Every year, in November, the monarch butterflies return to Natural Bridges State Park in Santa Cruz. They gather in a eucalyptus grove lined with raised wooden boardwalks to keep visitors away from (and protect) the butterflies. Seeing the monarchs is one of my very favorite fall activities, because there’s nothing quite as magical as being surrounded thousands of stunning butterflies.
Monarch butterflies cluster for warmth. Photo credit: Lisette
I highly recommend visiting the monarchs in late November or early December to see peak activity and have optimal weather. The butterflies will stay through most of winter, but will be less active in the colder months. I usually start my visit by dropping into Verve Coffee Roasters in downtown Santa Cruz, because there’s nothing quite like stopping into the local roastery to start off a crisp fall morning on the coast.
Butterflies are best enjoyed with friends. Photo credit: Mike Bustos
When you arrive at the park, cash-on-hand is useful for the $10 entry fee, or, if you’re an avid park-goer, you should definitely by a yearly pack of state park passes – you’ll find they are well worth it. You’ll drive down and park near the stunning “Natural Bridge” stone foundation on the beach that the park is named for. The visitor center offers plenty of learning opportunities along with gifts, restrooms are on the far side of the parking lot near the beach. From the visitor center you enter the grove, descend into the eucalyptus trees and enjoy the beauty of the monarchs surrounding you.