National parks link our past to the present, sometimes honoring historical events of a place. The San Antonio River connects all the four missions in San Antonio. The four missions include Mission Conception, Mission San Jose, Mission San Juan, and Mission Espada.

The missions in San Antonio are 2.5 miles apart. The park has 86 structures associated with the missions and 21 archeological and historic sites, indicating the city’s history dates back from 260 years ago. Access to the missions is free.

Brief History

Culture of the people of South Texas came under attack after a period of 10,000 years. The Apache raided them from the North and from Mexico came deadly diseases. The drought was not relenting anytime soon. The people relied on the missions for survival. The locals entered a mission to signify they rejected their traditional life to become Spanish.

Mission Espada was established in 1731 and was relocated from East Texas. Missions Conception and San Juan were also founded within the same year. The United States Congress founded San Antonio’s mission park in 1978. The park was listed in the National Register of Historic places in 1983.

Top Sites and Things to do

The Hike & Bike Trail runs along the San Antonio River. It is a safe and fun way to visit the missions at the park. The project planners for Hike & Bike did a good job together with the National Park Service. They ascertained it’s easy to move from the historic missions to the Mission Riverwalk. The mission Hike and Bike Trail gives a break from the daily hustle and bustle of the city.

From Mission Conception to Mission Espada, 8 miles is reserved for hikers and bikers. The easy walk or ride is even good for young members of the family. The mission trail is not a loop, but runs 16 miles for a round trip. If you are walking or biking, you can start from any of the four missions and move to another one.

The features that are found along the missions associated to life are the dams, acequias, and other irrigation resources, including the aqueduct at mission Espada. There is water at all the five missions. Although food is available at Mission Conception and Mission San Jose, plan for food when going around Mission San Juan and Espada. It is always safe to wear a helmet when biking.

Learn about Texas’ history at Alamo, the San Fernando Cathedral, Mission San Jose and Mission Conception. There are other historic neighborhoods such as La Villita and The King William Historic District. You can also shop for crafts and great Mexican food at the Market Square. The onboard guide provides information about the sights and history of San Antonio.


The National Park Service Website contains a lot of information about the history of the missions, and also the Texas State Historical Association Handbook or Texas Online. Visitors can learn more about the missions from these sites. The Library of Congress too has a digital collection of drawings, and other materials.

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