This hike is short and sweet! (its really just an excuse to see the Monarchs!)
The trail is approximately 0.75 miles and flat. You can walk the area and take a look at the beautiful butterflies! There are rangers, and nature guides to help you learn about the Monarch lifecycle.
The park is open to the public and has a viewing area. I loved this last year – it was surreal, a foggy wet raining morning…and then as the sun peeked out, the trees started to vibrate then the sky was ORANGE/BLACK with Butterflies — so very startling and thrilling.
November is the month when the Monarch butterfly has returned to the California coast, and one of the largest concentrations of these amber-colored beauties is in the eucalyptus trees next to the Nature Center at Natural Bridges State Beach in Santa Cruz. They’ve journeyed 1,500 miles from the Rocky Mountains in search of mild temperatures, and from now through March you can see them resting on their leafy coastal thrones. Commonly spotted in eucalyptus trees, the butterflies flit and flutter among the branches in warmer weather (55 degrees or higher); when the temperatures dip, they move into huddles so thick the trees look more like shingled roofs. We will walk a few minutes down the Monarch Boardwalk into the forest to the grand “Monarch Resting Area,” on a wooden platform. It’s a winged wonderland.
You’ll want to go to the Nature Center! There is a naturalist-led discussion at 11 am, and again in the afternoon. The morning session is better because the Monarchs are still clustered in the trees, you’ll visit the Milkweed garden, and the observation area. There are special telescopes for close-up viewing the clusters. You’ll also learn why Monarchs are so amazing, how far they migrate, what they need to survive, counting butterflies, how to tell F from M and (sadly) that the numbers of Monarchs are declining and why.
2531 W. Cliff Driver
Santa Cruz, CA 95060
FROM SANTA CLARA AREA:
- Take Hwy CA-17 South.2. Slight right onto CA-1 N (signs for CA-9/Half Moon Bay/Boulder Creek).
- Slight right onto Mission St (signs for California 1 N/Half Moon Bay)
- Turn left onto Swift St.
- Take the 2nd right onto Delaware Ave. Take the 1st left onto Swanton Blvd.
- Turn right onto W Cliff Dr. Natural Bridges State Beach will be on the left. You’ll be driving along the coastline.