opportunities on the trail include camping, hiking, and wildlife viewing. There are also many points of historical or cultural interest along the trail.
Other historic expeditions or events, including the Butterfield Stage, Mormon Battalion, and pioneer travelers to the 1849 gold rush, followed portions of the Anza Trail. The Painted Rock Petroglyph Site provides visitors the opportunity to view an ancient archaeological site containing hundreds of symbolic and artistic rock etchings, or “petroglyphs,” produced centuries ago by prehistoric peoples. There are also inscriptions made by people who passed through during historic times. The Sears Point prehistoric cultural site near the Anza Trail is a very special area that lies at a crossroad of historical events and prehistoric cultures. It embraces a wide array of archaeological sites, including rock alignments, cleared areas, intaglios, petroglyphs, and aboriginal foot trails.
Permits, Fees, Limitations
No permits or fees are required to visit the portions of the Anza National Historic Trail that cross BLM administered lands in Arizona or to follow the auto tour route.
A high clearance or four-wheel drive vehicle is needed to visit some parts of the Anza Trail. Accessible facilities along the Anza Trail on Arizona BLM administered lands are very limited. Accessible facilities along the auto tour route may be available.
Camping and Lodging
Painted Rock Petroglyph Site offers picnic tables, barbeque grills, steel fire rings and a vault toilet are for picnicking and primitive camping. A ramada is available for group activities. No potable water, trailer hook-ups or dump stations are provided – these facilities are available nearby in Gila Bend. During October through April, a Campground Host is on site. Fees are charged for overnight camping and day use. Lodging is available in cities along the auto tour route.
Food and Supplies
Food and supplies can be purchased in cities along the auto tour route.
There are no first aid stations along the Anza Trail on BLM administered lands. Hospitals and clinics are found in cities along the auto tour route.
Environmental conditions along the route in Arizona may vary from extreme heat to flash floods. Poisonous reptiles and insects may be encountered. Be prepared with the appropriate equipment and supplies, including sufficient water for a remote setting. Vehicles must remain on existing roads. Four-wheel drive vehicles are recommended for areas where there is access to the historic route.