Every year monarch butterflies migrate to Southern California between mid-October and February to spend the season overwintering in groves. It’s a magnificent sight watching these breathtaking creatures flutter by and an excellent first-look at why preserving monarchs is so important. Here are the best places in Southern California where you can view these beautiful butterflies.
Facts About Monarch Migration
North American Monarch Butterflies travel thousands of miles each year to overwinter in Mexico and Southern California. They take shelter in the warmer winter climates until spring arrives. After that they are on the hunt for food in the form of milkweed.
The monarch butterfly was recently added to the list of endangered species due in part to the loss of native milkweed plants, which they need for food and a place to lay eggs. You can help the endangered monarch butterflies by planting native milkweed in your yard.
The Best Southern California Locations to See Monarch Butterflies
These places all offer excellent opportunities for people who want to experience this amazing part of nature firsthand.
Monarch Butterflies in Los Angeles
The El Dorado Nature Center in Long Beach is one of the best places to see monarch butterflies. The center hosts an annual event where you can watch them fly around a specially created habitat and learn about their habits and migration patterns. You can also go on nature hikes or take classes at the center!
Leo Carrillo State Park in Los Angeles is another great place to see these beautiful creatures. The park has a butterfly garden that attracts various types of monarch butterflies, as well as other species like the swallowtail and orangetip.
Point Mugu State Park in Malibu is a great place for seeing monarch butterflies. The park has two distinct habitats that cater to the different types of migratory patterns, and each habitat offers various species of butterfly.
In Malibu, this nature center provides visitors with information about how to attract butterflies to their own garden using native plants and it also includes an opportunity for a guided walk through scenic oak woodland habitat where you can be sure to see lots more than just Monarch Butterflies!
Arcadia’s botanical gardens are one more option where you can see these magnificent creatures! You may be able to spot some California tigers or other rare varieties during your visit here. This garden is also home to many other types of flowers, plants, and wildlife, so there’s plenty to explore on your trip!
Monarch Butterflies in Santa Barbara
Adjacent to the Sperling Preserve on the Ellwood Mesa, the Goleta Monarch Butterfly Grove is a spectacular spot to view the butterfly migration and is one of the largest over-wintering groves in California. The site is free to visit and open sunrise to sunset daily. The Ellwood Mesa open space features 137 acres of natural terrain with designated trails and beach access so you can make a full day of exploring the great outdoors. The grove also offers educational programs for all ages on topics such as monarch reproduction and migration patterns.
This 9.3 acre preserve features woodlands, meadows, and hiking trails. It is home to eucalyptus groves, coastal sage brush, and plenty of native wildlife. It’s also an excellent spot to spot monarch butterflies during the migration season.
Monarch Butterflies in Orange County
Doheny State Beach is one of the most popular spots for locals and tourists to see these delicate creatures. It’s a protected habitat, so you can be sure that all sorts of butterflies—including monarchs—live here. Visitors have been known to spot them in the parking lot or along the sand dunes.
Take an easy hike up Santiago Creek Trail from Doheny State Park (about 0.75 miles)
This short walk will take you through some beautiful native plants and trees before opening into grassy meadows where creek meets ocean. This area offers plenty of space for people interested in butterfly watching as well as those who just want a leisurely stroll with their family. All trails are dog-friendly too.
The UCI Arboretum at UC Irvine in Orange County is an excellent location for viewing monarch butterflies – it’s even considered one of their prime habitats! There are many different flowers around the arboretum that attract them, as well as walking trails through its gardens where you can view them up-close.
In addition to enjoying nature by hiking, strolling, and biking through the UCI Arboretum’s gardens, you can also visit its Butterfly Pavilion for a guided tour of their butterfly garden.
The Santa Ana Wildlife Sanctuary in Irvine offers wide open spaces for exploring on foot or by bike. It’s also one of the few places where you can see monarchs roosting together at night during their winter hibernation period! Visitors are encouraged to stop by any time from November through February when over 150 acres of the preserve have been transformed into a Monarch Butterfly Biosphere Reserve.
Monarch Butterflies in San Diego
San Diego is a great place for viewing monarch butterflies because it has so many options to view them from both above and on the ground. There are several different sites in San Diego County that provide excellent opportunities to see these beautiful creatures up close. These include:
Mission Trails Regional Park, located about 20 miles northeast of downtown San Diego, which has acres of natural habitats where you can spot thousands of monarchs fluttering together by the dozens at any given time! It also offers an array of trails for hiking or biking through some prime butterfly habitat (including one with primo birdwatching)
San Diego Butterfly Garden and Nature Reserve in Escondido, CA
A perfect place for families with kids of all ages is San Diego’s largest natural history museum including an outdoor nature reserve that not only features plenty of beautiful wildlife but also interactive educational presentations and programs as well! You’ll find most visitors enjoying the lush gardens while watching butterflies fly above them or resting up against trees.
Have you spotted any monarchs in your neighborhood? Share your sightings with us in our Local Anchor Facebook group.