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Monarch Butterflies

Monarch Butterfly in Pacific Grove in Monterey Bay
Up close photo of a Monarch Butterfly. This is just one of over 25,000 that descend on the area between October and February.

f you are traveling to the Monterey area between October and February, a visit to the Monarch Grove Sanctuary in Pacific Grove is a worthwhile visit. Every year between October and February thousands of Monarch butterflies descend on the Monterey Area. In Pacific Grove at the sanctuary, over 25,000 butterflies cluster in the pine and Eucalyptus trees making for an amazing sight. This event has become such a common sight in the town that Pacific Grove has been named "Butterfly Town USA".
The Monarch butterflies at the Monarch Grove Sanctuary migrate from as far west as the Rocky Mountains. During winter the cold in that area can kill them. However they are not known to be comfortable in warm temperatures either. California's Central coast from Monterey to Santa Barbara has been an ideal habitat during winter for them to migrate. Monterey has traditionally seen the highest numbers of migrating butterflies during the winter as they prefer to seek out the numerous pine trees in the area.

When visiting the sanctuary visitors can expect to witness thousands of Monarchs clustered on to single tree branches in pursuit of warmth. Their flight muscles will not function unless the temperature is at least 55 degrees.

The sanctuary is located on Ridge Road between Lighthouse Ave and Short Street (about 1 mile from the entrance to the 17 Mile Drive). It is about a mile or so west out of the main town center of Pacific Grove towards the coast. There is plenty of parking along lighthouse Ave. The Butterfly Grove Inn on Lighthouse at Ridge is the main entrance point (it can't be missed as the hotel is bright pink). Visitors walk down the driveway parallel to the Inn and then turn right onto a tiny dirt path that leads down hill into the forest where the Monarchs are located. Depending on the time of day of the visit, this forest can be extremely quiet, calming and relaxing-with nothing but you and the thousands of butterflies. Not all butterflies stay huddled to the trees, many take flight and are in constant motion throughout the sanctuary.

The best time to view this Monarch wonder is in middle of winter when they are at their peak. By mid February, although a few remain, most have departed on their flights back to the Rocky Mountain region.

By March it is difficult to observe they have ever been there. The town of Pacific Grove takes great pride in providing this Sanctuary. Tampering with or "molesting" any of the butterflies is punishable with a $1,000 fine.

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