Where to See Monarchs in California
The mild winters of the California coast are a perfect haven from the harsh cold weather found in our country’s interior. Monarchs take advantage of this climate and often 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. For many people, the arrival of autumn along the California coast is marked by the flutter of orange and black as monarchs arrive at these groves and settle in for the winter.
The last few years have witnessed very low numbers of butterflies throughout the region, but there are still many places to view overwintering monarchs and get involved! Below you will find information on several overwintering sites and related events that are open to the public. Please keep in mind that monarchs are generally present from October through February and overwintering populations may peak at different times. Many of these sites also offer docent programs for those interested in volunteering during the overwintering season. Please check the grove’s website to find updated information about these opportunities as well as hours, locations, and entry fees. Enjoy exploring this amazing phenomenon!
You can use the map and county list below to explore information on monarch sites throughout California. Click on your county of interest, and the page will jump to that section.
For information on additional monarch overwintering sites, please visit Walt Sakai’s webpage through Santa Monica College.
The monarchs roost in the North Woods between the railroad tracks and the northern fence boundary.
Guided Walks to the Monarch Grove
Walks are approximately one mile round-trip on flat trail, partially paved. Usually wheelchair accessible, except after heavy rains. Heavy rains cancel the guided walks.
The Monarch Site is open Tuesdays through Sundays 10 AM to 4 PM for self-guided tours. Park admission is $3 for adults 18+ and $2 for children 4-17. School programs are available with reservation. Additional interpretive programs are offered on weekends, see www.ebparks.org for more details.
Directions: The Farm is located south of Interstate 88 (Hwy 17) and north of Hwy 84 (which leads to Dumbarton Bridge)
The park’s 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.
Docent-led tours of the Monarch Butterfly Natural Preserve are offered on weekends at 11am and 2pm.
Welcome Back Monarchs Day Date: October 12, 2014 Time: 10am to 4pm
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.
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.
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.
Docents are usually available 12-3pm daily during the overwintering season to assist with monarch viewing. Check the Pacific Grove Museum of Natural History website for more information.
Directions: The Sanctuary is located on Ridge Road, one block west of the intersection of Lighthouse Avenue and 17 Mile Drive, behind the Butterfly Motel Inn. Parking is available at the entrance.
Monarch Talks/Tours at the Sanctuary Time: 1pm on Saturdays, November to February Talks last approximately 20 minutes
The Pacific Grove Museum of Natural History is located at the corner of Central Ave. and Forest Ave. in Pacific Grove.
Monarchs Come Home Date: Open daily Tuesday through Sunday (closed Monday) Time: Open 10 am to 5 pm
This exhibition contains detailed information and videos about the monarch life cycle, migration, and the history of monarchs and Pacific Grove. As well as interactive hands-on fun for younger visitors including: drawing butterflies and dressing up like a monarch butterfly during all stages of the life cycle.
Workshop: Monitoring Monarch Butterfly Populations Date: October 26, 2014 Time: 7:30 AM to 10:30 AM Cost: FREE RSVP: Allison Watson (831) 648-5716 ext. 20 or firstname.lastname@example.org
The Museum is hosting a workshop to train volunteers to monitor monarch winter habitat sites for the annual Thanksgiving Count. Volunteers will be trained to collect vital habitat data as well as the monarch butterfly population data at an individual site.
Monarch Magic Date: November 29, 2014 Time: 10 am to 3 pm Cost: FREE
Welcome the monarch butterflies back to Pacific Grove! Explore the monarch exhibit at the Museum where you can also create a monarch butterfly chrysalis pin, view live butterflies, enjoy live music and get your face painted while you discover what makes Pacific Grove monarch butterflies special.
Monarchs are found in warm protected areas along Whaler’s Knoll Trail.
Directions: Three miles south of Carmel on Highway 1.
Situated in scenic Morro Bay, the Park contains several butterfly overwintering sites.
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.
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 one of the largest over-wintering colonies of monarch butterflies in the U.S., with an average of 25,000 over the last five years.
Docent-led tours will be offered during the overwintering season at 11:00 am and 2:00 pm daily (weather permitting).
This is the premier Monarch site in southern California, with close to 100,000 Monarchs in good years. Field trips are available by request. You can fill out a request form here. Docents are usually available from mid-November through mid-February on weekends (weather permitting) between 11:00 am and 2:00 pm. If you are interested in becoming a docent at the grove, please check out the program flyer and training announcement below.
- Pen/pencil and clipboard
- Sturdy shoes
- Warm clothes/layers (we will be outdoors for the entire workshop)
- Water and snacks
Monarch Butterfly Monitoring Workshop Saturday, November 15, 2014 8:30 to 11:30 am Goleta Butterfly Grove, meet at the Coronado Butterfly Preserve Sign on Coronado Drive.
Participants will learn how to count monarchs in their clusters, standardize counts among participants, conduct a habitat assessment, fill out data sheets, and survey an overwintering site.
You should bring:
This workshop is free, please RSVP at email@example.com or 805-961-7571.
Directions: East of Santa Barbara in the town of Goleta (UCSB), take the Glen Annie/Storke Road exit.