Where to see monarchs in California
The mild winters of the California coast are a perfect haven from the harsh cold weather in our country’s interior. Monarchs take advantage of this climate and use the same overwintering sites year after year. Congregations of overwintering monarchs are found at more than 200 sites along the California coast, from Mendocino County in the north to San Diego in the south. Here is information on several overwintering sites that are open to the public. Find the sites closest to you and plan for a magical day exploring this amazing phenomenon. Please keep in mind that monarchs are present from October through February. Also, a few of these sites host festivals or other events.
Excited enthusiasts report the first arrivals, docents are being trained and several sites have hosted popular welcome back monarch days! For many, the arrival of autumn along the California coast is marked by the flutter of orange and black as monarch butterflies arrive at groves up and down the coast to settle in to the protective environment for the winter. This year all have been holding their breaths to see if monarchs will return and just how many since the last couple of years have witnessed very low numbers of butterflies throughout the region. Early clues indicate 2010-11 will also be a very low population year, too, but there are still many places to view them.
Monarch Grove Sanctuary, Pacific Grove
Pacific Grove is home to the Monarch Grove Sanctuary. Each winter, about 20-30,000 monarch butterflies cluster together on the pines and eucalyptus of the Sanctuary. Arriving in October, these hardy insects will overwinter until February, when they will join the spring monarch migration, spreading northward and eastward as they hunt for milkweed plants on which to lay their eggs.
The Pacific Grove Museum of Natural History is located at the corner of Central Ave. and Forest Ave. in Pacific Grove. The nearby monarch sanctuary is located off Ridge Road and will be open all day. Check the museum’s website for more information and the schedule for docents at the sanctuary.
The Monarch Sanctuary is open daily. Learn more about monarchs at MONARCH MAGIC at the Pacific Grove Natural History Museum on Saturday, November 27 2012 from 11-3.
Directions: The Sanctuary is located on Ridge Road, one block west of the intersection of Lighthouse Avenue and 17 Mile Drive. Parking is available at the entrance.
Natural Bridges State Beach, near Santa Cruz
The park Monarch Grove provides a temporary home for over 100,000 monarchs each winter. The Monarch Grove has been declared a Natural Preserve, thus protecting the monarchs and their winter habitat from human encroachment or harm. This is the only state monarch preserve in California. Access to the preserve is limited to a wheelchair-accessible boardwalk and observation area. Docents are available each weekend at Natural Bridges State Reserve. You can ask them about monarch activity at nearby Lighthouse Fields.
Natural Bridges State Reserve in Santa Cruz is open daily, with tours of the Monarch Butterfly Natural Preserve offered on weekends.
Directions: Take Swift Avenue west from Highway 1, or follow West Cliff Drive north along the in-town bluffs until it ends at Natural Bridges.
Lighthouse Field State Beach
Also known as Point Santa Cruz, this area forms the northern boundary of Monterey Bay. It is one of the last open headlands in any California urban area. Surfers, tourists, birds, and wintering monarch butterflies are drawn to this area. Sea lions populate the offshore rocks.
Directions: The beach is on West Cliff Drive in downtown Santa Cruz, just south of Natural Bridges State Park.
Pismo Beach Monarch Butterfly Grove, near San Luis Obispo
Pismo State Beach offers all kinds of attractions: hiking, swimming, surf fishing, and digging for the famous Pismo clam. There are tree-lined dunes and the beach is popular with bird watchers. The park has the largest over-wintering colony of monarch butterflies in the U.S.
Pismo Beach Monarch Butterfly Grove will begin offering tours on October 27, 2012.
Directions: The beach is located in the town of Oceano off Highway 1.
Point Lobos State Park, near Carmel
Monarchs found in warm protected areas along Whaler’s Knoll Trail. Docents are available each weekend at Pismo Beach, San Luis Obispo County!
Directions: Three miles south of Caramel on Highway 1.
Ardenwood Historic Farm
The Monarchs roost in the North Woods between the RR tracks and the northern fence boundary. For special monarch events and tours of the butterfly gardens, visit ebparks.org.
Tours and butterfly walks are scheduled throughout November and December 2012 at Ardenwood. For more information, visit East Bay Parks Regional in Nature newsletter.
Directions: The Farm is located south of Interstate 88 (Hwy 17) and north of Hwy 84 (which leads to Dumbarton Bridge).
This is the premier Monarch site in southern California, with close to 100,000 Monarchs in good years. Field trips are available by request.
Directions: East of Santa Barbara in the town of Goleta (UCSB), take the Glen Annie/Storke Road exit.
Morro Bay State Park
Situated in scenic Morro Bay in San Luis Obispo County, the Park contains several butterfly overwintering sites. The camp ground is closed to camping until spring of 2005.
Directions: From San Luis Obispo take Highway 1 north to the Los Osos – Baywood Park off ramp. Turn left, go about 1 mile and turn right into the Park.
City of San Leandro
The City of San Leandro sponsors monarch tours for the public at the Monarch Golf Course.