Remote and evocative, this historical mission sits in the Valley of the Oaks, once part of the sprawling Hearst Ranch landholdings and now inside the boundaries of the US Army's Fort Hunter Liggett. Inside the mission is an excellent museum and the grounds include a grist mill and irrigation system with aqueducts. It’s seldom crowded, and you could have the site all to yourself, except during Mission Days in late April and La Fiesta on the second Sunday of June.
The mission was founded in 1771 by Franciscan priest Junípero Serra. Built with Native Californian labor, the church has been restored to its early 19th-century appearance, with a wooden pulpit, canopied altar and decorative flourishes on whitewashed walls. A creaky door leads to a cloistered garden anchored by a fountain. The museum has a small collection of such utilitarian items as an olive press and a weaving loom once used in the mission’s workshops.
You may be asked for photo ID and proof of your vehicle’s registration at a nearby military checkpoint. From the north, take the Jolon Rd exit off Hwy 101 before King City and follow Jolon Rd (County Rte G14) about 18 miles south to Mission Rd. From the south, take the Jolon Rd (County Rte G18) exit off Hwy 101 and drive 22 miles northwest to Mission Rd.