Best time to travel to Santa Cruz, CA

Monarch Butterfly Migration

Thousands of butterflies spend winter in the Santa Cruz sanctuary

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Last updated: by Olga Valchyshen
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Monarch butterflies can be seen briefly in many locations throughout USA as they make their annual migration from breeding sites in the north to wintering sites in the south. But Santa Cruz is where you can spot them throughout the whole winter. Natural Bridges State Beach is the only State Monarch Preserve in the state and it welcomes over 100,000 monarchs each winter.

Monarchs start to arrive in the sanctuary in mid-October. They chose this habitat due to the vast eucalyptus grove and moderate coastal weather. The grove is located in a canyon and is sheltered from coastal winds and harsh sunlight. Eucalyptus trees are flowering during winter providing pollinators food. By late-January or early February monarchs leave Natural Bridges and head north.

The Monarch Grove Trail is the best way to meet monarchs at Natural Bridges. It is usually open from 8 am to sunset. If you want to see monarchs flying, make sure the weather is warm enough. If it's colder than 55 °F (13 °C), monarchs stay on the trees forming clusters. The park's visitor center provides lots of information on monarch butterflies and their annual migration.

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