Local Parks
Parks, community centers, and recreational opportunities are essential public services that help maintain a high quality of life in the community. Rancho Santa Margarita was developed as a group of planned communities emphasizing the central role of these facilities in civic life.

The Rancho Santa Margarita park and recreation system consists of neighborhood parks, community parks, O’Neill Regional Park, joint use parks, community services and facilities, an extensive open space system, and a Community Center. All parks in the City (with the exception of O’Neill Regional Park and County trails) are privately owned, operated, and maintained by homeowner associations, although public access to most parks is available. Rancho Santa Margarita is also located immediately adjacent to the Cleveland National Forest.

Parks and recreation services in Rancho Santa Margarita can be characterized as primarily neighborhood-serving with facilities well distributed throughout the City. Most of the neighborhoods in the City are within walking distance from an existing park. Rancho Santa Margarita currently has 22 private developed parks which range in size from 0.5 acres at Dove Canyon Trail Rest Area to the 21.4 acre Central Park in the Trabuco Highlands Planned Community. Several of the smaller parks function only as passive parks. Active recreational parkland is provided in the City at 17 of the 22 parks. Of the nearly 152 acres of parkland located in the City, approximately 85 acres (56%) are devoted to active recreational use. Approximately 68 acres (44%) are devoted to passive uses.

O'Neill Regional Park

O’Neill Regional Park (approximately 3,358 acres) serves both as an overnight camping facility and offers day/picnic use. The picnic area provides for single and group uses and contains picnic tables, barbecues, a large turf area, horseshoe pits, and playground equipment. About 3.5 acres are available for RV camping. The park facilities offer recreational opportunities including an equestrian campground, an arena, and 18 miles of riding trails.

Lago Santa Margarita Club

The Lago Santa Margarita Beach Club is owned and operated by the Rancho Santa Margarita Landscape and Recreation Corporation (SAMLARC). It consists of a 12.6 acre manmade lake surrounded by 16.8 acres of parks, trails, and a lakeside beach. A grill and picnic area, boating, swim lagoon, 2 volleyball courts, and Fiesta Room are provided at the facility for local SAMLARC residents.

Rancho Santa Margarita Community Center
The Rancho Santa Margarita Community Center is the social, cultural, civic, and wellness center of the southeast regional community. The facility is located in the heart of the town center, near Central Park and City Hall. It provides cultural and recreational programming for all age groups and all interest groups in order to meet the needs of the entire community.

Dog Park & Skate Park
The City of Rancho Santa Margarita Dog Park and Skate Park is located at Canada Vista Park at 24328 Antonio Parkway. It is located approximately 1 mile from Oso Parkway and is open to the public free of charge 7 days a week from dawn to dusk. The park is unsupervised and there is no age limit.

Lago Santa Margarita

Lago Santa Margarita is located a long stone's throw west of the intersection of Santa Margarita and Antonio Parkways, in the shadow of Mount Modjeska and Mount Santiago, Saddleback's twin peaks. This lake covers 11.5 surface acres and holds 31 million gallons of water. It is only 1 foot deep at the edge so that anyone who accidentally falls in will be able to stand up and wade out easily.

Throughout the year, Lago Santa Margarita is the site of special events, including a Star-Spangled Spectacular in celebration of the Fourth of July and a Fishing Derby held regularly the 3rd Saturday morning in May.

In addition, the lake is ideal for a variety of year-round recreational activities. The walk around Lago Santa Margarita, a distance of 1.1 miles, is a favorite with local residents. Although California law prohibits swimming in manmade recreational lakes where the water is not recirculated, Lago Santa Margarita welcomes boaters and anglers. Each spring, the lake is stocked with bass, bluegill, and catfish, to the delight of anglers, and with mosquito fish, to the dismay of mosquitoes. These small North American cousins of the tropical guppy satisfy their voracious appetites by dining on mosquito larvae, which keeps the mosquito population at bay.