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Welcome ToThe San Diego Founders' Trail

Cabrillo National Monument ~ Old Town ~ Presidio Park
Mission San Diego ~ Mission Trails Park ~ Rancho Penasquitos
San Pasqual Battlefield ~ Mission San Luis Rey ~ Rancho Guajome

Discover the rich Native American and Hispanic heritage of early San Diego. Follow the Founders' Trail to relive this unique period of history. Travel in the footsteps of San Diego's earliest inhabitants by visiting the nine intriguing landmarks on the trail.

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Use the map or use the drop-down menu to find out more about Founders' Trail member sites.

9 Member Historic Sites & Museums

Founders' Trail Historic Sites ~ A Place in History

The first occupants of San Diego were Native Americans. Mission Trails Regional Park preserves about 6000 acres of landscape much as it looked when the Kumeyaay people hunted and harvested here.

The first European to visit San Diego stepped ashore in 1542 on a spot now overlooked by Cabrillo National Monument. Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo failed to find treasure, but he claimed the region for Spain. (He named the bay San Miguel; explorer Sebastian Vizcaino changed the name to San Diego in 1602.)

To prevent this land from falling into the hands of other empires, Spain finally moved to occupy California in 1769. On a hillside where the Junipero Serra Museum stands today, Father Junipero Serra established the first of California's Franciscan missions, alongside a presidio, or military outpost.

Mission San Diego de Alcala was moved to a better site in 1774, where it stands today. Mission San Luis Rey, founded 35 miles north in 1798, was among the largest, most prosperous, and most beautiful in California. Both missions maintained distant outposts such as the Asistencias at Pala and Santa Ysabel.

After Mexico won independence from Spain in 1821, the houses of Old Town became the center of local life. The era of giant ranches opened in 1823 when California's first Mexican governor, Luis Arguello, granted Rancho de los Penasquitos to the retired presidio commandant. That era ended after California's last Mexican governor, Pio Pico, gave Rancho de Guajome to two Luiseno Indian brothers.

California's Mexican period ended with the signing of the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo in 1848, which concluded the two-year war between the United States and Mexico. The Battle of San Pasqual was the only major battle fought in the San Diego area.

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Visitors to each of these historic sites will catch glimpses of this region's Native American and Hispanic past, which lives on in the descendants of both groups who inhabit San Diego County today.

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The San Diego Founders' Trail Associates is an organization of parks and museums which feature landmarks representative of San Diego's early history. This period of history is predominantly influenced by original Native American and early Hispanic heritage. Together, our purpose is to highlight this unique and colorful period of American history.

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Updated May 2008
Website launched August 2001

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