Monarch Butterfly Viewing in California

Monarch Butterfly Viewing in California

The unique migration pattern of the monarch butterfly has similarities to birds that follow a north/south direction and covers hundreds of miles. The entire trip requires typically two to three generations of insects to complete the migration pattern that spans from Mexico to Oregon and Washington.

Monarch Butterfly Grove entrance in Pismo BeachMonarch Butterfly Grove in Pismo Beach, California

The colorful monarch butterfly prefers overwintering in the fragrant eucalyptus groves that populate the central coast region of California. Fortunately for viewers, the favorite trees that keep the butterflies returning each year during their long migration pattern are free from development in protected sanctuaries. The Monarch Butterfly Grove in Pismo Beach, California sees an average of over 25,000 of the beautiful orange and black butterflies that diligently return each year. They arrive between October and November reaching a unique grove of eucalyptus trees off Pacific Coast Highway (Hwy. 1) and remain there until April. Scientists are unsure why they distinctly choose a particular stand of trees. The butterflies that frequent the Pismo Beach grove have a longer lifespan; six months compared to the more typical six weeks, and spend much of their time in a resting state.

The butterflies hang in clusters and might be unnoticeable without the aid of mounted high power binoculars that are focused on the butterfly groupings. Visitors to the grove leave in awe of the massive amounts of butterflies hanging from the trees and of their natural beauty. The easily accessible viewing area with free parking across the street is a short drive south of the downtown region of Pismo Beach, approximately halfway between Los Angeles and San Francisco on the Pacific Coast.

Monarch Butterfly Sanctuary in Pacific Grove, California

Monarch butterflies on a tree branchFarther up the coast near Monterey Bay, the town of Pacific Grove, California claims fame for attracting hundreds of migrating monarch butterflies each year. Known as “Butterfly Town, USA,” the Pacific Grove Museum Association carefully monitors the butterfly habitat and maintains a sanctuary at 1073 Lighthouse Ave., the main road through town. Strict codes are followed in the sanctuary with hefty fines assessed to anyone harming the favorite creatures. In October, an annual Butterfly Parade has been a tradition since 1939. The butterflies flock to the Monterey pines, eucalyptus trees and milkweed plantings located in a city park that houses the protected area. The mild climate along the coast is conducive to harboring the monarchs during their mating and resting period.

Docents familiar with the habitat and migration patterns of the monarchs greet visitors and guide them to viewing areas. Pacific Grove is located approximately next to the city of Monterey and about 2 hours from San Francisco.

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