Monarch butterflies, those enchanting winged travelers, are a staple sight on the Central Coast from November to February. As small as they are, the trek they take every year rivals the toughest cycling routes around.
As these intelligent insects embark on their migration, start your own cycling excursion and catch glimpses of these vibrant creatures complementing some of the most picturesque locations of the Central Coast. Follow monarch trail suggestions and choose a route that will help you get the most out of your ride following the butterflies.
Best Places to See the Monarch Butterflies on the Central Coast
William R. Hearst Memorial Beach in San Simeon
Just across the road from the historic Hearst Castle, William R. Hearst Memorial Beach offers more than just a view of the ocean. This location is a haven for wildlife enthusiasts, including a chance to see the monarchs. You’ll have earned a break once you get here, so enjoy a picnic, and rest your glutes alongside the migrating butterflies. Accessible via the challenging San Simeon Creek Climb, this spot promises both natural beauty and a sense of accomplishment.
Cambria is a critical stop both for Central Coast cyclists and migrating monarchs. During the migration season, the town turns into the ideal spot for butterfly sightings. As you ride through the streets, the striking sight of monarchs fluttering about is as common as the ocean breeze. To see groups of butterflies, venture outside the shops and restaurants and wander among the local cypress and eucalyptus trees. While you explore the town’s attractions, make sure to check out Visit Cambria’s Western Monarch Trail to learn more about the annual migration. Our pick for the best route to get you here is the San Simeon Creek Climb.
Monarch Preserve in Los Osos
Nestled between Montaña de Oro State Park and Morro Bay National Estuary, the Monarch Preserve in Los Osos is a great spot for butterfly enthusiasts. The eucalyptus thicket serves as a natural sanctuary for the monarchs, and the nearby Sea Pines Golf Course has a native nectar garden that attracts the butterflies. Stop for a meal at the golf course’s restaurant, and fuel up for the next portion of the Montaña de Oro Route.
Flying Flags Avila Beach
The Flying Flags Resort has a commitment to planting native nectar plants on the grounds of Avila Beach, turning it into a prime location to witness the monarchs during their migration. This site serves as a crucial waystation for the butterflies, meaning it’s also a delightful and colorful stop for your own voyage. Visit the San Luis Lighthouse via the Avila Beach Route, adding a touch of coastal charm to your Highway 1 cycling adventure.
Avila Valley Barn in Avila Beach
For a particularly unique monarch experience, gear-shift your way to Avila Valley Barn. This farm, open to the public during business hours, serves as a vital nectar source for monarchs, allowing you to observe them in action. The absence of pesticides ensures not only the well-being of the butterflies, but also offers you the chance to enjoy fresh produce straight from the fields. Make this a stop (and perhaps taste your own ‘nectar’) along the vineyard-laden Edna Valley Route.
Pismo State Beach Monarch Butterfly Grove
Pismo State Beach Monarch Butterfly Grove is a must-visit for butterfly enthusiasts. It’s one of only five sites in the state that hosts over 10,000 butterflies annually, where they cluster among the trees. The grove, which you can find via the Oso Flaco Lake Route, offers an elating sight without any admission charge. Don’t forget to stop by the Monarch Mercantile trailer for information and souvenirs, making your visit both educational and memorable.
Plan Your Trip Alongside the Monarch Migration
If you’ve never seen the monarch migration, this is the perfect chance to make it part of your next cycling expedition. Witnessing the butterflies in various locations will add a new layer of color and excitement to your thrilling adventure as you develop an appreciation for the distance they cover. So, strap on your helmet, choose your route, and embark on a journey alongside the monarchs as they grace the Central Coast with their beauty and endurance.