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El Toro Park in Lake Forest: Tidepools Without the Tide

El Toro Park in Lake Forest: Tidepools Without the Tide

El Toro Park or El Toro Community Park got press from the Orange County Register a day after its grand opening in September 2010, where reporter Erika Ritchie gave a great run-down of Lake Forest plans.  I have only visited this park twice, to get a better feel for what it’s like on a daily basis – read the comments section.

Location: The playground is located very near the Laguna Hills Mall. Take the El Toro Road exit off Interstate 405. Turn towards the mountains and away from the mall (if you are coming from the north, it’s a little tricky because you have to do a little jog on Via Carlota to get to the actual El Toro Road).  Get ready to make a quick right onto Rockfield. Take Rockfield almost to Los Alisos and make a left onto Larkwood Lane. The street dead ends after you pass the park. MAP TO EL TORO PARK IN LAKE FOREST


  • The water play is definitely a highlight. Your kids might get splashed and maybe “muddy” with sand.  The water feature is a knee-high channel running over what looks like a tidepool. Press a button on the nearby post and water comes trickling down and ends in a puddle in the sand. FUN!
  • The park is compact. It was easy for watching multiple children. You could stand in one place and see everything.
  • There’s a low fence outside the play equipment that discourages the kids from running towards the sidewalk or cars.
  • They have those “shower head” rotating wheels that near a little playhouse.
  • Nautical feel carries through the playground with climbers and themed fence surrounding the street side.
  • The odd-shaped climbers were fun, but some were too far away from the platform for my daughter to reach without assistance.
  • Shade from trees and benches to watch the kids.
  • Tennis courts separate the play area from the adult exercise equipment.
  • 6 swings! 2 baby, 2 bench, and 2 special needs.
  • Green space for nature play.

Be Aware:

  • The Register article points out that the park sits “in the city’s oldest neighborhood” and that there was no playground equipment before the renovations. So . . . this is a park in transition. I’d imagine neighbors are not yet used to the playground traffic and parking impacts.
  • Special note: We would not recommend visiting this park alone. Bring a friend and be aware of your surroundings.
  • Restroom right near the swings – although please read the comments section below before using them.
  • There is a nearby bridge and creek.
  • Exercise equipment is designed for adults and not recommended for children.
  • Lots of toddlers were playing at the park while we were there, but there are some definite high spots on the equipment.


  • Recycled rubber play surface with separate sandbox
  • Parking on the street
  • Restrooms very near the playground
  • 2 baby swings, 2 bench swings, 2 special needs swings
  • Water play area designed like a tidepool
  • Shade covers and shade from trees
  • A picnic gazebo sits beyond the park, but not within sight of the playground. Every time we visit during the week, the shelter is already taken. I’d suggest bringing a blanket and spreading it out near the playground.
  • There is a drinking fountain, but it was clogged when we visited.

Get Outdoors! OC - Giveaway
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