So... you want to live in Lake Forest?

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Lake Forest Sun and Sail Club


The small city of Lake Forest is bordered on the north by Irvine, and on the south by Mission Viejo. All three of these cities are ranked among the safest cities in the country.

 Lake Forest Eucalyptus Trees



True to its name, Lake Forest is home to both lakes and forests—a rarity in Southern California communities. The lakes and forests are both man-made; still, they afford a peaceful atmosphere that is lacking in the much more densely populated beach cities that are all only a 15-25 minute drive away.


Let’s start with the beaches. Lake Forest is centrally on a 75-mile stretch of beach cities from San Clemente to the South to Huntington Beach to the north, with Dana Point, San Juan Capistrano, Laguna Beach, Costa Mesa, and Newport Beach in between. Each beach city has its own special charm and unique attractions to choose from: boardwalks, piers, oceanside tot lots, beach volleyball, campgrounds, art festivals, water sports, and, of course, just sitting at the water’s edge watching the tide go out and the sun go down.


And then, from the beach, it’s a short drive back home to Lake Forest. The wide main streets that run from one end of town to the other have newly hardscaped medians, with cobblestone pavers bordering lush tropical plantings. Neighborhoods are dotted with parks and duck ponds, and the eucalyptus forests are laced with hiking trails that meander through the city and lead north toward the mountains and south toward parks and connecting trails in neighboring towns.


OK, sometimes you just have to BE there, right? So let’s take a little tour. We exit I-5 at El Toro, turn east, and we’re at one end of Lake Forest. If we take the first little street to the left, we would find a hidden treasure—a beautiful garden center, Green Thumb, with everything you need to freshen up your curb appeal. But we’ll go a little farther and look to the right, to check out the brand new, completely rebuilt outdoor shopping and dining center, The Arbor.

The Arbor on El Toro Road in Lake Forest CA


Nestled within its beautiful architecture and twining bougainvillea are lots of the places you’ll frequent for the necessities of daily life: a Ralph’s grocery store, Staples office supply store, Pier 1 and Home Goods- home décor shops, clothing stores, a PetSmart, specialty shops—and dozens of eateries, from outdoor food court dining to Grandma’s country kitchen barbeque at Lucille’s  and fine dining at Brü. For now, let’s pop in to the corner frozen yogurt shop, Yogurtland and serve ourselves to our favorite combinations of flavors with as many toppings as we can pile on.

Yogurtland Lake Forest



We’re back on El Toro, and so far, we’re only one traffic light off the highway. On the opposite side of the street we pass the Home Depot on the west side of town (good to know). We head toward the Saddleback mountains, in full view in front of us, and a couple of traffic lights up, we take a right and drive in a block to take a quick look at one of the town’s two libraries, and then swing back around to the main road. At the next intersection, we’ll hang a left and then jog right to continue toward the mountains on one of the more residential streets, Ridge Route. This is “The Forest” neighborhood. Most of the homes here belong to the Beach and Tennis Club Association, which is on one of the city lakes. Here we see the Clubhouse, with pools, tennis courts, and a sand beach for swimming.

Lake Forest Beach and Tennis Club


Just blocks ahead are La Madera Elementary School and El Toro High School. All of the schools in Lake Forest, by the way—the elementary schools, Serrano Middle School, and El Toro High School—were extensively refurbished just within the last 7-9 years, and their programs are ranked among the highest in the nation.

El Toro High School Lake Forest CA


Now we’re pretty much in the middle of town. We’ll take a few more turns to hop onto Jeronimo, drive past Serrano Middle School that is nestled amidst the eucalyptus trees and backed by a wide expanse of outdoor basketball courts and soccer fields. At the next intersection we have a good view of the second lake in town, and the Sun and Sail Club, off Lake Forest Drive. A couple of boaters are out today, in their Duffy boats that “live” alongside their homes’ private docks. It’s a great day for boating, but then it rarely isn’t a great day here.

Lake Forest Homes and Boats


By the way, a couple of things we missed back there before we turned off El Toro are a golf course, driving range, and Heroes Park with its two soccer fields and four baseball fields that were home to Lake Forest Little League until the recent opening of the new 86-acre Sports Park.


