As I approached Mission San Francisco Solano, after a week of driving the El Camino Real and visiting all of the California Missions, I was wary of seeing how the final mission on my journey would be. This mission was the last of the 21 missions to be founded, and it holds a special place as the northernmost California Mission. It is run by the state parks system now, just like La Purisima in Lompoc was. I am glad to say that it was a fitting end to the trail and a beautiful yet small mission, here are all the details so you can visit it yourself.
- Cost: $3
- Time needed: 30 minutes
- Location: 114 E Spain St, Sonoma, CA 95476
- Read about all 21 of the California Missions here
- This information is from my visit in 2016
Mission Sonoma is located right in the central downtown area of Sonoma. It is at the north end of the town square and surrounded by businesses and other historic spots. There is street parking all around, most of which is free.
As you approach the mission, you will notice how well maintained the exterior is. I was impressed by how the state parks managed the two missions they controlled as both were beautiful and well preserved.
In the corner, there is a sign right below the El Camino Real Bell that designates this as the end of the El Camino Real Trail.
I thought it was fitting that the plaque and grounds were covered in beautiful blooming poppies, the state’s official flower.
The facade of the chapel and mission was the stark white with brown trim that I had come to expect from the missions but was beautiful in its simplicity.
From the bell and sign, you head around to the right to pay your fee and enter the mission. They give you a map as well, but the mission is tiny, so you don’t need it. Here are the main areas.
The first room you enter serves as the museum, complete with both Indian and mission artifacts.
The next room is what used to be the dining area and what now holds dozens of paintings of the missions by famous watercolor painter Chris Jorgensen.
This was the best room of the mission for me as it was beautiful to see how well done all of these paintings were and to learn more about the artist.
There is one more small room of history, and then you enter the chapel.
The chapel is one of two that do not serve as actual churches. This is because the state runs them.
You will not see the traditional pews because of this, but it is interesting to walk around so freely in the chapel.
The chapel here is relatively traditional for the missions, nothing too ornate or too plain.
It has the standard altarpiece and an area where the priest can walk up and address the audience from above.
I walked around for a while and looked at the art and altar before heading out into the courtyard.
The courtyard is relatively small, with a selection of flowers adding a pop of color.
There is a large stone fountain in the center with some bench seating, but the fountain did not have water in it when I visited.
The back area also has a traditional stone oven, restrooms, and a large area of cactus that represented where one of the mission buildings would have stood.
After walking around a bit more, I headed out of the mission. Since this was my last mission to visit, exiting was a little bittersweet. You can read all about my time visiting all 21 here if you want to visit some of the missions yourself. If you are in Sonoma, also consider checking out the rest of the places in the state park (your mission fee gives you access) or have some wine at the oldest winery in California. Let me know what you think in the comments.