Monarch Butterflies – California Trip

Explore the Western Monarch Sanctuaries

Old-Growth Forests and Migrations

Saturday to Saturday (one week)

January 16-23, 2016


Each Autumn, most Monarch butterflies west of the Rocky Mountains migrate to the coast of California to spend the winter.  In their journey, they pass through old- growth forests of Douglas-fir, Western Red Cedar, and most spectacularly, Redwoods and Sequoias.  On this tour, we visit California’s monarch sanctuaries and rugged seacoast.  We experience some of the largest and oldest living organisms on the planet, the Sequoias.

We investigate the migration of monarchs, birds and mammals (elephant seals, sea lions, gray whales), while exploring the ecology, geology and history of the west coast.   We explore California’s historic connection to Mexico and its indigenous past while learning about the literary connections of John Steinbeck and his friend Ed Ricketts, a Pacific Ocean ecology pioneer.

This trip is sponsored by Monarch Teacher Network… a program of the Educational Information and Resource Center (EIRC), a New Jersey public agency.  EIRC has provided educational programs and services to NJ schools since 1968.  See  or   for more information.    EIRC staff members Erik Mollenhauer and/or Brian Hayes will lead this trip.   Teachers can receive New Jersey professional development credits for participating in this trip.

Trip Itinerary     

Saturday Day 1:  (Jan 17):  Arrive in San Francisco.  Transfer to our hotel in downtown San Francisco; early arrivals can explore parts of San Francisco.  Our group will meet at the hotel at 6 pm for dinner and an overview of the cultural and natural landscape included in our tour.

Sunday Day 2:  Breakfast at our hotel.  Travel by charter bus or van south to Salinas to explore the John Steinbeck Museum and have lunch.  In the afternoon we explore one of the largest monarch colonies in California. Dinner and hotel along the cliffs of Pismo Beach, with an evening walk on the beach exploring.

Monday Day 3:  Hotel breakfast, then we wind our way north on the famous Route 1 highway, with stunning views of the rugged California coast.  We will stop along the way to explore tidal pools at San Simeon and the elephant seal colonies of Piedras Blancas, watching for sea otters, migrating gray whales and exotic west coast birds.  We will have a picnic lunch at Sand Dollar Beach with a walk along the “jade coast”, followed by a walk in towering redwoods near Big Sur.  Dinner/hotel in Monterey.

Tuesday Day 4:  Breakfast at our hotel, then a presentation on John Steinbeck and Ed Ricketts with a walk to some of the real life sites from the book Cannery Row. Lunch is in Carmel by the sea with time to explore this quaint town, then off to Point Lobos with its rugged coast, sea life and old-growth Cypress forest.  Return to our hotel for wine and cheese before we have dinner in Monterey.

Wednesday Day 5:  Hotel breakfast.  Then we visit the butterfly colony and natural history museum of Pacific Grove (Butterfly Town, USA). We will take the bus along the coast of Pacific Grove then return to Monterey and the world-famous Monterey Aquarium and Cannery Row, inspiration for John Steinbeck’s book of that name.  Lunch and the afternoon are at your own pace at the aquarium.  Dinner in Monterey.

 Thursday Day 6:  Breakfast at hotel.  Then we head north, stopping at Moss Landing before we arrive at Henry Cowell State Park’s coastal redwoods as we learn how many teachers we can fit inside one giant redwood tree.  Lunch in Felton then we visit Ano Nuevo Park and a walk along its spectacular beaches and cliffs, exploring its elephant seals, sea life and geology.   Dinner and hotel in San Francisco.

Friday Day 7:  Hotel breakfast, then early departure for Muir Woods and its ancient redwoods.  Explore the importance of old-growth to butterflies, other animals and people, as we experience the spiritual nature of these “grandfathers” of the forest.  Then we are on to Point Reyes National Park following the trace of the San Andreas Fault.   Afternoon includes an interpretive walk along a section of the San Andreas Fault and either a visit to a restored Miwok (native) village or a visit to “Drake’s Bay” where Sir Francis Drake stopped in 1579 as he sailed around the world in The Golden Hind.  Farewell dinner in San Francisco.

Saturday Day 8 (Jan 23):  Hotel breakfast, then transfer to airport for flight home.


Itinerary may change based on weather and local conditions or to take advantage of opportunities when they arise.  Note local time is 3 hours behind Eastern Time.  WIFI is available at most locations and hotels. 


Please ask about trip details such as cost. or 856.582.7000 x110


Click here for more information on the details of the trip:  MTN California flier for 2016

Click here to download the application for the 2015 trip:  MTN California trip application – 2016

If you have attended a MTN workshop, you are eligible to receive a fellowship to help reduce the cost of the trip.  Fellowships are given out based on many factors such as the availability of money each year, the number of applicants, and other factors including the strength of the application.  Find out more information in the following form:  MTN Fellowship Application Form – 2016