Ellwood Butterfly Grove
[out of 5]
This butterfly grove has been known by locals for a long time. Apparently it is now a project of the Santa Barbara Land Trust and the official name is Coronado Butterfly Preserve.
The best time to visit the butterfly grove is in winter, around December and January. It is not really a beach hike, or even a hike because the grove isn't on the beach and isn't very far from where you park the car.
But, you can make a very nice, long walk out of it on the beach after you visit the butterflies, or if there are no butterflies to see.
Best hours are mid-morning when the butterflies are waking up, evening when the owls come out and there is a nice sunset, and then any time in between.
There is no mileage for this easy walk.
Ellwood Butterfly Grove Directions
From the Mission, corner of Laguna and Los Olivos Street in Santa Barbara...
Get on US 101 going northbound by taking Laguna St. to Mission St. (toward the ocean).
Turn right on Mission St.
Follow Mission St. to the freeway and take US 101 north.
Take the Storke Rd. exit.
Exit and turn left.
At Hollister turn right.
Coronado Drive is one street past Entrance, which is prominently marked. Turn left.
Park near the end. There is a hill with a big disply sign at the bottom with information about the butterflies. That is where you start!
Ellwood Butterfly Grove
Begin this hike on Coronado Drive, near the end. There is a hill with a sign at the bottom that marks the trail to the butterfly grove. It is an easy to follow trail, but can be muddy with puddles that are hard to go through.
Just follow the trail and you should find the butterfly grove behind a rope among the eucalyptus trees. By the way, the best time to go is in the morning right when the sun warms them up. Their clumps will spontaneously explode in a cloud of swirling butterflies.
When you get to the grove, go up the little paths on either side to get the best view. Be very quiet. Make no sound at all. If it is early morning, before the sun has warmed the butterflies, they will mostly be silent and motionless. They arrange themselves in clumps that look like dried leaves. Look closely, because they aren't leaves. They are butterflies. See how they bend the branches with their weight.
If it is later in the day and the sun has warmed them, they will be fluttering about. If you are absolutely silent you can hear the fluttering of their wings. A clatter of clacking sounds.
Watch where you step because you don't want to trample any that are on the ground. Sometimes you will see one with a tag on it. They are being studied. Dead ones with tags on them will sometimes have instructions. Sometimes they want you to mail them.
After you have watched the butterflies, follow the trail out to the bluff. You can go out to the cliff. To left is a path leading down to the beach. You can have a nice beach walk here. To the right you can follow along the bluff toward the golf course.
It is very nice to walk on the bluffs any time, but especially at sundown when the owls come out.
This land exists here only because of a lot of struggling to preserve it. There are powerful forces trying to develop this land. The locals have been fighting against this for as long as I can remember. I hope they continue to win. After every victory, the developers try again. Someday I am sure that the owls and the kites and the butterflies will not have this bluff anymore. And neither will we.
There is no mileage for this hike. To see the butterflies is only a few hundred feet. The rest is up to you!