"Pacific Grove benefits by one of those happy accidents of nature
that gladden the heart, excite the imagination, and instruct the young."
--John Steinbeck's Sweet Thursday, Chapter 38.

For much more information on Monarch Butterfles,
visit the Pacific Grove Monarch Conservancy webpages.

How to find the Monarch Butterflies

In recent years, the Monarchs have gathered at the Monarch Grove Sanctuary. In 2011, a few (about 70 in early December 2011) returned to Washington Park.

To get to the Monarch Grove Sanctuary, take Highway 68 north into Pacific Grove. Highway 68 is also called the Holman Highway and further down, Forest Avenue. Be careful to stay over to the right after you pass David, and go straight down Forest Avenue into town. Don't follow 68 where it turns left past the high school; this will get you to the beach but not the butterflies. Make a left turn at the stop sign at Lighthouse Avenue. Follow Lighthouse Avenue through downtown, and turn left at Ridge Road.

There is an orange Monarch crossing sign at the corner. Go past the Butterfly Grove Inn and park on the street. There are a number of pull-in spaces adjacent to the PG Adult School that are available for visitors to the Monarch Sanctuary. Follow the easement marked "Monarch Grove Sanctuary Entrance" into the butterfly habitat.

Pacific Grove Monarch Sanctuary
Visitors gather around a docent at Pacific Grove's Monarch Sanctuary on Ridge Road.


November 19, 2012:

  • In mid-November, there are approximately 1,000 monarchs at the Monarch Grove Sanctuary.

May 2012:

  • In mid-May, the City of Pacific Grove finally made public (in response to a citizen's public information request) a hither-to secret plan for major changes to the Sanctuary. Monarch scientists and concerned citizens have previously rejected this plan as potentially harmful to the monarchs' habitat, against the CC&Rs of the CA state wildlife easement that governs the Sanctuary, and a waste of valuable resources, since the monarchs cluster away from the proposed area. See the proposed plan here.

February 2012:

  • In mid-February, there were about 9,800 monarchs at the Sanctuary. They are currently mating.

January 2012:

  • At the end of January, monarch mating activity has been observed at the Sanctuary.

  • On January 19th, there were about 8,600 monarchs at the Sanctuary.

  • On January 11th, the number of monarchs at the Sanctuary decreased to about 10,000.
  • At the beginning of January, there was another increase in monarch numbers at the Sanctuary, up to more than 11,500. The small cluster at Washington Park had less than 10.


  • At the end of December, there was a slight increase in monarch numbers at the Sanctuary, up to more than 9,500. The small cluster at Washington Park remains about the same.

  • A few hundred monarchs have been found dead or dying on the ground at the Sanctuary during December. Read Kelly Nix's December 30, 2011 Carmel Pine Cone article: "Hundreds of mysteriously eaten monarchs found in sanctuary--Scientists trying to figure out what’s killing P.G.’s favorite insect."

  • At the end of December, there were about 8,500 monarchs at the Sanctuary and about 60 monarchs at Washington Park.

  • By mid-December, the number of monarchs at the Sanctuary decreased to about 8,800, down from the previous count. The small cluster at Washington Park stayed at about 70 monarchs.

  • In early December, the monarch numbers at the Sanctuary remained about 12,500.There were about 70 monarchs clustered at Washington Park.


  • By the end of November, the monarch numbers at the Sanctuary remained about 12,500. For the first time in four years, a few dozen Monarchs returned to Washington Park.

  • By the second week of November, there were aproximately 12,500 monarchs at the sanctuary, and more are expected to arrive until the numbers peak around Thanksgiving.

  • As of the first week in November, there were approximately 7,500 monarchs at the sanctuary. The butterflies were clustering on pines and eucalyptus trees across the driveway from the Warner house on the morning of Sunday, November 6th.

The Warner house at the
                    Monarch Grove Sanctuary in Pacific Grove
The Warner house at the Monarch Grove Sanctuary in Pacific Grove.
In early November 2011, the monarch butterflies were clustered in trees across the driveway from this structure.
This location is approximately where the old "Butterfly Trees" attracted tourists in the 1950s.

As of the end of October 2011, there are over 6,500 monarchs at the sanctuary. This is a great improvement over the number of monarchs here at the same time last year.

Brokaw Hall has been demolished, and a new trail has been cut next to its footprint.

Brokaw Hall footprint
  Path next to the former site of Brokaw Hall.

Brokaw Hall condemned
                  & fenced
Brokaw Hall on March 31, 2011. It has since been demolished by its owner, the City of Pacific Grove..


Local Monarch butterfly enthusiasts gathered donations and installed dozens of temporary potted trees to mitigate the 2009 tree trimming. As a result, the Monarchs that arrived in Fall 2010 had a suitable microclimate to remain into the overwintering season.

The 2010 population peaked at over 6,200 in early December, though cold, windy conditions have reduced the numbers to about 3,500 at the end of the year.

In July 2011, the City of Pacific Grove demolished the 97-year-old cabin known as Brokaw Hall. This city-owned historic landmark may have served as a wind break in the larger sanctuary ecosystem. Time will tell whether this empty hole will affect the monarchs' roosting spots. The demolition was done without a CEQA (California Environmental Quality Act) report.



Following a very severe pruning of the Monarchs' favorite spot -- an amphitheater of Eucalyptus trees near the south end of the Monarch Grove Sanctuary -- in late September/early October the Monarchs are in record-breaking low numbers.

Estimates in early to mid-November vary from 5 to 750, at a time that typically sees tens of thousands clustering. On December 5 2009, 989 Monarchs were counted in the Sanctuary. On December 11, 2009, there were 635. By the end of December, there were about 300, and in the first week of January, less than 10 were counted.

Read a detailed report about the causes for this failure of Pacific Grove City stewardship of the Monarch Grove (in pdf format).




When to visit the Monarch Butterflies

In October, Monarch Butterflies begin arriving in Pacific Grove--the end of a long trek from as far as the Canadian Rockies and southern Alaska. They migrate here to escape the rigors of the northern winters.

Local school children have a parade in early October to honor the returning insects.

By Thanksgiving, most of the Monarchs have arrived and settled in. The butterflies attach themselves to trees in huge clusters, and in chilly or damp weather they fold part of their wings and appear like clumps of dead leaves.

                    clump of Monarchs hang from a tree
A clump of Monarchs in the trees at the Pacific Grove Monarch Sanctuary.

Optimal viewing for activity is between 10:00 a.m. and 2:00 p.m. on a sunny day. They overwinter until February or March, when the mating season takes place. Then they leave.

The number of overwintering Monarchs and the time of their arrival and departure each year varies. 


Page contents and design copyright 2000 - 2012 by Esther Trosow. All rights reserved.
Unless otherwise noted, photographs are by Esther Trosow.

Last updated November 19,  2012.