The Old Spanish Trail was a national highway, completed in the 1920s, that ran from St. Augustine, Florida, across the southern United States to San Diego, California. The Texas portion of the road began at the southwestern Louisiana border at Orange, passed through Beaumont, Houston, and San Antonio, and ended at El Paso. The name Old Spanish Trail was chosen by an organization formed in December 1915 in Mobile, Alabama, to promote the construction of a southern transcontinental highway. The group, which called itself the Old Spanish Trail Association, also publicized the route to tourists, and by August 1926 had distributed 83,000 maps and travel service booklets. In 1919 the group established headquarters at the Gunter Hotel in San Antonio. By 1929 the highway was completed. The present highway does not follow the route of the Old San Antonio Road, which was sometimes referred to as the Old Spanish Trail and went from Bexar (now San Antonio) east to Nacogdoches and north of what is now known as the Old Spanish Trail. An 1829 map drawn by Stephen F. Austin shows that the Opelousas Road (also known as La Bahía Road), an east-west trail running through southwestern Louisiana and southeastern Texas, had a branch trail going down to Harrisburg (now Houston). The same map shows that a trail existed from what is now Houston to what is now San Antonio, but it was unnamed on that map and did not correspond to what was sometimes called the Camino Real during the Spanish colonial period.
Is history important to you?
We need your support because we are a non-profit organization that relies upon contributions from our community in order to record and preserve the history of our state. Every dollar helps.
Joseph John Hill, The Old Spanish Trail (Baltimore: Williams and Wilkins, 1921). Old Spanish Trail Travelog, September 1927, March 1928. James Wadsworth Travers, From Coast to Coast Via the Old Spanish Trail (San Diego, 1929). Year Book, Report of Managing Directors to Old Spanish Trail Members (San Antonio, 1926).
The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this entry.
“Old Spanish Trail,”
Handbook of Texas Online,
accessed July 05, 2022,
Published by the Texas State Historical Association.
Original Publication Date:
Most Recent Revision Date:
April 24, 2019
This entry belongs to the following Handbook Special Projects: