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Natural Bridges State Beach

Contact Information

(831) 423-4609

Park Hours

8:00am to Sunset

Driving Directions to Natural Bridges SB

Take Swift St. south from Highway 1, or follow West Cliff Dr. west along the in-town bluffs until it ends at Natural Bridges.

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Camping and Lodging

Online reservations are not available for this park.

Brochures and Campground Maps

Upcoming Park Events

No events scheduled at this moment.


36th Annual Welcome Back Monarchs Festival

Sunday, October 9 from 11 am to 4 pm

Join us for this joyful, monarch-filled day and welcome the monarchs back to this park, their over-wintering habitat. Participate in numerous activities including arts & crafts, active games for kids, music by the 5M’s (the mostly mediocre musical monarch mariposas), hand-cranked ‘monarch’ ice cream (pumpkin), tours of the Monarch grove, information and action booths as well as more about monarch butterflies and how-to’s for a butterfly garden. Those wacky superheroes Monarch Man and Monarch Woman will lead the Migration Parade, and there will be dances with butterflies, so come join us with wings, in a butterfly shirt or even a butterfly costume. This year’s festivities feature our connection to the monarch butterflies’ life and their migration through our own yards on their way to the overwintering site here at Natural Bridges State Park. Natural Bridges State Park is located at 2531 West Cliff Drive, Santa Cruz, CA 95060. This event is appropriate for all ages. Event is free; day-use parking is $10 per car. For more information, please call (831) 423-4609. Event made possible by Friends of Santa Cruz State Parks, California State Parks volunteers, and California State Parks. Visit us on the web at www.thatsmypark.org and www.parks.ca.gov.

Welcome to Natural Bridges

This is a day-use only beach.  Park hours are 8:00am to Sunset.  *Note: There is no camping at this beach.

This beach, with its famous natural bridge, is an excellent vantage point for viewing shore birds, migrating whales, as well as seals and otters playing offshore. Further along the beach, public access tidepools offer a glimpse of life beneath the sea. Low tides reveal sea stars, shore crabs, sea anemones, and other colorful ocean life.  The park also includes a large area of coastal scrub and grasslands, with bright native wildflowers in the spring.  Moore Creek flows through the park, forming freshwater wetlands and a salt marsh before it reaches the sea.

School Group Tours at Natural Bridges
Natural Bridges State Beach offers several guided tours for school groups at various times of the year. For more information, and to make a tour reservation request please click here.

Monarch tours are offered October through January each year, last one hour, and can be reserved for Pre-K through 12th grade. The park begins accepting monarch tour reservations on August 1.

Tidepool Tours are available from approximately March 1 to July 30 each year, last 1.5 hours, and are available for 3rd grade and up. The park begins accepting tidepool reservations on January 1.

Guided Nature Walks are available all year. This walk follows a one-mile trail through multiple habitats.

Location - Directions
From Highway 1, take Swift St. south, and turn right onto Delaware. Once on Delaware, take a right onto Swanton Blvd. From there the road will dead-end at the entrance to the park. 
OR Follow West Cliff Dr. west along the in-town bluffs until the road comes to the entrance at Natural Bridges.

Facilities - Activities
A picnic area is located off the main parking lot in a eucalyptus and pine trees grove. Tables, barbecues, water faucets and restroom facilities are available. There is a day-use fee per car to park within the State Beach lots. 

The visitor center highlights local natural history, and the bookstore has a selection of butterfly shirts, trinkets, jewelry, postcards and books for all ages.

Next to the park's Visitor Center is a demonstration milkweed patch for viewing.

Celebrate the butterflies' arrival with the Welcome Back Monarchs Day  in October - and their departure with the Migration Festival in February. 

Seasons - Climate - Recommended clothing
The weather can be changeable; layered clothing is recommended.

Monarch Butterfly Natural Preserve - A Welcoming Winter Home
The park's Monarch Grove provides a temporary home for thousands of Monarchs. In 2016 8,000 Monarch Butterflies overwintered at Natural Bridges.  From late fall into winter, the Monarchs form a "city in the trees."   The area's mild seaside climate and eucalyptus grove provide a safe place for monarchs to roost until spring.

In the spring and summer, the butterflies live in the valley regions west of the Rocky Mountains where the monarch's companion plant, milkweed, is found.  For most of the year, where there are monarchs, there are also milkweed plants.  Monarchs drink nectar from milkweed flowers, and female monarchs lay their eggs on milkweed leaves.  Milkweed contains a toxin that, when ingested by the caterpillar, makes it  toxic to other animals. These toxins remain in the butterfly as well, providing protection from predators that would otherwise eat the monarchs. 

Visiting the Monarch Preserve
Before you visit, you may want to call the park for current information on the population. Migration is variable and numbers and dates are different each year. The monarchs typically begin arriving in mid-October and leave by mid-February  (In 2013 and 2016, the monarchs had left by January). At Natural Bridges, November is often the best time to for a walk to observe the monarchs. The Monarch Grove has been declared a Natural Preserve, thus protecting these butterflies and their winter habitat from human encroachment or harm. This is the only State Monarch Preserve in California.

The grove contains eucalyptus trees which are located in a gently sloping canyon, providing the Monarch needed shelter from the wind. These winter-flowering trees are also a convenient food source for the butterfly. On chilly days when the temperature drops below 60 degrees, the butterflies cluster together in the eucalyptus trees for warmth. 

Tours
Docent-led butterfly, tidepool and nature trail tours are available. Large groups should reserve beach use and tours by phone at least 2 weeks in advance. Please refer to the "School Group Tours at Natural Bridges" section. Special event reservations should be made at least 1 month in advance.

Visitors can view the over-wintering Monarchs by walking down the park's wheelchair and stroller-accessible boardwalk to an observation deck in the eucalyptus grove.

  • Please help protect the health of the butterflies: do not touch or otherwise harm the fragile butterflies.
  • For everyone's enjoyment, no smoking, dogs, bicycles, skates, or skateboards on the boardwalk.
  • Quiet please. Help maintain the sanctuary experience. Monarchs and other visitors are relaxing.

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Available Activities and Facilities at Natural Bridges State Beach

TRAIL USE
Bike Trails
Hiking Trails
DAY-USE ACTIVITIES & FACILITIES
Historical/Cultural Site
Picnic Areas
Exhibits and Programs
Guided Tours
Beach Area
Vista Point
Nature & Wildlife Viewing
Windsurfing/Surfing
Family Programs
Geocaching
OTHER FACILITIES & VISITOR INFORMATION
Parking
Restrooms
Drinking Water Available
Wheelchair Accessible