The mission of California State Parks is
to provide for the health, inspiration and
education of the people of California by helping
to preserve the state’s extraordinary biological
diversity, protecting its most valued natural and
cultural resources, and creating opportunities
for high-quality outdoor recreation.
Three arches carved by
nature out of a sandstone
cliff inspired the naming of
Reclaimed by the sea, the
inner and outer arches
California State Parks supports equal access.
Prior to arrival, visitors with disabilities who
need assistance should contact the park at
(831) 423-4609. If you need this publication in an
alternate format, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
have fallen, leaving only
the central bridge.
CALIFORNIA STATE PARKS
P.O. Box 942896
Sacramento, CA 94296-0001
For information call: (800) 777-0369
(916) 653-6995, outside the U.S.
711, TTY relay service
Natural Bridges State Beach
2531 West Cliff Drive
Santa Cruz, CA 95060
© 2002 California State Parks (Rev. 2015)
Drawing of Natural Bridges, ca. 1870s
atural Bridges State
Beach is a magnificent
oasis of natural beauty
located between the
edge of the ocean
and the outer limits of
the city of Santa Cruz.
This popular 65-acre
park is known for its
wave-carved sea arch,
tide pools, and visiting
Great blue heron at Moore Creek
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 a 1980 storm.
The first people to inhabit this area were
the Uypin tribe, as recorded in the registers
of the Spanish missionaries who arrived in
the 1780s. The Uypin were among about fifty
inter-related tribes spread throughout the
Monterey and San Francisco Bay areas.
Their descendants are collectively called
the Ohlone today.
In the past, the Uypin people hunted
marine mammals and inland game,
fished, and harvested shellfish and a
variety of seeds, berries, herbs, and
bulbs. They also depended on storable
plant foods like acorns, hazel, laurel,
and buckeye nuts. The Uypin people
practiced land-management techniques
that enhanced nature’s productivity.
They were also skilled in various crafts
like making baskets, fiber cordage, stone
tools, and shell ornaments for trade to
people in the interior. Many of today’s
Ohlone people work to reestablish the
knowledge and traditions of their past.
The last remaining natural bridge
Spanish colonists eventually took over
the Ohlone people’s traditional lands.
When the Ohlone were brought into the
mission system, their population was nearly
decimated by European diseases to which
they had no resistance.
By 1834 this area was governed by newly
independent Mexican authorities, who used
coastal land for cattle grazing. After the
Mexican-American War ended in 1848, Alta
California was ceded to the United States;
California became a state in 1850.
Over the years, this land supported
a dairy farm, a hotel, a brussels sprouts
farm, housing for workers at the Antonelli
Mill Pond, a South Seas movie set, and
an unfinished housing development.
The State of California purchased the
land in 1933. Until the 1970s, open space
surrounded the park, now enclosed by
development. Both local residents and
visitors can find respite on the beach or
hiking among a dozen natural habitats.
HABITATS AND WILDLIFE
Egrets, herons, and other residential and
migratory birds traveling along the Pacific
Flyway rely on Natural Bridges for safe
shelter or an inviting meal.
The Moore Creek Wetlands Natural
Preserve provides an important habitat
for a variety of birds, invertebrates, fish,
and amphibians. The preserve has both
saltwater and freshwater marshes.
Left: Guided walk on
the Monarch Trail.
examining life in the
tide pools. Right: Giant
green sea anemone.
Tide pools — Life on the Edge
Twice each day, the tide uncovers the park’s
rocky shore, where sea stars, hermit crabs,
urchins, kelp, and many more species live
among the pools and crevices. This area
is also a state marine reserve; its sea life
receives extra protection as residents of the
Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary.
Animals and plants living in tide pools
survive by adapting to rapid changes in
temperature, water salinity, pounding surf,
and human activity. They also adapt to
specific areas of the rocky intertidal zone.
Please leave all plants and animals attached
to the rocks. Prying or pulling them off may
harm or kill them.
Day use — Natural Bridges State Beach is a
haven for the outdoor enthusiast.
• View wildlife: The beach is an excellent
vantage point for viewing the remaining
natural bridge, as well as shore birds,
migrating whales, seals, and sea otters.
• Relax: The sheltered pocket beach
between two headlands is also ideal for
relaxing and playing in the sand, enjoying
the sun, and watching the waves.
• Fly or surf: Frequent afternoon
winds take flying kites to soaring
heights and windsurfers for
an exhilarating sail on the
bay. Large winter swells are
popular with experienced
surfers and boogie boarders.
• Run or bike
on the park’s
• Hike: Trails
a chance to
the Moore Creek
• Picnics and
picnic area has
and barbecue stoves. Sunsets over the bay make
a spectacular ending to a fun-filled day.
Natural Bridges docents offer guided
tide pool walks, butterfly walks, and
October, welcome the monarch butterflies
back to Natural Bridges. Music, food, games,
guided walks, and activities explore the
wonder and science of monarch butterflies.
The Migration Festival
From 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. on the second
Saturday in February, learn about the
journeys of the many animals that migrate
to and through Natural Bridges and the
surrounding area. Educational booths,
guided walks, entertainment, games, and
more make for a day of fun and discovery.
