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Natural Bridges Beach Activities

Santa Cruz County



Caution: Check with rangers or lifeguards that conditions are safe for your planned activities.


Monarch Butterfly Natural Preserve

Visitors to the Monarch Butterfly Natural Preserve can follow follow a wheelchair accessible boardwalk into the eucalyptus grove to view the butterflies. At the end of the boardwalks is an observation platform. Interpretive signs along the way tell about the monarchs.

For an extended tour of the preserve, a foot trail leads off the boardwalk, heading north and connecting with the Moore Creek Trail, making a loop back to the beach (less than a mile altogether).

The best times of year to view the monarchs are during November and December when the greatest concentrations are usually there. Butterflies begin to arrive in mid-October and many usually remain through mid-February. Numbers of butterflies and arrivals and departures dates vary each year.

Monarch butterflies

Guided Monarch Butterfly Tours

Hour-long, docent-led tours of the butterfly preserve are offered in late October through January on weekends at 11:00 AM and 2:00 PM. Meet at the Visitor Center. The tours are wheelchair accessible. For tours for groups of 10 or more, reservations should be made in advance with the park. (831) 423-4609

Migration Festival

Saturday, February 11, 2017, 11:00 AM to 4:00 PM.
A full day of activities at the park celebrating migratory animals - whales, butterflies, birds, and other migrating animals. Migratory talks, children's games, crafts, skits, and live music.

Welcome Back Monarchs Day

Sunday, October TBA, 2017, 11:00 AM to 4:00 PM.
Celebrate with return of the monarch butterflies. Stories, active learning games, live music, and presentation. You can even dress up and join the butterfly parade.

Friends of Santa Cruz State Parks



Tide Pools

The tide pools at Natural Bridges State Park are a wonderful place to explore and learn about the variety of creatures that make their homes in the inter-tidal zone. At low tide visitors are likely to observe sea stars, sea anemones, hermit crabs, urchins, and other colorful sea life.

tide pools

The area from Four-mile Beach to the North down the coast to Natural Bridges State Park is part of a State Marine Reserve which protects the entire ecosystem of the reserve.

Visiting the Tide Pools

Plan your visit during a low tide period. The rocky shore north of the park requires some agility on your feet. Rocks can be slippery and unexpected large waves can hit the shore. Never turn your back on the ocean.

Plan an hour or two to pick your way along the rocks, peering into pools and watching the tiny creatures as they move about. Please leave all plants and animals attached to the rocks. School groups can arrange to have a docent-led tour of the tide pools by calling ahead. (831) 423-4609

Guided Tide Pool Tours

Docent-led tours of the tide pools are usually held on Saturdays and Sundays at varying times. The 1½- hour tours meet at the Vistor Center and are sponsored by California State Parks and Friends of Santa Cruz State Parks. Check the Natural Bridges State Beach website for dates and times this month:
Natural Bridges State Beach Events and Activities




Explore Other Areas of Natural Bridges


Moore Creek Estuary and Trail

Moore Creek forms an estuary near the main parking area and leading down to the beach, forming a wetland in the sand. Both freshwater and saltwater wetlands are found along the creek. During the spring the trail up Moore Creek is especially popular because of the variety of birds and wildflowers. Herons are occasionally seen in the lagoon. More often sparrows, finches, and wrens are sighted.

During the spring the trail up Moore Creek is especially popular because of the variety of birds and wildflowers. Follow the trail around and connect with the Monarch Butterfly Trail which will lead you back to the visitor center. Birds often seen along the trail include woodpeckers, swifts, and Pygmy Nuthatches. Also keep your eyes open for a great horned owl.

Nearby Activities and Events

Seymour Center at
Long Marine Lab

100 Shaffer Road, Santa Cruz
(831) 459-3800
Operated by University of California Santa Cruz
Tours, exhibit halls, aquarium, touch tanks, Ocean Discovery Shop.
Open Tuesday - Saturday, 10:00 AM to 5:00 PM,
Sunday noon to 5:00 PM
Adults $6, 4-16 year-olds and seniors 64 and over $4
Seymour Center at Long Marine Lab

Santa Cruz
Surfing Museum

Mark Abbott Memorial Lighthouse, Lighthouse Point, 701 West Cliff Drive, Santa Cruz, CA
Photographs, surfboards, and other surfing artifacts telling the story of surfing in Santa Cruz.
Summer hours 10:00 AM - 4:00 PM, closed Tuesdays
Santa Cruz Surfing Museum

Lighthouse Field
State Beach

701 West Cliff Drive at Santa Cruz Point.
Open 7:00 AM to sunset
Great views of the ocean and surfers, steps down the rocks, small beach popular with dog owners.
Free parking, picnic tables, restrooms, surfing museum
(831) 429-2850



Books of Local Interest



Ocean Safety

California State Parks and Recreation cautions that "large surf, cold water temperatures, backwash, sudden drop-offs, pounding shorebreak, and dangerous rip currents can turn what seem like safe activities such as playing near the surf line, wading, or climbing on rock outcroppings, deadly." Learn more about ocean safety at
CA State Parks: Ocean Safety

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