California : Safety by City
- Chino Hills
- Chula Vista
- Costa Mesa
- Daly City
- El Cajon
- El Monte
- Garden Grove
- Huntington Beach
- Lake Forest
- Long Beach
- Los Angeles
- Mission Viejo
- Moreno Valley
- Mountain View
- Newport Beach
- Palm Springs
- Rancho Cucamonga
- Redondo Beach
- Redwood City
- San Bernardino
- San Diego
- San Francisco
- San Jose
- San Leandro
- San Luis Obispo
- San Mateo
- Santa Ana
- Santa Barbara
- Santa Clara
- Santa Clarita
- Santa Cruz
- Santa Monica
- Santa Rosa
- Simi Valley
- South Gate
- Thousand Oaks
- Union City
- West Covina
Lake Forest, California, formerly known as El Toro, is a bedroom community in Orange County saddled right up next to mountains with easy access to two freeways.
You’ll smell the scent of eucalyptus in the air from the many trees planted in nearby parks.
This city is a great venue for the many performances and festivals held throughout the year at local parks.
It added to the comradery of this family-friendly community.
Lake Forest is home to some of the most historic buildings in the county and one of the largest churches in the country.
Saddleback Church is so big they call it a Megachurch.
Movie buffs might remember from the 1996 movie Independence Day that El Toro was the place Will Smith’s character was stationed.
At the time, it was a real Marine Corps Air Station, but it was closed in 1999.
It has since been turned into the Orange County Great Park, while other land was sold off to be developed.
*Note: If you are looking for Lake Forest, Illinois, or Forest Lake, California, this is the wrong place.
This is for Lake Forest in Orange County, California only.
Warnings & Dangers in Lake Forest
OVERALL RISK: LOW
There's a low overall risk here. The crime rates are exceptionally low. It regularly ranks as one of the best places or safest places to live. You will need to like the outdoors if you want to keep busy in Lake Forest.
TRANSPORT & TAXIS RISK: LOW
You can use the Orange County Transportation Authority bus line, or if you want to use MetroLink, there's a stop in nearby Irvine. Cabs and rideshares are available, but it's a great idea to have a car here. If you are driving and take highway 241, you need to know that it's a toll road. You can set up payment through your car rental company. All options are low-risk.
PICKPOCKETS RISK: LOW
There's just a one in 137 chance of being a theft victim and only 4 pickpockets or purse snatching were reported in 2020, so you have a low risk.
NATURAL DISASTERS RISK: MEDIUM
There's a medium risk here as earthquakes, wildfire, and flooding can happen in Lake Forest. The city has a comprehensive preparation plan on its website, including a 3-day survival kit recommendation.
MUGGING RISK: LOW
There's a low risk here. Just 26 robberies were reported in Lake Forest in 2020, one of the lowest robbery rates I've ever seen.
TERRORISM RISK: MEDIUM
Since it's in the Los Angeles Metro Area and there are so many tourist attractions around as well as a large population, we've got to call it a medium risk.
SCAMS RISK: LOW
There aren't any scams reported in Lake Forest that would impact tourists, so you've got a low risk. Don't let that put your guard down, new scams pop up all the time and you should get the Better Business Bureau for the Lake Forest area before you go.
WOMEN TRAVELERS RISK: LOW
There's no reason for a woman to feel unsafe here. There's a low risk of being a victim of a crime. Be sure to research surrounding cities if you plan on traveling outside of Lake Forest because not all communities in the area are this safe.
TAP WATER RISK: LOW
Not only does the El Toro Water District make sure all tap water meets or exceeds standards, but it also states, "In some cases, ETWD goes beyond what is required by testing for unregulated chemicals that may have known health risks but do not have drinking water standards."
Safest Places to Visit in Lake Forest
Start at Heritage Hill Historic Park, where you can wander through four acres of fully restored buildings from the 1860s.
This park is free.
Groups of 8 or more need reservations.
The Red Rock Canyon Trail is a popular place to visit in the mountains east of Lake Forest.
When searching for information on this, be sure you don’t end up with Red Rock Canyon in Las Vegas or Red Rocks in Colorado.
Just be sure to add the “Lake Forest” to the search engine.
Even at first glance, it’s hard to tell the difference between Red Rock Canyon in Nevada vs. California.
Saddleback Church is a Baptist Megachurch with nearly 25,000 (not a type) people in attendance each week.
You can attend a service or visit their website to get more information.
If you head up the 5 (Interstate 5, that’s just how Californians talk about roadways!), about 5 miles, you’ll be at Irvine Spectrum Center, a massive shopping, dining, and business district with just about anything you could want.
There is some shopping in Lake Forest near El Toro Road and Rockfield Boulevard.
The nearest beaches are in Laguna Beach and Newport Beach.
Both are less than 30 minutes away.
