3 Best Monarch Butterfly Groves in California

If you’re a fan of the monarch butterfly, plan a trip to observe them during migration at one of the California groves listed below. Plus, keep reading to see how you can help preserve these beautiful creatures!

Every year, starting in late October, Western North American monarch butterflies traverse the California coast to escape harsh winter climates. Monarchs only travel during daytime, so at night they roost in tree groves from Santa Cruz to San Diego. Monarchs need strong trees with steady branches, because large numbers can cluster on a single tree. In fact, tens of thousands may cling to just one for shelter and warmth after their daily excursions. This makes roosting sites an important part of both their travel and their ultimate survival.

Although every year’s migration begins with a new generation of monarch butterflies, they typically visit the same California locations year after year. Just how they do it is still being researched. Perhaps a combination of using antennae as a honing device, the position of the sun and magnetic pull of the earth help direct them to the desired location. It’s easier for humans. Below is a list of the 3 best sites to visit and observe these black and orange stunners!

Preserve Monarch butterflies.
Act now to preserve monarch butterflies! Image: Elaine Meyer

3 Best Monarch Butterfly Groves in California

1. Monarch Butterfly Grove, Pismo Beach, California

Every monarch lover knows that Pismo Beach is the primo butterfly roosting spot. Historically, Pismo Beach hosts more than 10,000 butterflies annually, though numbers have decreased recently due to insecticides, pesticides and deforestation (see below). Still, visitors are welcome to enjoy the grove, with its clusters of orange and black creatures clinging to colossal eucalyptus and pine trees. Although daily talks have been suspended due to Covid-19, the park is open to visitors for day use.

Located half a mile south of Pismo Beach just off Highway 1.

Pismo Beach, California is the site of Monarch Butterfly Grove.
Pismo Beach, California is the site of Monarch Butterfly Grove. Image: Garret Matsuura

2. State Monarch Preserve, Santa Cruz, California

Monarchs in Santa Cruz enjoy a sheltered stay at Natural Bridges State Beach. A sloping canyon surrounds the eucalyptus trees in this grove, sheltering butterflies from wind and cold. Santa Cruz welcomes visitors to walk the Monarch Butterfly Trail and observe the stunning creatures. Visitors in use of wheelchairs and strollers can take in the beauty from an observation deck.

This is the only State Monarch Preserve in California, which means that the butterflies aren’t only protected from natural predators but from human harm. In addition, take a trip to the Visitor Center for information on monarch migration and general information on the species.

Monarch Butterflies in Santa Cruz, California.
Monarch Butterflies in Santa Cruz, California. Image by Brennan Emerson

3. Monarch Butterfly Grove, Goleta, California

The Monarch Butterfly Grove, in Goleta, California has been working for the past several years on upgrades and habitat enhancements. First, the city cleared dead and diseased trees from the grove and surrounding areas. Then, they adapted a plan to improve the conditions of the grove with the hopes of preserving the monarch. With help from biologists and arborists, a the Monarch Butterfly Habitat Management Plan has begun and improvements are in the works. Check to make sure that this grove location, as well as hiking trails are open before visiting!

Located at: 7727 Hollister Ave, Goleta, CA 93117.

Monarch Butterfly Image: chrismacdesign

Act Now to Preserve these Beautiful Creatures

As we welcome back these fabulous butterflies every year, we see less and less of them. Use of insecticides and pesticides, as well as loss of natural habitat has led to decreasing numbers. You can help keep monarchs off the endangered list by doing the following:

  • Plant milkweed, which female monarchs use to lay eggs and contains properties toxic to predators. But, do not plant milkweed in close proximity to migration groves!
  • Buy organic produce and stay away from herbicides, pesticides, insecticides and fungicides.
  • Research the best conservation organizations, then donate your resources or volunteer your time.
  • Spread the message! More awareness means more help!

If we all band together, we can keep these beautiful butterflies healthy and safe for future generations to enjoy!

Published by Michelle Kratzer

I like to write. I love the ocean. I live for babies and dogs and giggles.

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