It must be noted up front that the San Antonio Missions Trail in Texas, a 25-mile loop south of San Antonio, is an urban drive that weaves its way at times through city traffic before reaching more open countryside dotted with farms.
But the five missions -- the Alamo, Concepcion, San Jose, San Juan, and Espada -- and other historic structures, set in parklike grounds, provide scenic beauty enough. And each is a cool and relaxing oasis of quiet. Scattered along the San Antonio River, which the drive follows south from the city, the missions form San Antonio Missions National Historical Park.
The Alamo, established as a dusty outpost of the Spanish Empire in 1718, was the first of San Antonio's missions to be founded. It assumed legendary status in March 1836 when a small garrison of Texas independence fighters, including Davy Crockett and Jim Bowie, fought to the death rather than surrender to a Mexican army. Texans enter its cool adobe walls as if paying homage at a shrine.
The other four missions are less political but no less interesting. Each is different, but they all served the goal of introducing the local Tejas Indians (after whom Texas is named) to Spanish society and Christianity. Franciscan friars founded the four between 1718 and 1731, gathering scattered tribes into church-oriented communities near the river.
These and Spain's many other New World missions went into decline during the Napoleonic wars in Europe, and their lands were redistributed in the 1820s when Mexico gained its independence from Spain. In Texas, preservation efforts began in the 1930s.
Find more useful information related to Texas' San Antonio Missions Trail:
- San Antonio: Find other things to do in the city that's home to San Antonio Missions Trail.
- Scenic Drives: Are you interested in scenic drives beyond Texas? Here are more than 100 scenic drives throughout the United States.
- How to Drive Economically: Fuel economy is a major concern when you're on a driving trip. Learn how to get better gas mileage.