With two man-made lakes, it’s easy to see how one of South Orange County’s best-kept secrets got its name. The city of Lake Forest was incorporated in 1991 and was formerly known as El Toro. The nearby split of the 5 and 405 Freeways is commonly referred to as “the El Toro Y.” The community’s two lakes are Hidden Lakes and Lake Forest Keys, which include lakefront homes and ample recreational opportunities and amenities. Both lakes have swimming pools, sports facilities (basketball, tennis, volleyball, softball, soccer) and indoor and outdoor social and recreational spaces, including parks, barbecues, and clubhouses.
Lake Forest’s forest is real: in the early 20th Century, Dwight Whiting planted 400 acres of Eucalyptus trees hoping to attract home builders and sell lumber. Lake Forest is bisected by El Toro Road., one of the main east-west routes in South Orange County. Like El Toro Road, Lake Forest extends from commercial districts near I-5 to the foothills of Saddleback Mountain. A number of planned communities, including Foothill Ranch and Portola Hills, are located in Lake Forest. Pastor Rick Warren’s Saddleback mega- Church is located in Lake Forest’s Foothill Ranch neighborhood.
Many of Lake Forest’s neighborhoods offer many options for families, including single-story and multi-story homes in a variety of architectural styles. Lake Forest includes a number of townhome and condominium communities. The city also includes a number of planned developments with executive, estate, and view homes. Quality of life, schools, and recreational opportunities in Lake Forest are excellent. Like all South Orange County communities, executive and estate homes start at approximately $1.3 million for three to four bedrooms and 2,500 square feet, including pools, spas, and quality design, landscaping, and workmanship. New home construction is underway in Portola Hills and Foothill Ranch. Homes on one of the two lakes are constructed similarly to Newport Bay residences, maximizing interior living space. The majority of lake homes have boat launches and the lakes are available for recreational use to homeowners. Membership in the Lakes and associations is home-based: if a home’s deed is part of one of the two lake membership associations, it will remain a lake member. Membership fees in the lake clubs vary starting at approximately $60 a month. Homeowner’s Association fees range from $100 to $350 a month for most other tracts, including the Oaks, Rimgate, and golf course adjacent homes.
Lake Forest is a down to earth community with many hidden gems and high-quality condominium, single-family home, and estate and executive home neighborhoods. Starting with the trees planted over 100 years ago by Dwight Whiting and extending to Whiting Ranch Wilderness Park in Trabuco Canyon, Lake Forest combines nature with shopping, community services, and many dining opportunities for truly relaxed, enjoyable Southern California living.