Ellwood Butterfly Grove

Santa Barbara + Sierra Madre/San Rafael Mountains, California

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Ellwood Butterfly Grove

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  • Trail at the edge of the Goleta Butterfly Grove parking area.- Ellwood Butterfly Grove
  • The path to the main monarch grove is marked.- Ellwood Butterfly Grove
  • Several small trails run throughout the area, making it a nice place for a walk.- Ellwood Butterfly Grove
  • A low bridge through a marsh leading to the butterfly grove.- Ellwood Butterfly Grove
  • Entering the Ellwood Butterfly Grove.- Ellwood Butterfly Grove
  • Monarchs can be hard to see, look for them clinging to the trees.- Ellwood Butterfly Grove
  • With a good eye, you can spot butterflies flying near the tree tops.- Ellwood Butterfly Grove
  • Overwinding monarch butterflies.- Ellwood Butterfly Grove
  • Monarch butterfly.- Ellwood Butterfly Grove
  • Trails run though dense groves of trees.- Ellwood Butterfly Grove
Overview + Weather
Pros: 
A quiet and beautiful walk with spurs to bluff and beach trails.
Cons: 
Butterflies are seasonal and numbers vary each year
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Region:
Santa Barbara + Sierra Madre/San Rafael Mountains, CA
Congestion: 
Moderate
Pets allowed: 
Yes, with restrictions
Parking Pass: 
Not Required
Preferable Season(s):
Winter, Spring, Summer, Fall
Current Local Weather:
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Adventure Description

Adventure Description

Pro Contributor

The Ellwood Butterfly Grove is a small eucalyptus grove in the town of Goleta that has annually been a spot for overwintering monarch butterflies to stay on their annual migration.

Each year, monarch butterflies generations-removed from those of the previous year return to the same groves of trees along the California coast. Usually, the months of November until February are the best times to look for the monarchs. 

The Ellwood Grove is about three-quarters of a mile from the parking area, and the trails are mostly flat and easy, although there may be some mud if it has been a wet season. Trails to the Butterfly Grove are marked, and other trails in the area lead along the bluffs overlooking the ocean, as well as to a trail that cuts down the sandy cliff and onto Ellwood Beach.

Because the exact trees and the numbers of overwintering butterflies tends to be fluid, they can often be hard to find. Locals report that as of winter 2016 and 2017, the numbers returning to the Ellwood grove seem to be smaller than in years past. 

Those hoping to see the butterflies may find the following helpful:

  1. Talk to the people along the trail. The butterflies can be very easy to miss, and having someone point them out to you is much easier than looking throughout the grove on your own.
  2. Visit during warmer hours. The monarchs tend to be most active during the warmest hours of the day, around noon until 2 p.m. Cooler temperatures may have fewer of the monarchs actually flying and more clinging to the trees.
  3. Be patient. They can be hard to see at first, but once you get an idea of the area they're in, it's easier to see more and more. Look toward tree tops at the edges of the grove to see them flying and then try to follow them as they tend to hang out in clusters.

More information about the habits of migrating monarchs can be read here.

The parking area is open from 4 a.m. until 10 p.m. daily. Parking is free. Trash cans and a porta-potty are located at the parking lot. 

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Location + Directions

Nearby Camping + Lodging

(2 within a 30 mile radius)

Nearby Adventures

(9 within a 30 mile radius)

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