Walking a little of San Antonio’s Mission Road

Some folks out there in TV land might not know it, but the Alamo began its famed history as a mission for industrious Franciscans from New Spain.  Those guys were everywhere as they spread out across the North American west to establish civilization and convert people  to Christianity.

Mission Concepcion

Lovely Mission Concepcion chapel

South of San Antonio proper, there are four other missions in various states of degradation, but all are interesting and worth a visit.  There is a lot of walking to be had, and there is a bike path along the river that can connect a lot of it.

Concepcion, the closest mission to the city, had a well -preserved church but little else to recommend it besides pleasant grounds.

San Jose had a vast compound, the walls of which were intact.   I loved the housing for Native Americans built into the thick walls.

Convent quarters at San Jose

Convent quarters at San Jose

Some structures had been refurbished, including the convent area which housed the holy men.  This mission had a full blown visitor’s center with exhibits, bookstore, and educational theatre.  By the time we were done, we’d poked around the old mill, the granary, the chapel, the convent, and other spots where foundations showed in the ground.  It felt we had walked half a mile.

The broad grounds of San Jose, foundation in the foreground

The broad grounds of San Jose, foundation in the foreground

Quarters for Native Americans built in the community walls.

Quarters for Native Americans built in the community walls.

San Juan Capistrano was further off the beaten path on the other side of the river.   Few tourists were at the site, although there was a shiny black stretch limo, its driver standing outside, relaxed, working a smart phone.   The spot felt a little anti-climactic after San Jose. It was small but cute, near an aqueduct across a creek to help funnel water.


Aqueduct to cross the creek valley.


The low key San Juan Capistrano

Finally we came to Mission Espada, where lots of low old walls enticed people to sit on them, despite the small signs indicating that was a no no.


Chapel at Mission Espada–looks like a face to me….

A harried ranger implored people not to sit on 300 year old walls for fear of their crumbling.  A few young ladies tried to get glamour photo in front of the cute chapel.  We were a little burned out on missions by that point, but we were certainly happy we came and wandered the historic grounds at each spot.  It wasn’t a hike, but it was a series of historic walks, and I would love to return to make a hiking connection between the sites along the Rio San Antonio.

About Josh Baker

"The world is big and I want to have a good look at it before it gets dark.” ― John Muir

Posted on April 5, 2013, in Adventure, Family, Foreign Culture, Historical sites, Urban Hiking, vacations and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink. 5 Comments.

  1. Gorgeous, and no I did not realize that the Alamo began as a mission. So also, educational. 🙂

  2. Thanks! I aim to please. 🙂

  3. Nice shots of the “ruins”, and it looks as though you got a nice walk in.

  4. Are any of the Native American’s quarters open for viewing? I’d be interested in what accommodations were like.
    Before I had scrolled to your caption, the first thing I thought on the last picture was that it looks like a face 😉
    I love to visit places like the Alamo, but I “burn out” much less quickly outdoors on a hike than walking around remains. I suppose that says something about me…

  5. I miss San Antonio! I’ve attended a mass at San Jose; there was a mariachi band there and it was beautiful

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