By J.J. Lamb

The other Old Spanish Trail passed through Vail, via Highway 80. It was the name given by a tourism association formed in 1915 to promote business along an all-weather, southern route traversing the country from Saint Augustine to San Diego. The project was put on hold during WWI and wasn’t completed until 1929. The Old Spanish Trail organization was quite successful until the completion of I10 in the 1960’s. When you drive along the frontage road in Vail, you are driving The Old Spanish Trail.

In 1916 the first Official Guide for The Old Spanish Trail was published. Before the internet, before GPS or Smart Phones for one dollar travelers could hold “the most accurate, detailed and attractive Automobile Tour Guides developed” in their hands. The guide had all the details needed to travel safely along the “all season transcontinental highway. The Old Spanish Trail Follows the line of least resistance for automobiles between the Atlantic and Pacific oceans.”

Transportation routes connected population centers, and have changed significantly since 1916. The Tucson to Empire Ranch stretch description reads, “Most of this road is completed State Highway, and is in good condition. Wonderful views of mountain and plain are obtainable in the Santa Rita mountains. The grades are long, but not steep. Oil and gas are found at Vail, (at the adobe Vail Store). Tucson has everything that a motorist requires…Reset speedometers at Congress and Sixth streets in Tucson.”

In 1960, Joe Maierhauser, Operator of Colossal Cave Park, was president of the local Old Spanish Trail chapter. They met at the Pioneer Hotel in downtown Tucson. His proposed signage featuring a Spanish Conquistador was adopted for the entire transcontinental route. Towns or attractions purchased two of the distinctive porcelain on metal conquistador signs; one for eastbound and the other for westbound traffic. You can step back in time and see one of these historic signs at Colossal Cave Mountain Park’s Ranch Museum.

Save the Date

October 3, 2015 1st Annual Vail Preservation Society Horseshoe and Corn Hole Tournament-GAME ON! Email Paul O’Bert to enter at

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