Thinking about visiting the El Dorado Nature Center with kids? Whether you’re a Long Beach Native or just visiting, you don’t want to miss this somewhat hidden gem. The El Dorado Nature center is one of our absolute favorite places to take our kids. So we’ve got all the tips you’ll need to have a fun family day at this wonderful Long Beach oasis.
Living in Long Beach, you might feel like you’re in the heart of a big city. I mean, we’ve got all the amenities you could ask for! But it might leave you craving some wide open spaces and nature.
When we need to feel a little more remote, we pack up and head to the El Dorado Nature Center. Between the blue herons, turtles, 105 acres of plant life and over 2 miles of nature walk paths, El Dorado Nature Center is a Long Beach family favorite.
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Planning a Visit to the El Dorado Nature Center
El Dorado Nature Center is located off Spring Street between Studebaker and the 605 freeway inside El Dorado Regional Park East.
El Dorado Nature Center
7550 E Spring St, Long Beach, CA 90815
The trails at the El Dorado Nature Center are open Tuesday through Sunday, from 8am to 5pm. However, it’s important to remember that there is no trail entry after 4:30pm. The Nature Center Museum (that also has a small gift shop) is open from 8:30am to 4pm.
The Nature Center is closed on Mondays, July 4,Thanksgiving, Christmas & New Year’s Day.
How much does it cost to visit the El Dorado Nature Center?
At the time of publication, it is free to visit the El Dorado Nature Center. However, there is a vehicle entrance fee to enter El Dorado East Regional Park ranging from $6 on weekdays, up to $9 on holidays. (There is no charge for bicyclists and pedestrians.) For a full current price list, visit the El Dorado East Regional Park website here.
You can also purchase an annual parking pass that grants you access to El Dorado East Regional Park, including the Nature Center. This pass is $60 and is good from the date of purchase through the month purchased the following year.
EXPERT TIP: Purchase your parking pass at the beginning of the month for maximum benefit! A pass purchased June 1 or a pass purchased June 29 will both expire June 30 of the following year!
When is the best time to visit the El Dorado Nature Center?
While we think there’s no bad time to visit the El Dorado Nature Center, we also personally enjoy it when it’s less crowded. Weekends tend to be more crowded than weekdays. While much of the trails is shaded by tree cover, it’s also more pleasant to go on a not too terribly hot day. So if you can, go early on a weekday to get the most out of your visit!
What is the recommended age range to enjoy El Dorado Nature Center?
The El Dorado Nature Center is perfect for nature lovers of any age. We have taken our babies in their carriers so that we can get some exercise in those early baby days. We have taken toddlers excited to see turtles in the lake and lizards along the path. We’ve taken preschoolers that get to hike like the big kids (without getting too worn out) and older school age children that hike a bit ahead as they work on their independence.
We’ve gone without the kids at all to get outside and enjoy nature and we’ve sent our kids with their grandparents who remember taking us when we were little. There really is something for everyone to enjoy at the El Dorado Nature Center.
Can you bring food into the El Dorado Nature Center?
Unfortunately, food is not allowed at the El Dorado Nature Center. To preserve the “wildness” of the wildlife that inhabit the Nature Center, there is a no food policy.
However, having small kids, we know that a “no food” policy often translates into “no go” for us. So we’d be lying if we said we didn’t bring a granola bar or two with us on our hikes. There are a few places where you can easily sit on a bench and have a quick snack. Just make sure you don’t feed the wildlife and always clean up after yourself to preserve this beautiful wildlife sanctuary.
Is there water available on the trail?
There are a few water fountains along the one and two mile trails, but they’re very…rustic. So we always make sure we bring our own water bottles. We are loving these Zulu water bottles – especially because they come in a great 3 pack so we always have one when we need it!
These hikes are a great opportunity for your kids to get practice for longer hikes as well, so consider grabbing your child their own pack and having them carry their own water bottles!
What’s the bathroom situation?
There are three bathrooms available when visiting the El Dorado Nature center. There is one bathroom located along towards the end of the two mile loop path. There is also a bathroom outside the Nature Center Museum.
However, when available, we recommend using the bathroom that is located inside the Nature Center Museum. There are separate men’s and women’s facilities and the women’s bathroom has a changing table.
NOTE: The Nature Center Museum is currently closed, but the other two bathrooms are available.
Can I take a bunch of kids?
Yes! The Nature Center Museum is small enough to keep track of several kids at once, and the trails are spread out enough to accommodate a large group of children. Whether we’re taking one or two of our own kids, or hiking with a whole Scout Den, the El Dorado Nature Center is perfect.
How long should you expect to stay?
How long you plan to stay at the El Dorado Nature Center will vary wildly depending on which trail you decide to walk and how little the legs are that are walking! Once you decide how long your actual hike will last, we recommend adding at least an hour for play and exploration.
What not to miss?
There are 3 trail options, and depending on the demographics of your party, you should absolutely do at least one of the trails! The first is a 1/4 mile loop. This loop is paved and accessible by wheelchair or any kind of stroller. This trail may also be good for much younger/newer walkers that aren’t able to walk on uneven terrain. Conversely, it’s also good for senior walkers that may have terrain challenges as well.
There are 2 unpaved trail options – a one mile loop and a two mile loop. The good news is you don’t have to commit to the two mile loop until you’re near the end of the one mile loop. This is very helpful with younger kids, especially if you’re unsure of their hiking stamina.
Nature Center Museum
While small, the Nature Center Museum is always a fun place for kids to spend some time. There are small terrariums with bugs, snakes and spiders for your kids to explore. Spend some time with hands on items like antlers and listen to the different sounds of the local wildlife with the Nature Center’s interactive exhibits.
Note: The Nature Center Museum is currently closed.
While perhaps not an official “attraction” of the El Dorado Nature Center, our visits are never complete without ample time being spent in the amphitheater area. Just upon entering the gates to the Nature Center, there is a large open area with giant rocks to climb and logs on which to balance. Kids love spending time jumping from one tree stump to the other.
Of course, no visit is complete without an impromptu performance on the amphitheater stage!
Child Led Exploration
One of the things that we love most about the Nature Center is following our kids’ lead. Sometimes that means a break during our hike to send a leaf down the stream and watch how far and fast it goes. Sometimes that means spending several minutes on a bridge observing the different kinds of turtles.
Since this is our kids’ favorite part of the El Dorado Nature Center – and ours too – we generally budget the most time for just exploring.
Should I bring a stroller?
Unless you plan on sticking to the 1/4 mile loop, we don’t recommend a stroller. Though, you can navigate the longer unpaved trails with a jogging stroller, we prefer to walk those paths or wear our baby in an Ergo 360 or other hiking pack.
Why we love it
The El Dorado Nature Center checks SO many boxes!
- Being outside
- Opportunities to work on gross motor skills
- Spending time exploring nature
- Learning about local wildlife
- CHEAP activity
- Something the whole family can enjoy
It is one of our most favorite places in Long Beach to go with kids and we hope it becomes one of yours as well!
Looking to make a day out of it? Check out these other nearby attractions:
- El Dorado Frontier
- El Dorado Regional Park East Playgrounds
- El Dorado Park Duck Pond