pixel

Baja Travel Adventures
By David Kier

A Baja Sur Mission Adventure

By David Kier

Mission San Luis Gonzaga
Mission San Luis Gonzaga.

Most Baja travelers are probably familiar with the beautiful Bay of San Luis Gonzaga, about 90 miles south from San Felipe. What may be less known is the 1737 Spanish mission of San Luis Gonzaga, 80 miles northwest from La Paz. While Gonzaga Bay can now be reached by paved highway, the old stone mission on the Magdalena Plain of Baja California Sur requires dirt road driving. The graded dirt road from Highway 1 to Mission San Luis Gonzaga was very good and an easy drive when traveled in August 2017. However, the road beyond the mission becomes more interesting! Direction signs are rare, so a good map, GPS device, and a sense of direction will be of great importance.

My game plan was to follow the most traveled roads in the direction intended. Maps often do not show recent changes and detours from recent years of heavy rain. My goal was to see all three of the mission sites of the region; San Luis Gonzaga, La Pasión, and Los Dolores. I also wanted to continue to the gulf coast at San Evaristo and finish at La Paz. The Auto Club map correctly locates the mission locations. The Baja Almanac misplaces La Pasión. The mission ruins are at Rancho La Capilla, about 2 miles northeast of La Presa.

The mission dirt road begins 8 miles south of Ciudad Constitución, on Highway 1, at Km. 195. The road is well-graded but very dusty! Be cautious with speed as there are a few concrete dips along the way that could launch you if you are driving like Robby Gordon. In just over 12 miles is a fork in the road and you will turn right. The road straight ahead goes to a dam and reservoir called Presa El Ihuagil.

Mission Dolores Ruins
Mission Dolores/La Pasión ruins.

Mission San Luis Gonzaga is 22.3 miles from Highway 1 and is most impressive given the location and age. The church was built from 1753 to 1758. The old and deserted buildings beyond the mission church were from the Mexican ranching and farming years that followed the mission period. A village with about 40 people are all that remain today. Directly north from the mission entrance is an impressive dam and pond, surrounded by palms. Behind the mission is a small graveyard. The location makes an excellent stop on this desert drive. Set your odometer to 0 at the mission.

Going south from San Luis Gonzaga, the road passes several ranches and tiny villages. 8.1 miles from the mission is a fork where a left turn was made. Another left fork is at Mile 10.2 to go in the direction I intended. Looking at the map, the right fork can be used, but it is a longer road going south of Arroyo La Presa.

Turtle hill
Turtle Hill at mile 17.

15.5 miles from San Luis Gonzaga is a T junction and a sign pointing right for Rancho Merecuaco (0.4 mile). Turn left. The road is now seemingly going the wrong way as it climbs between hills, one resembling a turtle. Perhaps that was only my interpretation after miles of bouncing? The road soon circles back towards the south, passes some ranch houses and a weather monitor box then crosses Arroyo La Presa, 20 miles from San Luis Gonzaga. A ranch with a steel water tank is driven by and then a well-graded road is reached at Mile 21.6. Highway 1 is 30 miles to the right at Km. 127. Turn left to continue this adventure.

The entrance to Rancho La Presa is at Mile 26.8. This old ranch has an impressive, mission-looking, modern church, and an oasis. It was a guest ranch for a short time, under the name Misión Dolores, with a website. The gate was locked-closed last August, and the website is no longer online. Continue to Mile 27.3 (from San Luis Gonzaga) and arrive at a junction of roads.

Baja Aquaduct
The 1936 aqueduct between La Pasión and La Presa.

Straight ahead (south) is the route on to La Soledad, San Evaristo, and La Paz. A left turn is made here to visit the site of La Pasión and Los Dolores as well as an interesting aqueduct just east of here. Set odometer to 0.

At Mile 1.3, a road comes in from the left. On the return trip out, I took it just over a half mile to the edge of the arroyo and hiked across the arroyo to see the aqueduct structure built in 1936. GPS: N24°52.940’, W111°02.820’.

At Mile 1.9 is a ranch next to the road and a road to the right that crosses the arroyo. On the south side of the arroyo is La Capilla, a goat ranch on the site of La Pasión.

La Pasión was a visita (visiting station) of Mission Los Dolores. In 1741, the Dolores mission moved from the canyon near the gulf, where it had been since 1721, to La Pasión. This was to better serve the Guaycura Indians who could not come as easily the deep-canyon mission. After the move, the mission was typically called La Pasión rather than its true name, Dolores. The mission was closed by the Spanish government in 1768 and its neophytes were forcibly transferred to Todos Santos.

