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Best trails in Natural Bridges State Beach

150 Reviews
Explore the most popular trails in Natural Bridges State Beach with hand-curated trail maps and driving directions as well as detailed reviews and photos from hikers, campers and nature lovers like you.
Description

Natural Bridges State Park is a magnificent oasis of natural beauty located between the edge of the ocean and the outer limits of Santa Cruz. The 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, tide pools 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 meadows, with bright native wildflowers in the spring. Moore Creek flows down to the ocean through these meadows, forming wetlands in the sand. During fall and winter, Natural Bridges is home to one of the largest monarch butterfly over-wintering sites in the Western United States. Each year, from the boardwalk in the Monarch Preserve, you can see thousands of monarch butterflies clustered in the eucalyptus trees. A demonstration milkweed patch next to the visitor center provides food for monarch caterpillars. If you look closely, you can often find the bright green chrysalids (cocoons) hanging under the fence railing. Public monarch tours are offered on the weekends. Spring brings warmer weather and low tides for viewing anemones, crabs, urchins, sea stars and other sea life. Moore Creek flows down to the ocean through a large area of coastal scrub meadows and along riparian, freshwater marsh and dune habitats on its way to the sea, forming a wildflower-covered wetland in the sand. Summer offers opportunities to sunbathe, swim, surf, sailboard and enjoy the beauty of this special park. The beach is an excellent vantage point for viewing the remaining natural bridge, as well as shore birds, migrating whales, seals and sea otters. Hours: 8am to Sunset

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Map of trails in Natural Bridges State Beach
Park information
Park hours
Monday
8:00 am - 5:55 pm
Tuesday
8:00 am - 5:55 pm
Wednesday
8:00 am - 5:55 pm
Thursday
8:00 am - 5:55 pm
Friday
8:00 am - 5:55 pm
Saturday
8:00 am - 5:55 pm
Sunday
8:00 am - 5:55 pm
Contact
831-423-4609
Helpful links
Top trails (2)
#1 - Natural Bridges to Lighthouse Field Loop
Natural Bridges State Beach
easyYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarGray StarGray Star(112)
Length: 4.8 mi • Est. 2 h 1 m
Please note: This beach continues to be temporarily closed to vehicular access, meaning there are no parking facilities and parking on roadways is prohibited to protect public health from the COVID-19 pandemic. Although the beach is open to local residents. Explore tide pools and beach habitat at Natural Bridges State Park, a beautiful and popular place to walk. In this oasis between the ocean and the edge of Santa Cruz lies one of the largest monarch butterfly overwintering sites in the western United States. The park also includes large coastal scrub meadows that in spring are filled with native wildflowers. In 1983, California State Parks made the monarch grove a natural preserve and sanctuary for these fragile world travelers. Monarchs journey as far as 2,000 miles on their paper-thin wings, seeking protected places like this one where they can find food, warmth and shelter. This grove provides the ideal conditions for the butterflies—and for you to see them. Look through the spotting scope to catch a glimpse of the breathtaking sight of hundreds of monarchs clustered together in the canopy. The park also includes large coastal scrub meadows that in spring are filled with native wildflowers. Moore Creek flows through the meadows and forms wetlands in the sand. Walk even further along the bluffs when it is low tide. Accessibility: The beginning of this trail from the Natural Bridges parking lot to the coastline may be too steep and have too many switchbacks to be accessible but the three miles along the coastline on the West Cliff Multi-Purpose Cycleway that goes to Lighthouse Field State Beach is paved and mostly flat with a max grade of 3%. There is waypoint marking the beginning of this bike path on the map, and there is a parking lot right next to that point on the coast for closer parking.Show more
#2 - Monarch Butterfly Natural Preserve Loop
Natural Bridges State Beach
easyYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarGray StarGray Star(38)
Length: 0.6 mi • Est. 15 m
Please note: This trail continues to be temporarily closed to vehicular access, meaning there are no parking facilities and parking on roadways is prohibited to protect public health from the COVID-19 pandemic. It is open to local residents. See here for more info: https://www.parks.ca.gov/?page_id=30355Show more