Monarch Butterflies Flutter By Albany Hill Park

Who said urban areas don’t experience noteworthy wildlife? Here in the Bay Area, there are a few rest stop locations to see generations of migrating Monarch butterflies in clusters like delicate, orange leaves on trees from mid-October to February. The most BARTable of these locations is Albany Hill Park, a peaceful place to observe the beauty of the Monarchs, if you’re up for the hike.

From the south exit at the El Cerrito Plaza BART station, you face the Ohlone Greenway, a landscaped path frequented by dog walkers, bikers and runners paralleling the BART tracks and leading to Brighton Avenue. A right turn on Brighton will take you to the main street, where a left on San Pablo Avenue and a right on Castro Street will send you into the lovely residential area of the Albany hills. Left on Hillside Avenue and a right turn on Taft Street will introduce you to a shadow cast by Eucalyptus trees, leading you up and into Albany Hill Park. Where the cul de sac ends at the top of the hill, the Monarch forest begins, with lovely views of the Bay Area on the opposite side of the hill, visible through towering tree trunks.

The small park has pathways and benches scattered among the grass. Relatively quiet, and not at all crowded, Albany Hill park is a nice place to get away for a relaxing picnic. It might be tempting to pitch a blanket and check out the mushrooms sprouting below or small birds hopping around the bushes, but you should really be looking up, for clusters of Monarch butterflies, fluttering about, on a break from their long journey. 

The Monarchs go through a four generation migration of 1,800 miles traveling in clusters throughout the West Coast until the third or fourth generation butterflies make it back to California in the winter, where their great-great-grandparents began the journey. They lay eggs under native milkweed leaves and die, leaving their offspring to complete the next leg of the migration.    

Helpful tips for Monarch spotting: Single out one of the Monarchs fluttering above and follow it until it disappears into the trees. Then wait and watch that spot (binoculars are handy for this). What look like brown leaves will begin to turn orange and flutter when other butterflies approach, showing off the beautiful Monarch cluster you just found. Once you’ve spotted one, they seem to surround you! Just pack a sandwich and watch this annual display of a hidden Albany treasure.  Seeing where they all come together on an amazing journey reminds us how remarkable and resilient Monarch butterflies are, just like BART riders, getting from place to place to make our mark for generations to come.

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