small town favorites / Texas

Your Travel Guide to the El Paso Mission Trail

My recent visit to El Paso, Texas revealed a tiny historic community I did not know existed – the El Paso Mission Trail. 

Socorro Road (FM 258), which runs from Ysleta to Socorro to San Elizario, makes up the designated Mission Trail. The El Paso Mission Trail is a nine-mile trek (not really an actual trail) of history and culture located in El Paso County’s Mission Valley. The name “mission” comes from the three historic missions still located in the area – the Ysleta Mission, the Socorro Mission and the San Elizario Chapel. Dating back to the 17th and 18th centuries, these missions (or churches) are the oldest in the state of Texas.

El Paso Mission Trail art galleries. Photo by Jessica Hughes.

Today, you can explore the well-preserved structures, learn about the missions’ role in Spanish colonization and the spread of Christianity, and immerse yourself in the traditions and customs of the indigenous peoples and early settlers.

the Socorro Mission
Inside the Socorro Mission. Photo by Jessica Hughes.

Plus, the area is also great for discovering local art, cuisine, and cultural events that highlight the heritage of the El Paso region. Whether you’re a history buff, architecture enthusiast, or simply seeking a unique cultural experience, the El Paso Mission Trail offers a fascinating journey through centuries of history and tradition.

History of the El Paso Mission Trail

Named for the three missions that still stand in the area, the El Paso Mission Trail represents a segment of El Camino Real de Tierra Adentro (Royal Road of the Interior). This historic trail ran from Mexico City to Santa Fe and linked the missions, agricultural communities, homes, and military forts to distant trade and supply routes.

El Paso Mission Trail sign
The historic El Paso Mission Trail. Photo by Jessica Hughes.

And while the three historic missions are certainly the cultural highlight of the area, there are many other ways to explore. From an up-and-coming art and culinary scene to cultural museums and national landmarks, there is plenty to see and do in this historical landmark.

Best for… a day trip from El Paso with friends or couples

If you are visiting El Paso, then this makes a great day trip with friends or your partner. I stayed in downtown El Paso at the Hotel Paso Del Norte, and it was roughly a 40-minute drive to the El Paso Mission Trail. 

Hotel Paso Del Norte
Outside pool at Hotel Paso Del Norte in downtown El Paso.

Spend the morning seeing the historic sites, stop for lunch, spend the afternoon shopping, or grab a beer at the brewery and cap it off with dinner and a glass of wine. 

Must-visit spots along the El Paso Mission Trail

Visit the three missions:

Each of the parishes still stands today, in working condition, and are available for tours, plus daily Mass for those who wish to join. 

El Paso Mission Trail, Socorro Mission
Outside the Socorro Mission. Photo by Jessica Hughes.
  • Ysleta Mission – This was the first mission I visited. This is truly where Texas began, as the Ysleta Mission is the “oldest continuously active parish in the State of Texas.” Over 300 years of Texas history are housed in the Ysleta Mission. Built in 1682 by the Tigua Indian community, this historic landmark has stood the test of time and is a beautiful representation of the area’s faith and culture. 
  • Socorro Mission – I loved the Socorro Mission for its adobe white walls and the vigas (large wooden beams) that line the ceiling of the mission’s interior. Its prestige comes from being one of the oldest continuous settlements in the Southwest, as well as being one of the oldest continuously operated missions in Texas. The current mission was established in 1843, but its original roots date back to the original Franciscan mission in 1691. Be sure to also shop their on-site gift shop for historical memorabilia. 
  • San Elizario Presidio Chapel – Originally named a military presidio in 1789, the San Elizaro Presidio Chapel as it stands today was built in 1877. Erected using a traditional Spanish Mission style, the chapel showcases round archways and golden-trimmed pillars. It functions as a full-functioning church and displays a picturesque vision of faith, culture, and historical significance.

Most fun thing I did

Shopping at Bodega Loya. Photo provided by Visit El Paso.

I loved looking at all the San Elizaro art galleries in the area and shopping at the local shops. There are several local artist’s studios you can visit. One of the shops I loved walking around in was The Bodega Loya, it was by far the most fun. I also absolutely love the Mystic Desert Studio where local artist Gabriel Marquez showcases original work of mystical beings in multiple mediums.

The best meal I had

Definitely be sure you dine at El Charlatan. A culinary fusion of Ramen and traditional Mexican food, El Charlatan has received great praise – named “Best Ramen in Texas.” and “Best Places to Eat in Texas,” by Texas Monthly magazine. Which, maybe that doesn’t say much because I would never associate Ramen with Texas. But this restaurant did not disappoint.

The Bourdain ramen bowl at El Charlatan. Photo by Jessica Hughes.

Originally from the area, Chef Enrique Lozano studied under some of the best, including a Michelin-star restaurant in Chicago. But after years away, he decided to return to his roots in Socorro and introduce the blend of refined tacos and the Japanese cuisine of Ramen. 

I tried the Baos buns, Al Pastor tacos and the Ramen dish that won them their accolades – the Bourdain.

Where to get a drink

Inside Three Missions Brewery. Photo by Jessica Hughes.

The Three Missions Brewery. This “do-it-yourself” brewery prides itself on a homegrown operation that produces roughly 400 barrels a year, adding a little flavor to the area. Set in an old adobe-style home, the brewery is a fun spot to hang and enjoy a few brews. I sipped on an IPA with a Chiamoy spice around the rim – now I’m spoiled forever.

To learn more about the El Paso Mission Trail and things to do visit them at

Monthly Newsletter

small town stops

Subscribe today

to receive the latest travel intel about undiscovered locations and a fresh outlook on your favorites.