The beautiful Monarch butterfly chooses Santa Barbara as a way-station on its annual migration. Choose Santa Barbara for a day trip yourself, and witness the magnificent sight of thousands of Monarch butterflies clustered in the trees at Coronado Butterfly Preserve.
Sure you know that Southern California has some of the most amazing topography in the country; mountains, desert, beaches, even snow. But did you know that SoCal is the site of one of the largest Monarch Butterfly migration “destinations” in the world?
The Monarch Butterfly (Danaus plexippus) is one of the most well known butterflies in North America. But since it can’t tolerate the cold of the winter months it migrates over 3000 miles, from Canada to Mexico, hibernating throughout the winter months in the eucalyptus, Monterey pines and Monterey cypress trees of Southern California. (The migration spans approximately three to four generations of butterfly. Cool, right?!) They are the only butterfly in nature to make such a long trek.
And lucky us – these beautiful creatures choose to spend their winter months in Santa Barbara at the Coronado Butterfly Preserve – also known as the gateway to the Ellwood Main Monarch Grove – a native coastal sage scrub habitat with beautiful eucalyptus groves where the butterflies cluster, hibernate and reproduce during the winter months.
The butterflies begin to arrive in November (they are most visible in December/January – but remember: nature is unpredictable) and they stay until about mid-March.
You can see the splendid little creatures best in the middle of the day when the sun shines down from overhead. They cluster in the trees by the thousands and look like clusters of leaves rustling in the mid-afternoon sun. It’s simply beautiful.
Posted signs remind you to be respectful of the butterflies (and surrounding nature) and to keep voices down, but there are wooden beams where you can sit and quietly gaze at this amazing spectacle.
It’s a wonderful place to bring the kids if they are old enough to use “inside voices” and be polite in the temporary home of these delicate creatures. Too much noise and running around disturbs the butterflies.
The Great Butterfly Migration is truly one of SoCal’s natural wonders.
The Coronado Butterfly Preserve
Operated by the Land Trust for Santa Barbara County
520 Coronado Dr
Goleta, CA 93117
Sunrise to Sunset
Free (but donations are appreciated)
Directions to the Preserve:
From Highway 101, exit Storke Rd./Glen Annie and go south.
Turn right on Hollister Avenue (@ 1 mile)
Turn left on Coronado Drive.
The entrance to the Preserve is at the end of Coronado Drive.
The grove is just a short easy hike from the parking lot.