Now we’re in the heart of one of the main residential sections of town with neighborhoods laid out on each side of Lake Forest Drive, conveniently clustered around elementary schools and parks. Alongside Serrano Park is Serrano Creek Ranch, a horse stable where you can get your cowboy or cowgirl on along that network of trails that we mentioned above. Next to the stables is one of the more unique features of the town, Heritage Hill Historical Park.   In fact, let’s just pull in there, grab a snack at the locals’ favorite, Bagels and Brew, and take a little stroll through the Hill. There is no admission fee, and we could take a free tour if we wanted to, but we’ll leave that for another day.  We’ll just enjoy our treat, and the birdsong. Here at the Hill, clustered along the tree-shaded paths, are four restored and furnished historical 19th century buildings from the region: a church, a school, and two ranch houses. You will want to come back and take that tour sometime… maybe during the holidays when they have the Candlelight Victorian tour so you can capture the magic of Christmas past.

Heritage Hill Lake Forest


Back on Lake Forest Drive, continuing toward the mountains, there are more neighborhoods on either side of the road, including three brand new neighborhood developments. Just ahead is the Foothill Center, with Regal Cinemas, a huge outdoor food court, a grocery store, Walmart, Target, and more. And across from the Foothill Center is Etnies Skate Park, an award winning world class skate board facility. At over 62,000 square feet, this skate park is a destination spot for skateboarders around the world.

Etnies Skatepark Lake Forest



Across the street from the skate park is the cities second Home Depot, on the east side of town. Next door, let’s stop in at my favorite coffee and chocolate shop on the planet, CHOCXO. Let’s order a cappuccino or Americano, you can choose one of many single origin espressos, then decide which of their multiple flavors of artisan liquid chocolates to blend in. Everything is handmade with the very best ingredients. The flavors are extraordinary!

CHOCXO Lake Forest



I hope you’ve enjoyed our little tour of Lake Forest. What is your experience with our little town? Leave a comment below and tell us some of your favorite places in Lake Forest.


If you enjoyed this post, I’d be very grateful if you’d help it spread by emailing it to a friend or sharing it on Twitter or Facebook. Thank You!


Jackie Barikhan and Right Choice Mortgage are pleased to be a part of Lake Forest and the Orange County Community. Remember us for all of your home financing and real estate needs. Call or text us at 949 600-0944 when you have questions about home loans or interest rates. We’d love to help you get the best home loan when you are ready to buy a home in Lake Forest or Orange County.

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Comments (5)

Ronald DiLalla
Century 21 Discovery DRE 01813824 - Anaheim, CA
No. Orange Cty Real Estate

Good morning Jackie,,,,what an awesome community..Certainly has a lot going for it.  tks for sharing.

Jan 09, 2016 02:02 AM
Karen Fiddler, Broker/Owner
Karen Parsons-Fiddler, Broker 949-510-2395 - Mission Viejo, CA
Orange County & Lake Arrowhead, CA (949)510-2395

Hi Jackie! I live in Mission Viejo and work in Orange County. Great post about neighboring Lake Forest. 

Jan 09, 2016 02:15 AM
David Gibson CNE, 719-304-4684 ~ Colorado Springs Relocation
Colorado Real Estate Advisers LLC - Colorado Springs, CO
Relocation, Luxury & Lifestyle residential

When I’m in California I’m often in Lake Forest. It is such a special community in Orange County. Buyers should be calling you to check it out.

Jan 09, 2016 04:19 AM
Certified Mobile Notary Signing Agent - Smith Mountain Lake, VA
Highest Ranked Certified Mobile Notary in Virginia

From 2,500 miles away, I feel like I just drove through Lake Forest Jackie Barikhan .   That was quite a tour.   You sound more like a Realtor than a lender.

Jan 17, 2016 09:26 AM
Jackie Barikhan
Lake Forest, CA
Right Choice Mortgage -

Thanks Deanna... I've been reading about hyper local blogs and how it helps my SEO so I am giving it my best college try this year and will see how it goes 😀😀

Jan 17, 2016 03:22 PM