El Camino Real de Tierra Adentro, the “Royal Road of the Interior,” is the earliest Euro-American trade route in the United States. Linking Spain’s colonial capital at Mexico City to its northern frontier in distant New Mexico, the route spans three centuries, two countries, and 1,600 miles. It was part of Spain’s Camino Real Intercontinental—a global network of roads and maritime routes.
El Camino Real de Tierra Adentro was blazed atop a network of footpaths that connected Mexico’s ancient cultures with the equally ancient cultures of the interior West. Starting in Mexico City, the frontier wagon road brought settlers into today’s New Mexico. Once travelers crossed the arid lands above Ciudad Chihuahua, they followed the wide Rio Grande Valley north into New Mexico. Many of the historic parajes (campsites) and early settlements created by the Spanish colonists became today’s modern cities in the Rio Grande Valley.
In the United States, the trail stretched from the El Paso area in Texas, through Las Cruces, Socorro, Belen, Albuquerque, and Santa Fe to Ohkay Owingeh (San Juan Pueblo), the first Spanish capital in New Mexico. In Mexico, the historic road runs through Chihuahua, Durango, Zacatecas, San Luis Potosí, Aguascalientes, Guanajuato, and Querétaro to Mexico City.
Today, the trail corridor nurtures a lively exchange of ideas, customs, and language between Mexico and the American Southwest.
The many public sites that are part of El Camino Real de Tierra Adentro National Historic Trail have a variety of facilities for public visitors. Please contact individual sites for details. The Bureau of Land Management’s day use Jornada del Muerto trails have no potable water or restroom facilities.
El Camino Real de Tierra Adentro National Historic Trail Partnership
Our national historic trails commemorate events and processes that shaped our Nation. While it is possible to follow the general route of El Camino Real de Tierra Adentro today on modern highways in New Mexico and Texas, many miles of the Trail cross private lands and many of the most significant trail sites are privately owned or managed by tribal, state, or municipal agencies. We work closely with the National Park Service (www.nps.gov/elca) to administer the trail and with the Camino Real de Tierra Adentro Trail Association (CARTA) (www.caminorealcarta.org) to develop volunteer opportunities and projects along the trail. Contact our many partners for information about the trail and opportunities to visit trail sites.
Visiting the Trail Today
Most trail sites are in private, municipal, tribal, or state ownership. Please ask for permission before visiting any trail site on private lands and check with public sites on visiting hours and regulations. Follow trail signs to retrace El Camino Real de Tierra Adentro along our highways, streets, and backcountry roads.
Respect the Trail
El Camino Real de Tierra Adentro runs through the heart of the Rio Grande Valley. The historic road was added to our National Trails System in 2000 as El Camino Real de Tierra Adentro National Historic Trail. The trail is administered jointly by the Bureau of Land Management and the National Park Service. These agencies work in close partnership with El Camino Real de Tierra Adentro Trail Association (CARTA), the Native Americans whose ancestors first encountered the Spanish colonists, and a large network of state, county, and municipal governmental agencies, private landowners, nonprofit heritage conservation groups, and many others. Trail sites are in private, municipal, tribal, federal or state ownership. Please ask for permission before visiting any trail sites on private lands and check with public sites for visiting hours and regulations.