Natural Bridges SB
This beach, with its famous natural bridge, is an excellent vantage point for viewing shore birds, migrating whales, and seals and otters playing offshore. Further along the beach, tidepools offer a glimpse of life beneath the sea. Low tides reveal sea stars, 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.
Location - 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.
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 in the state beach area.
The visitor center highlights local natural history, and the bookstore has a selection of butterfly shirts, postcards and books for all ages.
Next to the park's Visitor Center is a demonstration milkweed patch for viewing. Milkweed grows inland, and monarchs seek out milkweed when they leave their coastside winter home. Female monarchs deposit their eggs on milkweed, the only plant monarch larva eats. Milkweed is critical for the survival of monarchs. On your visit, look for monarch eggs, caterpillars and chrysalides in the milkweed demonstration garden.
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 up to 100,000 Monarchs. 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 have left by mid-February (In 2013, 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. Access to the preserve area is limited to a handicap accessible boardwalk and observation area.
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.
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. 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.