When traveling to Northern California, its must-stop is Natural Bridges State Beach, a refuge for monarch butterflies and sweeping views of the Pacific Ocean.
Nestled in stunning Santa Cruz, California, this 65-acre California state park was named for the naturally occurring mudstone bridges that line the Pacific Ocean. Wave erosion carved these mudstone bridges after a combination of silt, clay, and diatoms were solidified into stone.
There were originally three arches here, “the outermost arch fell during the early 20th century, and the inner arch collapsed during a 1980 storm.” Today only one arch remains, and it is one of the most photographed attractions in the Santa Cruz area. You can about walkout to the arch at low tide but be careful; the current is powerful here.
The State Beach is a perfect place for families, couples, and friend groups to go swimming, surfing, and hiking. If your focus is hiking, check out the tidal pools that take place year-round. These exist at low tide and are a favorite of naturalists. You’ll see plenty of sea life, and it’s easy to walk around for all levels of activity. Climb on the rocks and watch the waves crash into the bridge. The trail is straightforward to walk.
In the winter months, Natural Bridges State Beach is a great spot to watch the otters and dolphins play in the ocean, and if you’re lucky, you might even spot a whale. Natural Bridges State Beach gives a perfect vantage point for watching some of nature’s most fascinating sea animals.
Surfing Natural Bridges Beach
Santa Cruz, California, is known for its surfing, and Natural Bridges State Beach is a great spot to hang ten. Best for experienced surfers, this reef-rocky beach has hollow, fast, and powerful waves starting at 3-5 feet and reaching up to 16 feet with a big swell!
Another sport to take part in at Natural Bridges State Beach is windsurfing. Here, windsurfers can ride the waves and soar to exhilarating heights on this windy state beach. Winter waves are for experienced surfers and windsurfers only!
If you’d rather sit back and relax, Natural Bridges State Beach is the perfect spot to park yourself for a day in the sun. It’s sheltered between two headlands, so it’s safe for the family to sit or play.
Bring a picnic grill out, and sit at one of the many benches. Take in the scents of the sea and the surrounding eucalyptus trees while you bask in the sun’s rays. Just be warned that if the sea is at low tide, the smell won’t be so delicious.
Perfect for bird watching, many birds flock to Natural Bridges State Beach to bask in the Seasonal Pond. Look for red-winged blackbirds, belted kingfisher, American coot, American bittern, Sora, Virgin Rails, and Blue Herons.
Monarch Butterfly Reserve
From October through early February, Natural Bridges State Beach is home to up to 150,000 Monarch Butterflies. These Monarch butterflies flock to Natural Bridges State Beach due to the eucalyptus grove that provides a natural habitat. They fly south to escape the cold and seek refuge along the coasts of California.
Getting to Natural Bridges State Beach
Located on Swift Avenue, west from Highway 1, Natural Bridges State Beach is found by following West Cliff Drive north along the town bluffs. The park is open from 8 am to Sunset, so check back regularly as the seasons change. Website. 2531 W Cliff Drive, Santa Cruz, California.