Monarch Butterflies Return to Goleta Butterfly Grove

Goleta’s monarch butterflies are back and making headlines with their strong numbers! The Goleta Butterfly Grove even made the New York Times. Read the article here:

More than 15,000 monarchs were counted in the Ellwood Mesa Butterfly Grove on December 1, 2023. Monarchs continue to arrive every day and we expect the population to peak during the first half of December. The City of Goleta monitors butterfly populations at Ellwood to provide insight into population trends, behavior, migration patterns and ecological health.

Monarchs that come here for the winter are part of the western monarch population, a distinct group that is separated from the eastern population by the Rocky Mountains. They migrate from the inland Pacific Northwest and Great Basin regions out to the California and Northern Baja California coastlines every fall.  The separate population of monarchs east of the Rocky Mountains migrate to spend the winter in Mexico. Monarchs cluster in groups at Ellwood Mesa and similar areas that provide the specific conditions needed to survive the winter months—humid, protected from wind, and the right amount of shade. The best butterfly viewing area locally is the Ellwood Main Grove.

Viewing the monarchs at Ellwood is a magical experience for children and adults. When visiting the monarchs, please be respectful of their habitat by staying on marked trails, not throwing objects at clusters of butterflies, and keeping your dog on leash. The Goleta Butterfly Grove is open from sunrise to sunset with no admission fee. Free parking is available at the Ellwood Mesa Open Space & Sperling Preserve parking area, 7729 Hollister Avenue, across from Ellwood Elementary School. The Ellwood Main Grove is a half mile walk on a dirt path from the parking lot, following the butterfly trail markers. For a printable map, go to

To track the population counts and learn more about monarchs, visit the Goleta Butterfly Grove Visitor Information page at

If you visit, you will notice the eucalyptus forest has suffered significant damage from extended drought and severe winter storms. The City is actively clearing dead and dying trees for public safety, fire prevention, and in preparation for habitat restoration. Learn more about the City’s plans to improve monarch butterfly habitat, reduce wildfire risk, and repair basic public infrastructure at Ellwood Mesa at

Photo of monarch butterflies at Ellwood Mesa captured in early November 2023 by photographer Mike Eliason