8 am to Sunset
Visitor Center: 10 am to 4 pm
This is a day-use only beach. Park hours are 8 am 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 atour 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.
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.