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Monarch Trail Hike

Natural Bridges State Park

San Francisco Peninsula + Santa Cruz, California

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Monarch Trail Hike

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  • Monarch butterfly (Danaus plexippus).- Monarch Trail Hike
  • Picnic area with barbecue pit near the parking lot.- Monarch Trail Hike
  • Natural Bridges Visitor Center.- Monarch Trail Hike
  • Monarch Trailhead.- Monarch Trail Hike
  • Ramp leading to the viewing area.- Monarch Trail Hike
  • A flutter of monarch butterflies.- Monarch Trail Hike
  • The butterflies become active in the sun.- Monarch Trail Hike
  • The trail is a great choice for families.- Monarch Trail Hike
  • Monarch butterfly (Danaus plexippus).- Monarch Trail Hike
  • Monarch butterfly (Danaus plexippus).- Monarch Trail Hike
  • Monarch butterfly (Danaus plexippus).- Monarch Trail Hike
  • Path leading from the viewing area.- Monarch Trail Hike
  • The only rough part of the trail.- Monarch Trail Hike
  • Eucalyptus and cypress trees.- Monarch Trail Hike
  • The Monarch Trail is easy to walk.- Monarch Trail Hike
  • Benches are situated along the Monarch Trail.- Monarch Trail Hike
  • Where the wetlands start.- Monarch Trail Hike
  • A path through the wetlands.- Monarch Trail Hike
  • Unidentified species (help us identify it by providing feedback).- Monarch Trail Hike
  • A bridge over Moore Creek.- Monarch Trail Hike
  • Where the trail ends and beach begins.- Monarch Trail Hike
Overview + Weather
Pros: 
Diverse environment. Easy hike. Picnic area.
Cons: 
Big crowds.
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Region:
San Francisco Peninsula + Santa Cruz, CA
Congestion: 
High
Pets allowed: 
No
Net Elevation Gain: 
50.00 ft (15.24 m)
Parking Pass: 
General Day Use Fee
Preferable Season(s):
Fall
Total Distance: 
1.70 mi (2.74 km)
Trail type: 
There-and-back
Trailhead Elevation: 
50.00 ft (15.24 m)
Current Local Weather:
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Hike Description

Hike Description

Contributor

The Monarch Trail gets it's name from the annual migration of monarch butterflies that seek winter refuge in the towering eucalyptus trees of Natural Bridges State Park. The usual arrival of these beautiful insects is mid-October, and the population peaks all through the month of November. For protection, the butterflies clump together on branches where the lackluster underside of their wings gives the illusion of dead leaves. This strategy also helps the butterflies keep warm when the temperature drops below 60 degrees. A viewing platform has been constructed just short distance from the trailhead. A wheelchair ramp has been constructed to this platform, but the rest of Monarch Trail is not ADA-accessible. 

From the viewing platform, the trail turns to dirt and leads through more eucalyptus trees until it opens into a meadow of various wildflowers and Cypress trees. The trail will soon take you through a wetland sanctuary that is home to animals such as the snowy egret, California quail, and brush rabbits. Wooden walking platforms that cut through the brush and tall grasses have been constructed through most of the wetland. The trail ends when it hits the Natural Bridges Beach. From here, you can walk the beach to the parking lot, or return the way you came. 

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(20 within a 30 mile radius)

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(118 within a 30 mile radius)

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