If you’ve visited Rancho Las Cascadas, you know that the horseback riding offered is absolutely amazing. Guests can choose to spend up to seven hours in the saddle each day, covering open countryside, mountain climbs, lakeside paths and more. But for some, what makes it even more exciting is following some of the same trails that native tribes, and later Spanish settlers, used for trade and travel hundreds of years ago. Guests at the Rancho can either cross paths or follow the historic El Camino Real de Tierra Adentro (The Royal Road To The Interior Lands) on several of the longer rides.
El Camino Real was a 1,600 mile long trade route between Mexico City and the Spanish town of Santa Fe, New Mexico. The route was used between 1598 and 1882 to link Spain, Mexico and the United States; it was motivated and consolidated by the mining industry to transport silver from mines in Mexico and mercury imported from Europe. Twenty two years before the Mayflower arrived in the United States, Spanish colonists also used the trail to get to the new world. They would cross the Atlantic Ocean (a three month journey in itself) and arrive at the port city of Vera Cruz, Mexico. There, they would purchase oxen and a cart to begin the a rugged and often dangerous journey over the Sierra Madre mountains to Mexico City where they could pick up El Camino Real and head north to the Rio Grande. But for many, the trip to the new world wasn’t complete as it was still several hundred miles to Santa Fe or other final destinations.
Four of the day-long horseback rides from the Rancho intersect with El Camino Real: La Goletta, El Fresno, La Cañada, and La Copa. In some of the larger pueblos, the route is obvious as homes, churches and business have been carefully built around it and signs tell its tale. In other more rural areas, the astute rider will recognize sections of cobblestone overgrown with grass and weeds as it subtly winds its way through the open countryside. It’s fascinating to imagine all of the Europeans, American Indians, Mexicans and Americans who traveled on El Camino Real, exchanging culture, religion, information, silver, crops, livestock, crafts and more. Not only did this route help shape individual lives but also entirely new multi-cultural communities.
If you would like to ride along El Camino Real, let the staff know when you make plans to visit the Rancho. They’ll be happy to make arrangements so you can see this amazing international historical trail.