Natural Bridges State Beach
Latest NewsCalifornia State Parks is temporarily closing vehicle access to all state beaches in Santa Cruz and San Mateo counties to reduce the density of visitors over the Fourth of July weekend. The parking closure is Friday to a Sunday, July 3-5. The beaches will be open to walk-ins only.
Here are some guidelines for people visiting Natural Bridges State Beach:
- Restrooms are partially reopened.
- Visitors to engage in active recreation only.
- Trails are open for access.
What is currently closed at this park?
- Parking lot
- Picnic tables and gathering spots
- Visitor Center and ParkStore
- Special events and tours continue to be canceled
Natural Bridges State Beach is world-renowned for its yearly migration of monarch butterflies. Visitors can see thousands during the butterflies’ peak season. The best time to see monarchs in the park is usually from mid-October to late January.
This beach, with its famous natural bridge, is an excellent vantage point for viewing shore birds, migrating whales, and seals and otters playing offshore. Further along the beach, tidepools offer a glimpse of life beneath the sea. Low tides reveal sea stars, crabs, sea anemones, and other colorful ocean life. The park also includes a large area of coastal scrub and grasslands, with bright native wildflowers in the spring. Moore Creek flows through the park, forming freshwater wetlands and a salt marsh before it reaches the sea.
Learn more in the California State Parks brochure.
Take Swift Street west from Highway 1, or follow West Cliff Drive north along the bluffs until it ends at Natural Bridges.
Things to doBeach Area
Visitors enjoy surfing, boogie boarding, swimming and sunbathing. The beach is large enough for games and flying kites. At low tide, tidepools are visible. Docents lead tidepool explorations at low tide year-round.Wildlife Viewing
Visit the Monarch Butterfly Natural Preserve to see migrating butterflies. Guided tours are offered at 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. on weekends during the fall and winter.Picnic Area
A picnic area is located off the main parking lot in a eucalyptus and pine trees grove. Tables, barbecues, water faucets and restroom facilities are available.Hiking Trails
Stroll through the the Moore Creek Wetlands Preserve
The Visitor Center is temporarily closed due to COVID-19.
The Visitor Center features displays on the monarch butterflies and other features of the park. An aquarium features animals found in the tidepools. A video is available for viewing. The Visitor Center is open most weekends and some weekdays. Call (831) 423-4609 for current hours and special events.
The ParkStore is temporarily closed due to COVID-19. Shop online!
The ParkStore at Natural Bridges, housed within the Visitor Center, echoes the themes of the center’s natural history exhibits.
The Natural Bridges ParkStore sells merchandise that celebrates two of the park’s most prominent features: monarch butterflies and tidepools. It also carries a selection of educational books for kids, field guides, local history books,and general interest books about butterflies, birds, the ocean, conservation, citizen science and other relevant subjects. The store offers t-shirts, hats, souvenirs and fine art prints featuring Michael Schwab’s iconic Natural Bridges image.
Fees and Passes
Day-use parking lots are temporarily closed due to COVID-19.
Parking is $10 and supports the park. Annual State Parks passes also are available to purchase at the entrance kiosk.
- Picnic Areas
- Visitor Center
- Sand wheelchairs available — learn more in the Hilltromper Beach Accessibility Guide.
- ADA-compliant boardwalk leads to the Monarch Grove — learn more in the Hilltromper Wheelchair-Friendly Trails Guide.
To make a reservation, please read more and submit a request here.
Monarch Tours are offered from October through January each year, and are applicable for pre-K through 12th grade curriculum. The park begins accepting reservations for Monarch Tours on Aug 1.
Tidepool Tours are available from approximately March 1 through July 30 each year, and are available for 1st grade and up. The park begins accepting reservations for Tidepool Tours on Jan. 2.
Nature Walks are a great alternative when the monarchs have migrated inland or when the tides are not conducive to exploring the intertidal zone. The walk follows a 1-mile trail that winds its way through a diversity of habitats. Aligned with 3rd and 4th grade science standards.
Natural Bridges State Beach recruits volunteer docents to lead butterfly tours in the fall and winter and tidepool walks in the spring and summer for school groups and other visitors. Email or call 831-423-4609 x8 for information.
Natural Bridges State Beach is named for three naturally occurring arches that were once part of a large cliff that jutted out into the sea. The bridges formed as wave power eroded the mudstone, deepening depressions in the cliff that grew until the rock formed a cave, and eventually, a bridge.
Of the three original arches, only the middle one remains. The outermost arch fell during the early 20th century, and the inner arch collapsed during the 1980 storm.
- Dogs are allowed on leashes no longer than 6 feet only on paved roads and in parking lot.
- Bicycles are permitted on paved roads.
- Fires are not allowed on the beach.
- Alcohol is not allowed on the beach or in day-use areas.
- Do not smoke, ride bikes, roller skate, skateboard or speak loudly in the monarch butterfly grove.