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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.  

NOTE: This park post hasn’t been updated since 2010. It has not been very highly recommended by caregivers.

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 past comments don’t have nice things to say about the restrooms.
  • 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.
  • Official City of Lake Forest El Toro Park park information
  • Official City of Lake Forest info about park picnic shelter reservations


Wednesday 11th of November 2015

I moved here two years ago and have visited the park frequently. It is one of the prettiest around and I like it. I have gone in mornings and afternoons and never seen anything shady (other than the trees lol). This park has a sand volleyball court on one end nice cement walking trails through the lovely trees, a playground with slides, climbing/the usual with an ocean theme in the coloring. The park also has bathrooms, a tennis court, a gazebo, benches and an outdoor exercise equipment area. The excercising area was very cool as I hadn't seen a park with this feature before. Sad to say that the Water button for the tide pool has been removed so no trickle, just a regular sandbox :(. Also, I went into the bathroom ( at least the women's side)today, and it was fine- a toilet ,a trashcan, a soap dispenser, a sink, an air dryer, everything was working. As for the people who use the park... I feel fine going here, same as any other park in my opinion. ALL the times I've been there have been at least a few other people there, a retired couple using the excercising equipment, always two or three moms from the neighborhood with their kids, people picnicking at the gazebo, people jogging. I've never seen any homeless people, sorry. It's near an elementary school AND a middle school around 2/3pm a lot of the elementary school kids and some of the middle school kids stop by on their way home. The playground is very crowded with playing kids at about that time!


Monday 27th of July 2015

I was not comfortable with the element of our society in this park. I will not return.


Friday 28th of March 2014

Well aside from the gang members hanging out, using drugs, the middle school kids fighting in the creek, the gang graffiti, o and the homeless `people sleeping in the creek, its a relativley safe park if that doesnt bother you

Michele Whiteaker

Monday 31st of March 2014

Thanks for sharing, John. Your experiences will obviously help families make an informed decision about whether this is a safe option for play.


Friday 1st of February 2013

This park is near my home, and we have visited a lot in the past. A couple of additions/corrections to your review (changed since you visited): --When driving there, coming from El Toro down Rockfield is very difficult because they have added a center divider, and you can't flip a U and come back up Rockfield. Instead, take Avenida de Carlota down to Los Alisos, turn left, then turn left on Rockfield and right on Larkwood. --I was excited about the bathrooms when this park first opened, but they are NEVER clean. Don't plan on using the bathrooms. They're disgusting.

As far as safety, I can't say I've ever been worried. This park is used by a wide range of people, including special needs groups, kids camps, and those from the nearby school. I have young kids and always go in the morning, and have never felt unsafe. But, I wouldn't want to go when school lets out, because this park is overrun with older kids.

Also, it's not as shady after about noon, and gets too hot to sit on the benches.


Thursday 3rd of November 2011

I have been to this park not far from my home. At first I thought what a nice little park until I started going there to use the workout equipment. I have seen drug deals,use of drugs and the bathrooms are DISGUSTING!!!!! The playground in nice,but the people in and around this park leave LOTS to be desired!! My daughter goes to the school near there and I thought that it would have been a good place to meet after school until we were seeing all of that activity.

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