Pismo Beach Monarch Butterfly Grove
Each year, thousands of vibrant orange and black Western Monarch Butterflies flock to Pismo Beach, seeking shelter from the freezing northern winters. Our colony is one of the largest in the nation, some years hosting an average of 25,000 butterflies.
From late October to February, butterflies cluster in the limbs of a grove of towering eucalyptus trees at Pismo State Beach, flanking a riparian estuary that flows to the Pacific Ocean. This easily accessible grove is located on State Highway 1 at the south boundary of Pismo Beach. Walk along and cross the estuary out to the beach, where flocks of sea birds poke around the water’s edge for a meal.
Spectators come from all over to view the Monarchs. Visitors can learn about Monarchs from trained, knowledgeable employees and volunteer docents. The Monarch Mercantile Trailer, operated by the Central Coast State Parks Association, is open year-round from 11 am to 4 pm, with extended hours during butterfly season. For more information and directions, please call the Interpretive Office of the Oceano Dunes District, California State Parks at 805-474-2664.
Monarchs create dense clusters of butterflies, one below another, forming a shingle effect among the trees. This provides shelter from the rain and cold to create warmth for the group. The weight of the clusters keeps the butterflies from dislodging in the wind.
Genetic Homing Systems
The Western Monarchs that visit Pismo Beach are a special generation that migrate long distances to overwinter and have a life span of six months. Some scientists speculate that the insects are equipped with genetic homing systems that lead them from their summer sites back to their winter locations. For more information about Monarchs and how to help conserve their population, please visit www.westernmonarchtrail.com
When to Visit
On the Central Coast, Monarchs winter in Pismo Beach, Pacific Grove, and Morro Bay. The Natural History Museum in Morro Bay and the Oceano Dunes District Visitor Center are excellent resources for information about Monarchs. Monarch Butterfly Season runs from late October through February. The Pismo Beach Monarch Butterfly Grove is 1 of only 5 sites in the state that has counts of over 10,000 butterflies annually. The 2022-23 count of 24,128, after a decline in numbers in past years, is a hopeful sign that the Monarchs are making a steady comeback.
State Parks Staff have provided an educational Monarch video located on their YouTube Channel: https://www.youtube.com/c/oceanodunesdistrictcastateparks
Butterfly Grove visitors are not permitted to park inside North Beach Campground. Reservations are required for all school groups, and Field Trip and PORTS Virtual Field Trip information and can be found here: https://www.parks.ca.gov/?page_id=30273
Reservations are required for all Tour Buses and can be made by calling 805-474-2663.
Come See Us Any Time of Year!
Whether or not it is Butterfly Season, Pismo Beach has so many things to see and do at all times of year. There are long white beaches for taking a stroll or for enjoying the spectacular views of the Pismo Beach sunset. Enjoy Pismo’s great weather and fabulous wineries and restaurants. Prefer a more active vacation? Central Coast golfing, riding the dunes in a four-wheel ATV, horseback riding, surfing, body boarding, or fishing can all be part of a Pismo Beach vacation. Take a leisurely walk on our award-winning boardwalk adjacent to the Pismo Pier. Shop at the Pismo Beach Premium Outlets, and be sure to visit the California Welcome Center while there. Check out our Lodging Specials to help plan your trip.