Places to Avoid in Lake Forest
As with most cities, the higher crime rates are near the freeway, particularly the 5 in Lake Forest.
Still, it’s a city with a low crime rate, so a high crime area isn’t really all that high.
You want to avoid going to any of the lakes in Lake Forest unless you know someone who lives on the shores.
The lakes in the city are manmade and private.
If you don’t want to pay a toll to drive on the freeways, avoid highway 241.
I-5 is toll-free the entire span, while 241 does have a toll.
You can arrange for tolls to be charged on your credit card when you get the car rental.
Safety Tips for Traveling to Lake Forest
- Lake Forest has a crime prevention campaign called “Don’t Make It Easy” and you can review videos that show the easiest ways to lure in criminals. It covers basic things like locking car doors and rolling up windows, and not putting your purse in the child carrier seat of a cart.
- Sign up for OCAlerts while you’re visiting. This will send all emergency notifications, whether it’s a crime, weather emergency, or civil emergency, right on your mobile device.
- Lake Forest Police have a crime mapping aspect to their website where you can search neighborhoods for recent crimes. Right now, the latest official data I can provide is from 2020, so trends and percentages can change. This website will show the most recent incidents near your hotel or rental home, making you feel safer with where you stay.
- Stolen cars were up 200% in Lake Forest according to 2020 FBI crime statistics. If you’re renting a car, ask for safety devices like a steering wheel lock, locks on the wheels, or any other services provided. Double-check your insurance to see if you’re protected against vehicle theft.
- If you see a non-emergency crime happening, call the dispatch number at (949) 770-6011. Give as much information as you safely can and take pictures or videos of the incident.
- To report graffiti, which is an ongoing problem in all Southern California communities, call the Graffiti Hotline at (949) 461-3583. Police try to get it cleaned up within 24 hours if it is in a public place. Don’t ever interrupt anyone painting graffiti, as they could be gang members.
- If you’re going to visit any one of the city parks in Lake Forest, there aren’t power connections there and you won’t be able to charge a mobile device. Keep it charged in your vehicle or at your rental home. Wireless chargers are also available at most electronics stores.
- It’s good to keep it charged because every now and then the utility company will shut off the power in advance of a storm or wind warning. This is to keep power lines and transformers from sparking wildfires. The Public Safety Power Shutoffs are common, and locals are used to them, but it can catch a tourist off guard.
- Lake Forest is right next to Cleveland National Forest, a massive wilderness area susceptible to wildfires. If a fire starts during your trip, move out of the area. Winds can quickly shift directions and cause destruction and deaths. Especially if you are unfamiliar with wildfires, I can tell you from firsthand experience, they are the most unpredictable natural event you’ll ever see.
- If you are walking around Lake Forest, always use a crosswalk to get to the other side of the road. Make eye contact with the drivers at the intersection to make sure they see you before you cross.
So... How Safe Is Lake Forest Really?
This city is among the safest you’ll find in the Los Angeles Metropolitan area.
The violent crime rate is 1/4 of the national average.
Robberies are about 1/3 of the national average and thefts are half the national average.
The city hasn’t had more than three homicides in a year dating back to 2010.
In 2012 and 2014 – 2017, there were no homicides reported.
There is still a crime in Lake Forest.
You’re going to see homeless people and possibly some gang markings like graffiti.
You’re going to get flipped the bird in traffic most likely because California drivers are ruthless.
You’ll still need to practice good safety precautions.
Keep a wallet in your front pocket instead of the back pocket.
Secure your purse between your body and your arm and don’t bring valuables with you if you don’t need them.
How Does Lake Forest Compare?
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The Visa requirements are handled at the airport and there's no additional processing to get into Lake Forest.
Only the U.S. Dollar is accepted here and there's little need to carry cash around. Even the toll roads take credit cards without you even having to stop at a toll booth. Keep purchases on one credit card and don't bring cards that you don't need.
Layers are key throughout the year in Lake Forest. The winters have highs in the upper 60s and lows in the 40s. Fall and Spring bring 70s for highs and 50s for lows. In the hottest part of the summer, you'll have lower-80s for highs and 60s for lows. Usually, during the summer, there might be a few days during a heatwave when the temperatures get close to the triple digits.
John Wayne Airport is the closest, just 20 miles west. One thing to note about this airport is it's ranked as one of the scariest take-offs. Due to noise ordinances, planes have a short runway and have to get above a certain height within minutes. It can feel like you're on a rocket taking off. You can get to the Long Beach International Airport in less than 45 minutes. LAX is less than an hour north. The San Diego airport is less than 90 minutes south.
Plan on getting travel insurance for a trip to Lake Forest since there are so many weather woes that can happen, from wildfires to earthquakes to flooding.
Lake Forest Weather Averages (Temperatures)
Average High/Low Temperature
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