Guidebook to walking and cycling the 800 mile (1289km) California Missions Trail between San Francisco Bay and San Diego. The pilgrimage trail takes in 21 historic Spanish missions and can be completed in 50-60 walking days or 2-3 weeks cycling. With 1:100,000 mapping, route description and details of accommodation and facilities for each stage.


California's moderate coastal weather allows virtually a 12-month season, with no freezing temperatures or snow on the route. Watch for high summer heat in inland valleys and fog near the coast.


Metropolitan San Francisco, Los Angeles and San Diego; the seaside towns of Santa Cruz, Monterey, Carmel, Santa Barbara, Carlsbad and Solana Beach


This route is suitable for all levels of walkers, with no special gear necessary. Cyclists can cover 95% of the route on conventional or electric-assist street bikes, but mountain bikes are advised for a few specific mountain paths.

Must See

The trail visits 21 California missions, historic landmarks along this epic adventure that crosses the Golden Gate Bridge, traverses coastal mountain ranges, hugs the Pacific coast through charming beach towns like Santa Cruz, Santa Barbara and Carlsbad, and crosses vast farmlands in the Salinas Valley, the 'Salad Bowl of America'.
16 Jan 2023
15 Mar 2023
17.20 x 11.60 x 1.80cm
The 800-mile California Missions Trail leads walkers and cyclists through some of the most scenic and historic sites of one of America's most beautiful states. The 21 missions, founded 200-250 years ago, are key to understanding California's history and form the spiritual and cultural landmarks of this epic journey that stretches from the North San Francisco Bay Area to San Diego, near the US/Mexico border. The route never strays more than 30 miles from the sunny Pacific Coast, touching famous California beaches at Santa Cruz, Carmel, Santa Barbara, San Clemente and Carlsbad, not to mention metropolitan areas of San Francisco, Los Angeles and San Diego. California's diverse wine regions play a starring role, as does the vast Salinas Valley, the 'Salad Bowl of America'.

This guide offers everything you'll need to make your trip of 50-60 walking days or 12-20 cycling days on this epic West Coast adventure. There is a wealth of information to help you prepare for the journey, including packing lists and transport notes. In addition to clear route description, each stage of the route includes scale maps for easy orientation and comprehensive details of facilities available on or near the route. The trail is presented in sections, so it can either be undertaken in its entirety or split as desired, and an accompanying appendix displays distance intervals between towns and cities offering accommodation, in case you should wish to choose your own itinerary. The route can be walked or cycled; for cyclists, around 95% of the trail can be completed on a road bike.

From Mission Sonoma to Mission San Diego, you'll follow the journey of 18th-century Spanish missionaries as they created 21 missions to convert the native inhabitants to Christianity. Included is a sensitive recount of the history of the missions, highlighting the story and monuments of the Native Americans who formed the foundation of the landscape, rather than the Spanish and Franciscan priests. From the sunlit sea to swathes of vineyards, to the bustling metropolis of San Francisco, and with historic, spiritual and scenic interest aplenty, the California Missions Trail offers an unforgettable journey through America's Golden State.
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The Reverend Sandy Brown Cicerone author SBROWN

The Reverend Sandy Brown

Sanford 'Sandy' Brown is a long-distance walker and ordained minister who lives in Lucca, Italy. He was born in California and his great-grandparents migrated to San Juan Capistrano from Mexico in the 19th century. Inspired by The Pilgrimage by Paulo Coelho, he trekked the Camino de Santiago in 2008 and since then has walked over 14,000km on pilgrim trails in Europe and the U.S. He records his pilgrim adventures in his popular blog at In 2020, Sandy joined Cicerone Press as Associate Publisher for Caminos and Pilgrimages.

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