El Camino Viejo

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El Camino Viejo a Los Ángeles (English: the Old Road to Los Angeles), also known as El Camino Viejo and the Old Los Angeles Trail, was the oldest north-south trail in the interior of Spanish colonial Las Californias (1769–1822) and Mexican Alta California (1822–1848), present day California. It became a well established inland route, and an alternative to the coastal El Camino Real trail used since the 1770s in the period.

It ran from San Pedro Bay and the Pueblo de Los Ángeles, over the Transverse Ranges and down Old Tejon Pass, up the San Joaquin Valley along the eastern slopes of the Coast Ranges following a route between aguaje (watering places) and arroyos (creeks), it passed west out of the valley, over the Diablo Range at Corral Hollow Pass into the Livermore Valley, to end at the Oakland Estuary on the eastern San Francisco Bay.[1][2][3]


The route of El Camino Viejo was well established by the 1820s, and the route was in use by Spanish colonial "carretas" (ox carts) as early as 1780,[4] as a more direct route than El Camino Real to the recently established Mission Santa Clara de Asís and Mission San Francisco de Asís. At that time the Bay Area section ran from the mouth of Arroyo Las Positas southwest across the mouth of the Arroyo Mocho and Arroyo Valle to Arroyo de la Laguna (later the lands of Rancho Valle de San Jose) and following it south down to its confluence with Arroyo de la Alameda (later location of Sunol), it then crossed the hills to the south via Mission Pass to the coastal plain and on until it reached Mission Santa Clara and the El Camino Real. The Los Angeles Area section left the El Camino Real in the San Fernando Valley,

Later, after the 1797 foundation of the Mission San José, the road was turned northward from there, crossing Arroyo de San Leandro and Arroyo de San Lorenzo to the anchorage in what is now the Oakland Estuary. There cargos could be ferried across to the Mission and Presidio of San Francisco or to other places on the bay more quickly and in more quantity than carriage by road.[5]

This route along the unsettled frontier of Spanish colonial Las Californias—Alta California (1769–1822) came to be favored by those who wished to avoid the eyes of the Spanish authorities that were along the more settled coastal route of El Camino Real.[6] Settlements like Las Juntas and Rancho Centinela (est. 1810), and later Poso de Chane and others began to grow up along the route of El Camino Viejo. Later Californio vaqueros made "El Camino Viejo" a well-known trail that connected Rancho San Antonio with the Pueblo de Los Ángeles; the vaqueros ran cattle and in the 1840s began establishing inland Mexican land grant ranchos along the route. Californio mesteñeros (wild horse catchers) also moved into the San Joaquin Valley to catch the mesteños (mustangs) that now roamed in the thousands, and held them in temporary corrals before herding them to the Bay Area, to Southern California, or to Sonora and other territories of northern Mexico for sale.

With the California Gold Rush a shortcut developed at the northern end of El Camino Viejo, as part of the Oakland to Stockton Road used by stagecoaches and teamsters, it ran from Oakland, east through the Castro Valley and Rancho San Ramon, to the San Joaquin Valley and Stockton.

Route of El Camino Viejo[edit]

Alameda County[edit]

San Joaquin County[edit]

Stanislaus County[edit]

Merced County[edit]

Fresno County[edit]

Kings County[edit]

Kern County[edit]

Los Angeles County[edit]

Eastern Route of El Camino Viejo[edit]

Fresno County[edit]

Arroyo de Panoche Grande (northern junction of El Camino Viejo with its Eastern Route)

Kings County[edit]

Kern County[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Hoover, Mildred Brooke; Rensch, Hero Eugene; Rensch, Ethel Grace; Abeloe, William N. (1966). Historic Spots in California (3rd ed.). Stanford, California: Stanford University Press. pp. 89, 95, 128, 137, 191, 202, 377, 539.
  2. ^ Hoover, Mildred Brooke; Rensch, Hero Eugene; Rensch, Ethel Grace; Abeloe, William N.; Kyle, Douglas E. (2002). Historic Spots in California (5th ed.). Stanford, California: Stanford University Press. pp. 89, 132, 211–212, 378, 517. ISBN 978-0-8047-4483-6.
  3. ^ Williams, Earle E. (1970). El Camino Viejo: A Brief History Of California's Forgotten Second Highway Of The Pioneers. Concord, California: Oakland National Horse Show.
  4. ^ Latta, Frank F. (1976). Saga of Rancho El Tejon. Exeter, California: Bear State Books. p. 65. ISBN 978-1-892622-30-3.
  5. ^ Williams, Earle E. (April–June 1973). "Tales of Old San Joaquin City" (PDF). San Joaquin Historian. San Joaquin County Historical Society. 9 (2): 13, note 8. El Camino Viejo ran along the eastern edge of the Coast Range hills in the San Joaquin Valley northward to the mouth of Corral Hollow. From this point it ran generally east-west through the hills and then down into the Livermore Valley and on to Mission San Jose. From there it turned northward, terminating at what is now the Oakland area.
  6. ^ Latta, Frank F. (2006) [1936]. El Camino Viejo a Los Ángeles: The Oldest Road of the San Joaquin Valley. Exeter, California: Bear State Books. p. 4.

External links[edit]

  • The Old Road by Stan Walker. Includes a map of El Camino Viejo from El Camino Viejo a Los Ángeles: The Oldest Road of the San Joaquin Valley by Frank F. Latta.