The monarchs are back! At many places along the California coast, monarch sanctuaries are starting to see thousands of butterflies congregating together at overwintering sites due to the fact that they can’t fly well at temperatures below 55 degrees. If you’re hoping to catch a glimpse of this fascinating phenomenon, consider visiting these monarch butterfly hotspots.
Santa Cruz is seeing significant monarch activity at Natural Bridges State Beach and Lighthouse Field State Beach. “There were a lot of clumps of them, some really big ones, scattered throughout the sanctuary area,” wrote @nativesantacruz of Natural Bridges at the beginning of November. The Monarch Grove Trail there is open for self-guided monarch tours.
Pismo Beach in San Luis Obispo is one of the most active monarch butterfly overwintering sites in California. Last year, they saw a 3,500% increase in monarch populations, which is more than the previous 2 years combined. Visitors are already posting 2023 monarch sightings there on social media, so if you can make the trip this winter, the butterfly views are sure to be amazing.
Additional overwintering sites
Pacific Grove, Santa Cruz and Pismo Beach are all seeing monarch butterflies for the 2023 season. According to the Monarch Program, these (relatively) nearby overwintering sites are usually quite active as well, but be sure to call ahead for the most recent monarch activity.
- Sonoma County
- Marin County
- Alameda County
- Monterey County
- San Luis Obispo County
2023 monarch butterfly season
The monarch butterfly population experienced a major rebound back in the winter of 2021, and the Xerces Society reported an encouraging population number of 335,479 at the beginning of 2023. This was a major increase considering the 2020 count was less than 2,000, but the numbers are still concerning given that the population was in the millions in the ’80s.
However, Xerces also warned that the NYE winter storms at the beginning of 2023 may have reduced population sizes. “We might see a slight reduction if those storms had an impact on the breeding population,” said Isis Howard, Xerces Society rep, to the Santa Cruz Sentinel.
The official Western Monarch Thanksgiving Count for 2023 will begin on November 11 with the help of over 100 community scientists.
Looking for ways to help these beautiful creatures? Consider getting involved in the Western Monarch Call to Action, which works to protect monarchs and their native habitats all across the state.