Self-Guided Pilgrimages

Pilgrimages may be done by groups and individuals with or without guides. You may desire to walk the entire pilgrimage trail and receive the Compostela; you may decide to drive or bicycle to all the mission churches and Cathedral and obtain the Peregrino Certificate; or you may decide to only do a portion of the El Camino. Whatever you decide, the following tips will help you prepare for your pilgrimage.

Common Questions

Where to start?

You can start at any of the missions or Cathedral. The El Camino trail connects the four mission churches with Mission San Francisco de la Espada being southernmost and San Fernando Cathedral at the northern end. The trail is ideal for walking or biking between the missions and Cathedral. You do not have to complete the journey in one day. For those seeking a Compostela or Peregrino Certificate start at the Padre Madre Pilgrimage Center where you can obtain your passport and receive additional information.

When is the best time to go on a pilgrimage?

Late September through early June is an ideal time to pilgrimage. Texas summers are extremely hot and there is little shade for a portion of the trail. If you decide to pilgrimage during June – August be sure and start as early as possible when the temperatures are at their lowest and bring water, hat, and sunscreen.

What to bring and wear?

  • Reusable water bottle: Each mission has refillable water stations to refill your water bottles.
  • Comfortable walking shoes: Even if you decide to drive or bike from mission to mission, the grounds can be uneven.
  • Wear clothes that are comfortable and appropriate to the season. Summer is hot and winter is usually mild.
  • Hat and sunscreen are necessary all year round.
  • Other items: rain/waterproof gear and snacks. There are limited food options along the trail. Drinks, sandwiches, and salads are available at the Padre Margil Pilgrimage Center.

Physical preparation

  • Start training: If you plan to walk the entire El Camino trail, start training if you are not an experienced walker. Depending how much you explore the individual missions, the walking distance could be 20 miles.
  • Bicycles are available to rent at each of the missions through B-Bicycle. Be sure to rent the electric bicycles.