Juan Bautista de Anza National Historic Trail
Arizona & California
Completed: March 2015
Juan Bautista de Anza left Sonora, Mexico in 1775 with thirty families to settle San Francisco, (Alta) California. The expedition entered current-day United States of America at Nogales, AZ and continued north along the Santa Cruz River to the center of the state before turning west to follow the Gila River. After crossing the Colorado River at Yuma, AZ and crossing the desert, they reached the coast near present day Los Angeles before heading north to San Francisco.
Today the expedition’s path can be followed mainly by car, at times directly following their route and sometimes deviating significantly. For this Junior Ranger program you never need to leave the comfort of your home, it is done online at
After a short explanation of the expedition you select one of the members and “follow” them along the trail. You will be given information, asked questions and make decisions based on their role as you move along the route with them. I chose Feliciana Arballo, a widow with two children, ages 4 years and 1 month. Can you imagine, back in 1775, traveling along this route with young, very young children? Her story is fascinating – from beginning to her death.
I completed the site’s Junior Ranger program prior to a trip along the route. During March and April I visited 30 of the existing 33 sites along the trail with NPS passport stamps available at that time. We started our trip in Nogales, AZ at a wetlands named, Las Lagunas de Anza and ended the passport stamp collection in the San Francisco area. The trip was not in order, but the pictures shown below are in order, traveling south to north. While in the San Francisco area I was not able to visit the two sites in San Jose. That will happen on the next trip to the area, as well to new sites added over time.
Once I completed the online program I printed the certificate provided. Along the trip I collected the passport stamps on the certificate, front and back. While in the national historic trail’s office in San Francisco I received their enhanced, wooden Junior Ranger badge. Normally it is mailed to the individual upon completion of the online program.
Photos along the route
Prior to the trip I had read about the expedition; however, traveling along the route and visiting these sites made me realize what an enormous undertaking this trip was for everyone involved. It also made me realize the long-term impact of these 30 families on Arizona and California history from then to today.