Location: On Ridge Road, off Lighthouse Avenue, behind the Butterfly Grove Inn, Pacific Grove
Hours: Mid-October to early March
There's a reason Pacific Grove is known as Butterfly Town U.S.A.: Every winter, like winged tourists, thousands of monarchs flock to the city.
The orange and black beauties have found a haven at the Monarch Grove Sanctuary, a 2.4-acre patch tucked behind the aptly named Butterfly Grove Inn.
The site is an ideal spot for the monarchs to pass a few wintery months. It's not too cold and not too hot. The Monterey pine, cypress and eucalyptus provide a canopy for clustering. The fog meets their water needs. Nectar-producing plants in the sanctuary and on neighboring properties form a "hospitality zone" for food.
The butterflies arrive from colder climes in October, traveling as far as 2,000 miles and flying as high as 10,000 feet. The Pacific Grove monarchs come from west of the Rocky Mountains; monarchs on the other side of the range winter in Mexico.
Each year brings a new crop, since several generations live and die between winters. How do they know where they're going if they've never been? Scientists think they may rely on the Earth's magnetic field, the sun's position, and the polarization of its rays.
Development and diseased trees threaten local monarch habitats, but there are ongoing efforts by the nonprofit group Friends of the Monarch and others to protect and restore wintering grounds. In 1990, Pacific Grove voters approved a "butterfly bond" measure to raise $1.23 million to buy the land that now makes up the Monarch Grove Sanctuary. Visitors can follow a trail through the protected place, gazing up at the butterflies, so still and tightly clustered that they resemble leaves.