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USA Parks
Central Coast & Central Valley Region
Natural Bridges Beach State Park
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Natural Bridges Beach State Park Monarch Resting Area © Tom Newman
Natural Bridges Beach State Park © Tom Newman
Natural Bridges Beach State Park Sunset © Tom Newman
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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 meadows, with bright native wildflowers in the spring. Moore Creek flows down to the ocean through these meadows, forming a wetlands in the sand.
History of the Area
Located in Santa Cruz, California, the park was established in 1933. It is famous for its natural bridge across a section of the beach. The second and third arches collapsed during the early 20th century due to erosion from waves and weathering.

The remaining arch stands as an iconic symbol of this coastal area's geological history. In addition to its geologic features, it also serves as a winter habitat for Monarch butterflies since they migrate here annually between October through February.

In recent years there has been concern about declining butterfly populations at this site which led to conservation efforts by local communities and organizations.

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.
- Monarch Grove Trail: This 0.75-mile trail offers views of the eucalyptus grove that serves as a butterfly habitat in winter months.

- Atkinson Bluff Trail: A moderate, 1.2 miles long coastal bluff top trail with stunning ocean vistas and access to three sea arches or natural bridges.

- Moore Creek Trail: An easy half mile loop through riparian habitats along Moore creek; ideal for bird watching enthusiasts.

- Sequoia Audubon Nature Trails Loop : Approximately one mile round trip hike featuring diverse plant communities including wetland marshes, willow thickets and Monterey pine forests.

- Natural Bridges Beach Access Pathway - Short but steep pathway leading directly from parking area down to sandy beach beneath the remaining natural bridge formation.

-Santa Cruz Coastline Viewpoint Walk - Less than quarter of a mile walk offering panoramic view points overlooking Pacific Ocean coastline towards Santa Cruz cityscape on clear days

-Prairie Loop - Half-a-mile nature path winding around native grasslands showcasing wildflowers during spring season

-Mudstone Interpretive Panel Hike- Quarter-of-a-mile educational trek displaying interpretative panels about geological history related specifically to mudstones found throughout park grounds

-Wetlands Boardwalk Stroll - Easy tenth-of-a-miles boardwalk stroll over protected freshwater wetland areas providing close-up encounters with various waterfowl species

-Natural Bridges Tide Pools Exploration Area-Accessible at low tide only where visitors can explore rich marine life inhabiting rocky intertidal zones under guidance by trained docents
Area Attractions
Monarch Butterfly Natural Preserve:

The park's Monarch Grove provides a temporary home for over 100,000 Monarchs each winter. From mid-October through the end of February, the Monarchs form a "city in the trees." The areas mild ocean air and eucalyptus grove provide a safe roost until spring. In the spring and summer, the butterflies live in the valley regions west of the Rocky Mountains where milkweed, the only plant a Monarch caterpillar eats, is plentiful.

The Monarch Grove has been declared a Natural Preserve, thus protecting the Monarchs 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.

Monarchs begin arriving in October and most are gone by the first week of March. The grove contains eucalyptus trees which are located in a 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.

The park maintains a demonstration milkweed patch where visitors may view Monarch eggs, caterpillars and chrysalides. For about half a year, milkweed is the Monarch's home, super market and maternity ward. The Monarch larva eats only the milkweed plant.


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.

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Nearby Hotels

Take Swift Avenue west from Highway 1, or follow West Cliff Drive north along the in-town bluffs until it ends at Natural Bridges.

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California State Parks