History and Highlights
Originally founded in 1787 by Father Luis Sales about 4 miles (6.4 km) downstream, Misión San Miguel Arcángel de la Frontera was moved to its present location in the village of La Misión in just its second year. Today, with the help of preservation efforts by the National Institute of History and Anthropology (INAH) and its location between Ensenada and Tijuana, the ruins of this mission are attracting more visitors than ever before.
All of the mission’s adobe structures were constructed by 1800, and the mission remained open until 1833, when the Mexican government enforced a new policy of secularization. At no time was the mission’s population more than a few hundred.
The mission’s church and other buildings are no longer standing, but it is still possible for visitors to roam the peaceful site and view sizable segments of adobe walls. The weathered ruins look more and more at home against the mountainous landscape as time takes its toll on them. The INAH’s restoration work has ensured that what’s left of the ruins will be in tact for many years to come.
For travelers who choose to bypass the express toll road between Ensenada and Tijuana, Misión San Miguel Arcángel de la Frontera is a stone’s throw from the two-lane Mexican Federal Highway 1, making it an easy stop and, for southbound travelers, a great introduction to the mission trail.
Who founded it?
The Dominicans, led by Father Luis Sales.
What should I expect to see?
Only segments of the mission’s adobe walls – some forming notable arches – remain on the site today. Situated in a quiet village nestled in the mountains just a few miles from the coast, the tranquil atmosphere is half the attraction.
When should I go?
You can visit Misión San Miguel Arcángel de la Frontera anytime. For some real excitement, visit during the last weekend in May, when the mission site is the hub of a major festival.
Where is it and how do I get there?
Set your GPS coordinates to N 32° 05.68’ W 116° 51.31’. From Tijuana, head south along Highway 1D 36 miles (58 km) and follow the exit to Highway 1 at La Fonda, then follow Highway 1 south 4 miles (6.4 km) to La Misión. From Ensenada, head north and either follow Highway 1D to La Fonda and turn inland as above, or veer right to Highway 1 just past El Sauzal, 8 miles (13 km) north of Ensenada, and follow it through the mountains 19 miles (30 km) to La Misión. The mission ruins are tucked behind the local school, so look for the Zona Escolar signs and the school on the north side of the highway.
Why should I go?
Misión San Miguel Arcángel de la Frontera is a great introduction to the mission trail for travelers coming from the north, and combined with the quaint village of which it’s a part, makes for a great stop on any journey.