Monarch Butterfly Nature Preserve, Natural Bridges State Beach, Santa Cruz

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Within Natural Bridges State Beach, in Santa Cruz, you’ll find the Monarch Butterfly Nature Preserve, a grove of eucalyptus trees where thousands of Monarch Butterflies spend the winter each year.  The butterflies may be viewed by taking a short 0.75 mile Monarch Trail loop through the Preserve, or by simply taking the short, wheel-chair accessible Monarch Boardwalk to the viewing platform.  The monarchs are here from mid-October through mid-February.

We visited the Preserve yesterday and were so fortunate that the weather was in the 70’s.   The butterflies become more active when temperatures rise above 55 degrees, fluttering magically throughout the viewing area.  On colder days, it’s more likely you’ll find them clumped together in bunches, staying warm.  Still worth seeing!

While here, be sure to check out the Visitor Center, which has some nice exhibits about Monarch Butterflies, migration, and metamorphosis (my 5-year-old was quite interested in the video showing a caterpillar changing into a butterfly).  Also, if the tide is right, be sure to head to the tide pools!  I’ll write about that tomorrow.

For more information about Natural Bridges State Beach, visit the California State Parks website…

For specific information about the Monarch Trail, visit this page, which includes a hike description…


  1. My wife used to love to see the monarchs in San Luis Obispo. She would walk the canyons while at Cal Poly and loved it so. I am forwarding these beautiful photos. Thanks for a great visual.


  2. Such beautiful photos! Am forwarding to my wife. She used to live in San Luis Obispo and loved going in some of the canyons and seeing the monarchs. Great viewing – thank you.


    1. Thanks, Jack. I, too, have difficulty with butterflies, but I’m going to keep working at it. I was envious of those around me at the butterfly refuge who had huge, expensive telephoto lenses. I bet they got some great photos. I’d love to see a blue Ulysses in real life!


  3. Monarchs seem to always be associated with overwintering in eucalyptus trees, but the trees themselves are an invasive species from Australia. Does the park provide any information about the trees themselves and where the butterflies spent winters before the introduction of eucalyptus?


  4. It’s such a wonderful place to visit. You never know how many butterflies you will see. There is another big batch of them in the park behind the Surfer Museum/Lighthouse.


  5. I love Natural Bridges. It was the first beach my Mother took me to and we take the grand kids there every summer. This is a great time of year to be Santa Curz.


    1. What wonderful memories! It’s my favorite beach in the Santa Cruz area, and, yes, the best weather is in the fall. I lived in Monterey for five years, so I know the weather well…


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