Including the Alamo mission, there are five Spanish colonial missions along the San Antonio Mission Trail in San Antonio, Texas. Of course, you can visit the San Antonio missions via car, but here are a few fun alternatives.
Funded by the Spanish colonial government, dozens of missions were built throughout Texas, Arizona, and California in the 17th and 18th centuries. Although each mission had a faith-based goal of converting indigenous people to Catholicism, the missions were not churches. They were self-sufficient communities of Spanish missionaries and indigenous people who united under the flag of Spain to keep French explorers at bay and fend off attacks from other native tribes in the area.
Although indigenous people have lived in North America for thousands of years, they were largely nomadic tribes with a close bond with the earth. Because they didn’t build many permanent structures, the United States doesn’t feature megalithic pagan temples, ancient fortresses, and medieval churches as are commonly found throughout Europe. But at approximately 300 years old, the Spanish missions of the American southwest are some of the oldest structures in the US, earning them the distinction of a UNESCO World Heritage site.
Because it’s located the farthest south, and because it was the first mission built in the Spanish state of Texas (earlier missions in the region were built on land claimed by Mexico), I recommend beginning your tour of the San Antonio Missions at Mission Espada. You can then make your way back to the heart of San Antonio as you stop at the other missions along this San Antonio Mission Trail tour.
Here are five fun ways to visit the San Antonio missions in Texas and what you can expect to pay for each transportation option.
Related Article: The Missions of San Antonio, More Than the Alamo
Sage Advice: Learn more about all five of San Antonio’s Catholic missions with this free audio guide.
Visiting the San Antonio Missions by Car
Approximate cost: $10 to $20 for parking at the Alamo, plus the cost of renting the vehicle (or maintaining your own car) and gasoline
Whether you are road tripping through the Lone Star State or opt to rent a car during your Texas vacation, it’s easy to visit the San Antonio missions by car. If you’re staying in or near downtown San Antonio, simply head south to Mission Espada and then make your way back north, stopping at the other four San Antonio missions.
Sage Advice: You can also see most of the San Antonio as well as a few other stops via this guided tour. Or visit all four missions in the San Antonio Missions National Historical Park with this guided San Antonio Missions tour.
Driving the San Antonio Mission Trail
How to Use the San Antonio Mission Trail Map
- Zoom in or out using the + and – keys in the bottom right corner.
- Click the “More options” text link in the upper left corner to open this embedded map in a new browser window and take advantage of more options including the ability to send these directions to your phone.
Parking a Car at the San Antonio Missions
The farther you travel away from downtown San Antonio (and the Alamo), the easier it is to park a personal or rented car. Parking is free at the four Spanish missions that are part of the San Antonio Missions National Historic Park, which include:
- Mission San Francisco de la Espada,
- Mission San Juan Capistrano,
- Mission San José, and
- Mission Concepcion.
However, you should expect to pay $10 to $20 per day to park in one of the parking lots near the Alamo (Mission San Antonio de Valero).
Additional Details About Parking a Car at the San Antonio Missions
- Mission Espada. Parking is available in a small dirt lot just north of the Spanish mission.
- Mission San Juan Capistrano. Park in the paved lot just south of Mission Road. If you need to stretch your legs, explore the Acequia Trail that winds its way through the mission grounds.
- Mission San José. There is a large paved lot southeast of the San José Mission and Mission San José Church. Parking in the northern end of the lot puts you closer to the historic sanctuary and its beautiful rose window. The southern end of the lot is closest to the San Antonio Missions National Historic Park Visitor Center and allows you to enter the mission compound through an opening in the old protective wall.
- Mission Concepcion. Parking is available in the southwest corner of the mission grounds, and a paved path leads you to the oldest unrestored stone church in America.
- Mission San Antonio de Valero (the Alamo). Because it’s the most famous of the San Antonio Missions and located in the heart of downtown San Antonio, parking is most challenging at the Alamo. However, there are several street lots and covered parking garages in the blocks surrounding the Mission Valero. Expect to pay between $10 and $20 per day.
Sage Advice: If you are visiting the San Antonio Missions with an electric car, the Mission San José parking lot includes charging stations for electric vehicles.
Visiting the San Antonio Missions Using a Ridesharing App
Approximate cost: $30 to $50 plus tip
Whether you’re a fan of Uber or Lyft, both ridesharing companies make it easy to visit all five San Antonio Missions. The charges associated with each ridesharing app vary based on:
- the day and time of your travel,
- the number of people in your party (Lyft vs Lyft XL or Uber X vs Uber XL),
- the swankiness of the car (Lyft Lux)
You can generally expect to spend these amounts to visit all five San Antonio missions by ridesharing app:
- Downtown San Antonio to Mission Espada – $13 to $25
- Mission Espada to Mission San Juan – $3 to $6
- Mission San Juan to Mission San José – $5 to $7
- Mission San José to Mission Concepcion – $4 to $6
- Mission Concepcion to the Alamo – $5 to $7
Note: The prices quoted above do not include a tip for the rideshare driver.
See the Spanish Missions via the San Antonio Mission Trail Bus
Approximate cost: $1.35 to $2.75 per person
The most convenient San Antonio bus option is bus 40. For just a few dollars, you can purchase an all-day VIA bus pass that transports riders to all four missions in the San Antonio Missions National Historic Park without making any stops between the historic Spanish colonial landmarks.
A day pass for the San Antonio Mission Trail bus is currently $2.75 for full-fare riders. Discounted fares are offered to students (ID required), children, and active-duty military. A reduced fare day pass is currently $1.35.
