El Camino Real de los Tejas National Historic Trail is one of the most important trails you might have never heard of. The name might not exactly roll off the tongue, but people have been saying it for hundreds of years (although the National Historic Trail part was added much later). This well-traveled trail actually pre-dates both modern day Mexico and the United States as we know them. For hundreds of years before there were settlers, Native American tribes traveled these trails for trade, creating the foundation for what would later become the 2,500-mile road.
In the late 1600s, when Spain still governed Mexico and much of what is now the United States was wild territory, the Spanish Governor at the time, Alonso de León, decided to officially forge a road from Mexico to modern day East Texas in order to keep the territory from the ever encroaching French explorers. In 1718 the city of San Antonio was founded along the road, and by 1821, when Mexico achieved independence from Spain, the road had been expanded and firmly established.
El Camino Real de los Tejas played an enormous role in Texas history. When Davy Crockett gave his famous quote, “You may all go to hell, and I will go to Texas.” El Camino Real de los Tejas is how he got there. Other famous Texans like Stephen F. Austin, Sam Houston, Jim Bowie, and thousands of migrants from the United States all traveled this road.
Now the association wants this trail to make Texas history again by working to create a walkable path between Austin and San Antonio that mirrors the original route. Although this ambitious plan has a great deal of enthusiastic support, as with many things, trails in Texas are complicated. Unlike many states, especially in the west, Texas has almost no public land. Although roughly 28 percent of the United States is publicly owned federal land, in Texas that number is less than two percent.