Enjoy a Beach Day at Natural Bridges State Beach

Santa Cruz, Ca – Home to thousands of migrating monarch butterflies from mid-October to mid-February, Natural Bridges State Beach offers an amazing view into an important piece of California’s natural history.

Species to Look Out For

About the Park

Santa Cruz, Ca – State Beach

Science Spotlight: State Marine Reserve at Natural Bridges

California was the first state in the nation to implement an expanse of Marine Protected Areas (MPA’s) along its coastline following the California Marine Life Protection Act (MLPA) of 1999. Similar to a National Forest or National Park that protects areas on land, MPA’s work to protect marine areas from the effects of humans. MPA’s work to protect entire habitats from harm – rather than protecting just a single species.

Implemented in September of 2007, Natural Bridges is 1 of 29 protected marine areas along California’s Central Coast, and 1 of 124 areas in the state. It spans 0.25 square miles, spanning 4.1 miles along the shore. Natural Bridges is a State Marine Reserve, meaning that it is restricted from the recreational or commercial removal of all marine resources. The MPA was put in place primarily to protect the intertidal zone of the area.

Park History

Spanish colonization of the Natural Bridges State Beach area brought an era of changing ownership to the land that was once home to the Ohlone Native Americans. From the arrival of the Spanish onwards, the land was a brussel sprout farm, the site of a movie set, and an unfinished housing development. The ownership ceased changing hands in 1933, when the land was purchased by the state of California.

In 1983, the park also set aside the monarch grove as a natural preserve so that the area remains protected for future generations of monarchs and human patrons.

Visit the Park

Recommended Hike: Monarch Trail (0.6 miles)

Please note that there is a $10 vehicle day-use fee. Dogs are not allowed on beaches or trails. Please also note that the monarch butterflies will only be present from mid-October to mid-February.

When visiting during the monarch migration season (mid-October – mid-February), we recommend taking the Monarch Trail to experience the amazing sights of the migrating butterflies. You have the option to connect to the Moore Creek Trail after viewing the monarchs, which ends at the beach.

Here are some helpful resources to help plan your visit:


Author: Taylor Crisologo

Taylor studied biology at Cornell University, where she worked with the Cornell Lab of Ornithology on projects ranging from breeding herring gulls off the coast of Maine to dancing lyrebirds in Australia’s Blue Mountains. When she’s not researching great places to experience Bay Area nature, you can find her birding or reading a book at home with her husband and their two indoor cats (Max and Penelope).

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