Camino Real de Tierra Adentro

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United States  >  Migration  >  Trails and Roads  >  Camino Real de Tierra Adentro

Click this map of the trail to enlarge it.
Camino Real de Tierra Adentro (English: Royal Road of the Interior).

Historical Background

In 1598 Juan de Oñate outfitted and led to the north several hundred Spanish colonists from Zacatecas, Mexico to establish the New Spain province of New Mexico.[1] They traveled to Chihuahua, El Paso, and then mostly followed the Rio Grande north to San Juan Pueblo (Tewa: Ohkay Owingeh) 25 miles (40 km) north of Santa Fe.

The trail route they pioneered came to be called the Camino Real de Tierra Adentro. It is the oldest and longest used (1598-1884) of all historical trails in what is now the United States. For more than a century it was also the longest length of trail in North America.[2] The trail traditionally reached from Mexico City to Santa Fe. The northern part of the Trail was also known as the Chihuahua Trail between Santa Fe, New Mexico and Chihuahua, Mexico and was a heavily used trade route from the 1830s to 1882.[3]

The wagon or carreta (large two-wheel ox cart) route in New Mexico was discontinued a few years after a branch of the Santa Fe Railroad linked Albuquerque, New Mexico to El Paso, Texas in 1882.[4]

Trail Route

Like most trails there were many variations, but the following towns were usually visited when following it from north to south:

  • San Juan Pueblo
  • Santa Fe
  • Albuquerque
  • Socorro
  • Jornada del Muerto (a stretch of two dry camps away from the Rio Grande)
  • Las Cruces
  • Mesilla
  • El Paso
  • Juarez
  • Chihuahua
  • Zacatecas
  • Guanajuato
  • Mexico City


For a list of settlers who used the Camino Real de Tierra Adentro to come from old Mexico to New Mexico, see El Camino Real De Tierra Adentro: Five Waves of Settlers from 1598 - 1800.

Internet Sites


  1. Wikipedia contributors, "Santa Fe de Nuevo México" in Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia at (accessed 20 June 2009).
  2. El Camino Real International Heritage Center Foundation, Celebrating the Historic Trail that Helped Develop the Southwest [flyer] (Socorro, N.M.: ECRIHCF, ca. 2009).
  3. El Camino Real de Tierra Adentro Trail Association, "CARTA Home" in CARTA at (accessed 21 June 2009).
  4. Paul Harden, Map of El Camino Real de Tierra Adentro: The Royal Road of the Interior ([Socorro, N.M.?]: Hardin, 2005).