By Blake Lewolt
Imagine walking 3000 miles with no signs, no map, and no compass, traveling between 50 to 100 miles a day. That is exactly what Monarch Butterflies do every single year. Monarchs are the only species of butterfly that, (like birds) make a two-way migration every year.
A true enigma lies in their migration because it is unknown how a whole new generation of butterflies can migrate to the same place every year. In fact, by the time migration season rolls around in California, the monarchs are into their fourth generation, even though they migrate to the same trees every year!
Most years, Monarch season begins in October and hits a high point in December. March is a time of migration and is the last month these majestic creatures can be seen on the Central Coast. February, however, is the mating season and is probably the best time to see these them in all their glory, with an amazingly dense display of color and beauty.
In this article, I will be outlining the best places to watch and learn from these majestic creatures in Santa Barbara and San Luis Obispo Counties. They truly are nature’s royalty.
CORONADO BUTTERFLY PRESERVE
The Coronado Butterfly preserve is located in Santa Barbara on a preserve a that spans over 9.3 acres. It includes an outdoor gathering area, meadows, Devereux Creek, and Woodlands. It also is home to many species of wildlife and is a great spot for bird watching.
ELLWOOD MAIN MONARCH GROVE
Ellwood Main Monarch Grove is Located in the Sperling Preserve on the Ellwood Mesa in Goleta, open every day during daylight hours, docents are available weekends from 11 to 2 pm, and admission is free. Located in the Sperling Preserve on the Ellwood Mesa in Goleta.
PISMO BEACH MONARCH GROVE
Located in the Oceano campground in, you guessed it, Oceano/Pismo Beach, the Pismo Beach Monarch Grove is home to one of the largest eucalyptus groves and the largest Monarch Grove in California.
LOS OSOS SWEET SPRINGS NATURE PRESERVE
The Los Osos Sweet Springs Nature Preserve is located just east of Morro Bay in Los Osos. It is a great spot to watch birds and be amazed by the beauty of the Monarch Butterfly. It is one of the stops on the Central Coast Birding Trail The Wetlands of sweet spring are an estuary where fresh and salt water join together. Two-thirds of edible seafood begin their life in wetlands.
REFUGIO STATE BEACH & EL CAPITAN
The trails leading from El Capitan to Refugio State Beach provide glorious views of the Ocean and are home to many Monarchs roosting in the Eucalyptus. Ask the rangers where to find them, and come out for a great day of family fun!
We hope you have as great a time as I have viewed these miraculous gifts of nature. Monarch Groves is also educational as well as inspiring, and can be great for day trips, family visits, and camping. Happy Trails!