Behind the La Capilla ranch house, next to some goat pens, are the fallen walls of the mission church as well as many stone foundation footing lines. The gate was closed at the front of his ranch, so I drove on the track that went around to the back, and parked. The young rancher here, named Modesto, welcomed me to see the site and take photos when he came out of his home. GPS: N24°53.250’, W111°01.860’.

Dolores Map
A map of the area.

Continuing to the Dolores Mission viewpoint; a village called Santa María de la Toris, with schools for area ranch children, is at Mile 2.8. A fork is reached at Mile 13.3 where the better-looking road goes right heading to the seasonal lake called Llanos de Kakiwi. Take the left fork, with a sign for Los Burros (on the Sea of Cortez coast). The road from here is best traveled in a 4WD, high clearance vehicle. At Mile 17.0, you have reached the peninsular divide at an elevation of 1,520’. The road begins a rough descent. The El Camino Real to Mission Dolores soon branches off the road to the left and is used by modern hikers to reach the mission, far below. At Mile 19.0, a road goes left and is a place to park and hike across a gully and on to the canyon edge to look down and across to the north side and see the walls of Mission Dolores. Bring binoculars! They are at the base of a pyramid-shaped hill. GPS at the ruins: N25°03.330’, W110°53.070’.

The road ahead passes another viewing point in 0.6 mile and continues to the coast at Los Burros. No road goes into the canyon containing the mission. Visitors must hike in on the mission trail or up from a boat landing on the beach, 2.5 miles away.

Baja travel adventures await you down that dusty road. Where it goes never ceases to amaze me.

About David

David Kier is a veteran Baja traveler, author of 'Baja California - Land Of Missions' and co-author of 'The Old Missions of Baja and Alta California 1697-1834'. Visit the Old Missions website.

4.7 93 Reviews
  • user logo
    Benjamin Driebe
    From logo

    Absolutely fantastic, I already forgot her name because I have a terrible memory but the woman that helped me on the phone was wonderful,...

  • user logo
    richard carr
    From logo

    fast replies and great price!

  • user logo
    Juan Zuniga
    From logo

    I just would like to know if you guys are going to update the fastpass direction any soon, during the month of January the lane changed to...

  • user logo
    Richard Schweiger
    From logo

    Very professional, very helpful, great policy, I couldn't be happier with Baja Mexican Insurance, the friendly smiles and ease of it all in...

  • user logo
    Ryan Frisby
    From logo

    We use them every time we travel to Mexico. Luckily we have not needed their services yet but getting insurance through them is quick and...

  • user logo
    Jan Muhammad
    From logo

    I need a tourist visa for maxico I'm from pakistan help me sir

  • user logo
    Tracy Moore
    From logo

    Very easy, quick, and professional

  • user logo
    robert kepper
    From logo

    They are very good . There website doesn't show you need a title to bring a vehicle across the border.I was stopped and told I had to...

  • user logo
    Edilver Martinez
    From logo

    Our go to Baja car insurance, everytime we take a visit down south . Usually it's for a day trip either for a quick getaway with the family...

  • user logo
    Daniel Markofsky
    From logo

    Third time working with Baja Bound and they made it easy! Thanks!

  • user logo
    Steve Bender
    From logo

    Have never needed to use the insurance fortunately but the website always works great. Can buy a policy in about a minute.

  • user logo
    Jose Paez
    From logo

    Had a great experience getting insurance at Baja Bound, before I always stoped at the border to purchase my insurance, not anymore. By the...

  • user logo
    JUSTINE SERRANO
    From logo

    I purchased insurance through them & CHUBB for our trip to San Felipe. Unfortunately, we had to cancel due to our vehicle having an oil...

  • user logo
    Christian Minor
    From logo

    Team were on point, provided inside information, prices were great and they had my proposal already in the system when I called back....

  • user logo
    Joey Digiovanni
    From logo

    Easy to work with 😉. Always courteous and helpful

  • user logo
    George
    From logo

    Excellent customer service

  • user logo
    Kellye Pummill
    From logo

    Fast and easy!

  • user logo
    Jennifer Toups
    From logo

    Baja Bound is and has been my go to Mexico insurance company. The website is extremely easy to use, keeps all your info for a quick...

  • user logo
    Cesar Lopez
    From logo

    Very convenient, great price !!

  • user logo
    Louis Schneidman
    From logo

    I had an awesome experience with Baja Bound. Family owned and highly personal, top notch customer service. I have total peace of mind...

  • user logo
    Phil Noble
    From logo

    If you’re looking for Mexican Insurance that you can trust and feel good about while traveling in Mexico, you’ve found the right place....

  • user logo
    Jeff Bunker
    From logo

    Great coverage options . Price buy and print policy , very quick and easy , highly recommend them when driving in Mexico

  • user logo
    Burrell DeVine
    From logo

    Easy to navigate and very competitively priced! I had to call in and add an additional day, they couldn't have been any more pleasant to...