In addition to these activities, organized
groups of ten or more may schedule guided
walks on weekends by calling the park.
School group walks are offered on weekdays
Docent Training Classes
Volunteer docents lead guided walks, host
the visitor center, help with park restoration,
and assist with special events. Contact the
visitor center to apply for the next docent
Nearby State Parks
• Wilder Ranch State Park
1788 Coast Rd., Santa Cruz 95060
• Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park
101 North Big Trees Park Rd., Felton 95018
• New Brighton State Beach
1500-1598 Park Ave., Capitola 95010
• Seacliff State Beach
721-729 State Park Dr., Aptos 95003
• Lighthouse Field State Beach
West Cliff Drive, Santa Cruz 95060
Hwy. 1 North turns into Mission Street
when traveling through the westside Santa
Cruz business district. Turn left onto Swift
Street and follow it to the ocean. Turn right
on West Cliff Drive, which ends at the park.
Monarch Butterfly Tours
At 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. on weekends during fall and
winter, meet at the visitor center to discover more
about the monarch’s miraculous life cycle.
Exploring Tide Pools
Docents lead tide pool explorations year round
during low tides.
Welcome Back Monarchs Day
From 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. on the second Sunday in
Cormorants and brown pelicans
Accessible boardwalk in monarch grove
• Parking, the picnic area, and the boardwalk into
the monarch grove are accessible.
• The accessible visitor center has exhibits,
interactive and interpretive displays, and videos
(some with large-print formats and scripts).
• Restrooms are accessible.
• An accessible beach viewing platform adjoins
the overflow parking lot and entrance kiosk.
• A beach wheelchair may be checked out
at the visitor center.
Accessibility is continually improving.
For the latest updates, visit the website at
This park is supported in part through a nonprofit
organization. For more information, contact:
Friends of Santa Cruz State Parks
144 School Street, Santa Cruz, CA 95060
(831) 429-1840 • www.thatsmypark.org
• Natural Bridges State Beach is open
year round from 8 a.m. to sunset.
• Surf Safety — Enter tide pools only
during periods of low tide. Often there
is no lifeguard on duty, and the surf
can be unpredictable. Hazardous rip
currents and large waves can appear
out of nowhere and sweep people out
The beach and tide pools can be
extremely dangerous. Do not run on
the wet rocks of the intertidal area, and
never turn your back to the waves.
Check with the lifeguard or at the
entrance station or visitor center
before entering the ocean and the tide
• No Collecting — Do not disturb tide
pool residents or the butterfly clusters
in any way. The park’s plants, animals,
and all natural and cultural features
are protected by law.
• Except for service animals, dogs are
allowed only in the parking lots and
picnic areas, but not on the beach and
trails. All dogs must be on a six-footmaximum leash and under human
control at all times. Please do not leave
your dog in a vehicle.
• Stay on designated trails to protect
plants, to prevent erosion, and to avoid
poison oak and stinging nettles.
• Bicycles are permitted only on
• Fires and glass containers are not
allowed on the beach.
• Alcoholic beverages are only allowed
in the park with a previously issued
special-event permit. Submit permit
applications at least 30 days before the
• Do not smoke, ride bikes, roller skate,
skateboard, or speak loudly in the
monarch butterfly grove.
Moore Creek Wetlands Natural Preserve
M M O NSale
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Las Veg 15
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SOUTH DAK OT
O C E A N
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Fresn I A
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W YO M IN
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P A C I F I C
Natural Bridges is home to one of the largest monarch
butterfly over-wintering sites in California. Each fall, the
migratory butterflies arrive on the coast from across the
western United States to seek sanctuary from the winter’s
cold. They roost in the monarch preserve from October to
mid-February, with the greatest numbers from November
The monarchs cluster in rings of trees, intertwining their
legs to avoid being dislodged from their companions
by the wind and rain. With their tan undersides, the
clusters resemble clumps of dead leaves. When the air
temperature rises above 55 degrees, the butterflies burst
from their clusters, floating through the trees and into the
surrounding area in search of flower nectar and dew.
In January and February, the monarchs begin a
daring 1,500 mile migration — a journey that spans five
generations — as they spread out across the western
United States. Monarchs lay their eggs on milkweed
plants inland — from the Bay Area to the eastern
Sierra Nevada and the Rocky Mountain foothills. Each
generation hatches and travels further inland, where
another generation fans out even further. The final
Monarch Butterfly naturAL Preserve
generation returns to California, where their great-great
grandparents originated. Monarch lifespans vary from
two weeks to nine months. Those that migrate to the
coast in autumn live longer; the last generation at
Natural Bridges live as long as nine months and
begin the cycle once more.
TE XA S
© 2002 California State Parks (Rev. 2015)
P R E S E RV E
N AT U R A L
B U T T E R F LY
S TAT E
N AT U R A L
Mission St Extension
to U.C. Santa Cruz
to San Francisco
& Wilder Ranch SP
(Please stay off)
D G RV E