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Mision Santa Maria and Oasis

Updated: Feb 9, 2023

One of Baja's most iconic jeep tracks leads to the ruins of an old Jesuit Mision and hidden waterfall and oasis in a rugged canyon. Come see why the locals keep coming back to Catavina for epic track!

Route Overview

Adventure Rating: Epic

Trip Length: 36 miles, 1-2 days

Season: Year round, but October - May tends to be the best time to go before the Summer heat settles in.

Avg Technical Rating: 3

Peak Technical Rating: 6

Typical Terrain: Rocky jeep tracks with steep hill climbs and descents.

Recommended Vehicle: High clearance 4x4 Recommended Gear: Winch and rear lockers are recommdned

Adventure Vans: Sprinter 4x4s are not recommended.

Alternative Routes: n/a Permits: n/a

 

Route Details


The quiet desert village of Cataviña sits just under 300 miles from Tijuana via the highway. This sleep town has gained quite a reputation in Baja for its mesmerizing rock formations and rugged trails. Massive cacti and elephant trees only add to the allure. While the 36 mile track to Oasis Santa Maria and its pozo (waterfall), you can expect to be slow going for most of the trip. The trip can be done over the course of a long day (8+ hours), but we recommend staying the night so you can explore the Mision and surrounding oases and waterfalls. While it's possible to do the route in a stock 4x4, we strongly recommend at least a 2" lift and larger tires (32-33" inches). The trail has quite a reputation for creating trail carnage, so most people visiting tend to avoid going solo, and we certainly recommend the buddy system for this track (and a winch!).


The two highlights of the trip are the old ruins of Mision Santa Maria (DP3) and the waterfalls of Oasis Santa Maria (DP4). But before you can reach either of these discovery points, you'll need to traverse a series of washes, gullies, steep jeep tracks, and the infamous Widowmaker (DP2). The Widowmaker is a prolonged section of rock jeep track down a steep hill (at least on the way in). Take it slow and choose your line carefully and you should be fine! After crossing the widowmaker, almost immediately you'll come to the "bog" section. This waterfilled portion of the trail has a reputation for being quite tricky, especially for vehicles without rear lockers. The mision's full name is actually Mision Santa Maria de Los Angeles. The Jesuits begin construction using adobe bricks in 1767. The Jesuits only spent 7 years at the mision until it was abandoned. Today all that stands are some of the old walls but the roof is long gone. Once you've reached the mision, Oasis Santa Maria is less than a mile away. To reach the oasis, you'll need to park and hike down the wash to reach the first pozo (waterfall). The main waterfall is impressive, and the pool of turquoise water is perfect for taking a dip in. If you continue hiking down the wash, you'll come across another waterfall and pool. The track ends with a hill climb that's a nice lookout of the canyon below. Retrace your tracks back to the town of Cataviña to conclude the adventure, but before existing onto the pavement we recommend swinging by Rancho Santa Ines for a bite to eat!

Camping Recommendations Most people tend to camp at either the mision, or in the palms near Oasis.


Discovery Points

  • DP1 - Rancho Santa Ines

  • DP2 - The Widowmaker

  • DP3 - Mision Santa Mara de Los Angels

  • DP4 - Oasis Santa Maria

 

Maps + Navigation


Digital Mapping Files


 

Resources


Land Managers

  • n/a

 


Terms of Use: Should you decide to travel a route that is published on Overlandtrailguides.com, you do so at your own risk. Always take the appropriate precautions when planning and traveling, including checking the current local weather, permit requirements, trail/road conditions, and land/road closures. While traveling, obey all public and private land use restrictions and rules, and carry the appropriate safety, recovery, and navigational equipment. The information found on this site is simply a planning resource to be used as a point of inspiration in conjunction with your own due-diligence. In spite of the fact that this route, associated GPS track (GPX and maps), and all route guidelines were prepared under diligent research by Overland Trail Guides, the route accuracy and current conditions of roads and trails cannot be guaranteed.



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