Where To See The Monarch Butterfly Migration In Northern California

By Bradford Hornsby

Each year from mid-October to mid-February the Monarch butterfly migrate to the central and northern California coast. One of the things that makes the migration special is that the butterflies return to the same locations year after year and that the general public can easily see them in Santa Cruz, Pismo Beach, and Monterey.

When you first look up you may not even notice that the clusters appearing to be leaves are actually thousands of the colorful insects. The butterflies clump or huddle together overlapping wings into a shingle-like pattern in branches to ward against the cold and the element of coastal California. As the temperature rises in the morning hours you will start to see the butterflies flutter and fly around the tree tops with some descending to the ground to sun themselves.

Keep in mind that the butterflies become more active when the temperature is over 60 degrees and there is no wind.

So bring your binoculars and zoom lenses and head to the California coast to see monarchs.

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Natural Bridges State Beach
2531 West Cliff Drive, Santa Cruz, CA 95060
Tel: (831) 423-4609
parks.ca.gov

Hours of Operation: 8:00 am – 8:00 pm

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Monarch Grove Sanctuary
Ridge Road,
Between Lighthouse Ave. and Short St.
Pacific Grove, CA 93950
Tel: 831.648.5716
Fax: 831.372.3256
pgmuseum.org/monarch-viewing

Hours of Operation: Dawn to Dusk

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Pismo Beach Monarch Grove
Extreme southern end of the City of Pismo Beach just off Hwy 1.
Tel: 800-443-7778
monarchbutterfly.org

Hours of Operation: Dawn to Dusk

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Other Bay Area sites that classically have monarchs during the migration are Fremont’s Ardenwood Historic Farm and the San Leandro Golf Course but they have far less than the above locations.

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