Before you go to San Antonio, download the bus 40 route map and timetable. You may also want to download and install VIA’s goMobile ticketing app.
Sage Advice: If you want to see more than the Alamo but don’t have the time or desire to see all five San Antonio missions, another bus option is VIA bus 42. It travels between downtown San Antonio, Mission San José, and Mission Concepcion. However, unlike VIA bus 40, it does make stops every few blocks along the way.
How to Visit the San Antonio Missions by Bike
Approximate cost: $13 per person per day
Touring the San Antonio Mission Trail by bike was my favorite way to explore the San Antonio Missions! Not only was the bike rental fast and easy, exploring the San Antonio Mission Trail on two wheels was a great way to soak in the gorgeous sunny day. Plus, it’s super easy to see all five missions via the well-marked and maintained San Antonio Mission Trail.
To tour the San Antonio missions by bike, we took a Lyft from our hotel in downtown San Antonio to Mission Espada. After exploring the oldest Texas mission, we rented bicycles from the BCycle San Antonio bike sharing station just a few paces north along the San Antonio River Walk Trail. This bicycle and pedestrian trail begins at the northwestern corner of the mission grounds and hugs the San Antonio River all the way back to downtown San Antonio.
With bike rental stations all along the San Antonio River Walk Trail, it’s easy to dock your ride, see the colonial mission, and then pick up a new two-wheeler. If you’ve bonded with your bicycle, you can also dismount and walk alongside it as you explore the mission grounds so that it’s still available to take you to the next stop along the San Antonio Mission Trail.
One thing to keep in mind is that BCycle rentals don’t come with bicycle helmets. So, you’ll want to be extra mindful of bike safety rules when you visit the San Antonio missions by bike.
Sage Advice: There are limited services at the missions, so be sure to bring a refillable water bottle and pack snacks, especially if you plan to bike or hike between missions. Water refill stations are available at all five missions.
Hiking or Biking the San Antonio Mission Trail
How to Use the San Antonio Mission Trail Map
- Zoom in or out using the + and – keys in the bottom right corner.
- Click the “More options” text link in the upper left corner to open this embedded map in a new browser window and take advantage of more options including the ability to send these directions to your phone.e
Visiting the San Antonio Missions on Foot
If you want to enjoy the outdoors but don’t feel like renting a bicycle, it’s also easy (although a bit of a hike) to visit the San Antonio missions on foot. It’s about 8.5 miles along the dedicated footpath from Mission Espada back to the Alamo, so be sure you have comfortable footwear before you hit the trail. I love wearing my hiking sandals because they are as comfortable as flip flops but provide plenty of support.
Sage Advice: If you want to try more than one method of transportation, it’s easy to mix and match. For example: Take VIA bus 40 to Mission Espada and then bike to as many missions as you like before jumping on bus 40 to return downtown. Or, you can take a Lyft or Uber to Mission Espada and then alternate between walking and biking the trail back downtown.
To Visit the Missions of San Antonio
Here’s all of the practical information you need to visit the San Antonio Missions National Historic Park.
How many missions are there in San Antonio?
What connects the missions of San Antonio?
Hugging the San Antonio River for about ten miles, the Hike & Bike Trail connects all five San Antonio Missions making it easy to tour the San Antonio Missions by foot or on bicycle.
What hours can the San Antonio Missions be visited?
The Missions of San Antonio are open daily from sunrise to sunset. However, they are closed throughout the year on certain holidays including Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s Day.
Where is the San Antonio Missions Visitor Center located?
Mission San José is home to the San Antonio Missions National Historic Park Visitor Center, and this is where you can get your Passport to National Parks stamped. It’s open on days that the park is open, from 9:00 am to 5:00 pm.
What does it cost to visit the San Antonio Missions?
There is no cost to visit any of the five missions in San Antonio.
Have You Visited the San Antonio Missions?
Which missions did you visit? How did you travel between the missions? How did that mode of transportation work for you? Any additional tips and tricks to pass along? Share your experiences in the comments section below.
Ready to Go?
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10 thoughts on “5 Fun Ways to Visit the San Antonio Missions in Texas”
This sounds like a great way to spend the day. I love the idea of biking the trail. E excise and history all at once. Perfect!
It was soooooo the best of both worlds!
I love this post so much! Everyone goes to visit the Alamo, but in my opinion, the other missions are so much better than the Alamo. They definitely shouldn’t be missed during a San Antonio trip!
I totally agree! And I feel so validated that a Texan also believes the other missions are so much better than the Alamo! 🙂
San Antonio is one of the most exciting and beautiful places in Texas. And the San Antonio Missions is an incredible place with a rich 300 years history. It’s great that you have provided so many practical tips on visiting it!
San Antonio may be my favorite Texas city!
I am a San Antonio resident and have some additional notes on this post. VIA no longer runs route 40 due to cutbacks caused by the pandemic. It is uncertain whether that route will ever return. Route 42 still runs but somewhat less frequent than before.
For walkers and bicyclists, there is a walking club that has set up walking routes and a bicycle route in the Missions area. People can register and enjoy these routes any day for a small fee. Normally there is a self-registration box that is kept at the Mission San Jose Visitor Center for these walking and bicycle routes. Due to the pandemic, the visitor center is closed, so people wanting to do these events would need to contact the walking club POC. For information, go to https://my.ava.org/find-an-event.php and click on “Search by State” and “Texas” and look for the events that start with “San Antonio, TX – Mission …”
Awesome information! Thanks for sharing, Andy!
What an enjoyable trip. I loved my tour of the Santa Barbara mission.
Whether in Texas, Arizona, or California, the old Spanish missions are pretty fascinating!