  • user logo
    Nereyda Torres
    From logo

    Me gusta la asuguranza porque la puedes comprar por un dia y te asegura en Mexico por el tiempo que vas ya sea hasta por mes (Translated...

  • user logo
    james whitmer
    From logo

    Best insurance I've had so far

  • user logo
    Rail1riders
    From logo

    Quick, easy, well designed website and not just for Baja. Good rates for temporal residente gringos. We’re not living in Jalisco. Printed...

  • user logo
    Matt B
    From logo

    I always use Baja Bound to source my insurance while traveling to Mexico. Fortunately, I have not had to file any claims. I do appreciate...

  • user logo
    Refugio I. Rochin
    From logo

    Excellent online and by direct phone. Spanish and English with proven response to questions. Website is very informative about driving in...

  • user logo
    Kelly Carney
    From logo

    Yara is very helpful and explains everything. Love working with companies like this.

  • user logo
    Slumdog Gump
    From logo

    Changed some money. Good rate and friendly people.

  • user logo
    Jeff G
    From logo

    Went down to TJ June 11 2020 No problems going into TJ but the way back was a ordeal 6 hours in line to get back into the USA but no...

  • user logo
    don letson
    From logo

    Great renewal process, if only south Dakota would do the same for car registration.

  • user logo
    len buckholtz
    From logo

    SIMPLE, STRAIGHTFORWARD. OLD GUYS LIKE THAT. WILL DEFINITELY USE IN 6 MONTHS IF STILL RUNNING AROUND THE WILDS OF BAJA.

  • user logo
    Susana Judd
    From logo

    Easy, quick and fair prices. Easy to deal with if needed.

  • user logo
    Seismic Waterfinder
    From logo

    Very excellent service, needed insurance for Mexico, price was fair. The custumer service rep was Yara

  • user logo
    Nicolas Dervé
    From logo

    Very good ans very fast. We hope all will ben good if we need it.

  • user logo
    Blake Glassco
    From logo

    I will never drive south of the border without Baja Bound in my center console. I was in an accident a couple hours south of Ensenada and...

  • user logo
    JohnPaul Gemelli
    From logo

    Baja Bound could not have made it an easier ... also, I made a mistake and called them having to leave a message ... but, they called back...

  • user logo
    Jeff Brandt
    From logo

    so far so good, however I have read good things about them

  • user logo
    Sengoz N
    From logo

    SERIOUS.

  • user logo
    Kenneth Trass
    From logo

    Getting a policy was simple, Provided more than provider for price comparison.

  • user logo
    Esther Valencia
    From logo

    Super easy to purchase just the coverage you need when crossing the border in your own car. I especially appreciate the fact that I was...

  • user logo
    Larry Cottingham
    From logo

    Great service, very helpful people there.

  • user logo
    Luis Cortes
    From logo

    Easiest way to purchase insurance when traveling to Mexico. I have used their service for the last 7 years and it only gets easier and...

  • user logo
    j dougher ty
    From logo

    EZ Peasy insurance purchase. Great service every time I've used them. Had to cancel one time when my travel plans went away - no problem....

  • user logo
    Paul Niehouse
    From logo

    Extremely easy to acquire a policy. Many options available. Reasonable rates.

  • user logo
    Colin
    From logo

    Super-easy and instant. Very happy with initial purchase.

  • user logo
    Howard M Elster
    From logo

    2nd year with Chubb. No problems

  • user logo
    Cyndee Congrove
    From logo

    Great customer service, quick, friendly staff helpfully answered all questions, very patient with my learning curve on a new product. Would...

  • user logo
    Art Eugenio
    From logo

    I've had Baja Bound insurance for more that ten years now with thousands of miles logged in Baja. Fortunately, I've only had one fender...

  • user logo
    Gabe Matthews
    From logo

    Where do i start..... you dont know you have good insurance until you have to actually use it. I have had Baja Bound INS for over 5 years...

  • user logo
    keith berkley
    From logo

    Been going to baja for 45 years. This is best insurance company i have come accross.

  • user logo
    Ryan Perkio
    From logo

    I have been using BajaBound Insurance for 15 years - multiple trips per year. Their website is easy, their coverage is great, and the...

  • user logo
    RaMon McBride
    From logo

    I have not had any claims thus far so rating is based on ease of purchase.

  • user logo
    Larry French
    From logo

    By far the best service for Mex insurance in Baja. They are personally there for you if you have problems south of the border.

  • user logo
    Tudor Thomas
    From logo

    Baja Bound makes buying insurance for going south of the border as easy as it gets. The website is the easiest I have used and the staff...