Irvine's Turtle Rock

Turtle Rock is a neighborhood in the south part of Irvine, near the University of California, Irvine. It is bounded to the north by University Drive and Mason Regional Park, to the east by the Strawberry Farms Golf Club and Ridgeline Drive, to the south by Shady Canyon Drive, and to the west by Culver Drive. Turtle Rock is one of the five “villages” originally forming Irvine; its 1967 founding is commemorated by a sculpture of a turtle in Turtle Rock Community Park, at the corner of Turtle Rock and Sunnyhill Drives. The villages of Turtle Rock, University Park, Culverdale, the Ranch and Walnut were completed by 1970.

Turtle Rock Map

Geographically, Turtle Rock lies in the San Joaquin Hills. It’s unclear where the name “Turtle Rock” comes from; although the highest peak in the neighborhood is also sometimes called Turtle Rock, it has no official name. A lower peak to the north within the neighborhood is called French Hill.

Turtle Rock Panorama 1

Click on the image above for a much larger version.

Click on this link to download a high resolution version: Turtle Rock Panorama 1 – Large

Above is a panorama shot from the “Turtle Rock” peak. The panorama extends from the southwest looking toward Corona Del Mar to the east toward Portola Springs. Unfortunately there is no easy way to get to the top of the hill. Unlike “Top of the World” in Laguna Beach, you cannot drive to this spot. Your blogger had some hiking to do…

Turtle Rock Mound

Actually, this is part of the fun of doing these community profiles. If I lived in Turtle Rock, I would climb this hill. As you can see from the panorama, the view is sublime. This would be a great location for meditation or simply taking a few moments to contemplate life. Since you can’t drive there, when you arrive at the top of the hill, your heart rate is elevated, and the endorphins make you feel euphoric. That feeling is part of the experience of the view. It is a special joy reserved for residents.

Turtle Rock view of Shady Canyon

The view from the South is just as spectacular as the view from the North, but it is a bit more difficult to photograph. The above picture shows Turtle Rock in the foreground, and Shady Canyon beyond.

Turtle Rock view to east

Looking east you have Saddleback Peak from the top of Turtle Rock.

Turtle Rock Sign 2

There are three major entry points into Turtle Rock: Ridgeline Drive from the 405 south, Campus Drive and Culver from the 405 north, and Shady Canyon Drive from the 73. The entry above is adjacent to the Shady Canyon entrance at the southern edge of Turtle Rock. It displays the characteristic look of the signage and landscaping which typifies Turtle Rock.

Turtle Rock Entry 1

As you come up Ridgeline Drive to enter Turtle Rock from the east, you pass between the Strawberry Farms golf course and a preserved hillside of Turtle Ridge. The first neighborhood you come to is Turtle Rock Pointe; an exclusive, gated community overlooking the golf course.

Turtle Rock Park 1

The main loop road uniting Turtle Rock is Turtle Rock Drive. Near the intersection of this road with Ridgeline is Canyon Park. Like the other parks in Turtle Rock, it has a pool and a tot lot. In the photo above a college student is playing with her dog.

Turtle Rock Entry 3

Adjacent to the park is the Turtle Rock Summit Towne Collection.

Turtle Rock Entry 2

A little farther down Turtle Rock Drive is the guard-gated enclave of Turtle Rock Summit.

Turtle Rock Street 1

Turtle Rock Drive is an attractive street with several areas bordering on the preserved hillsides.

Turtle Rock Park 4

The park serving the west side of Turtle Rock Drive has one of the sculptural turtles symbolizing the community.

Turtle Rock Park 8

Serving the southwest portion of Turtle Rock Drive is Chaparral Park. BTW, there are no kids in these parks because the pictures were taken during school hours.

Turtle Rock Entry 4

The top of the community is neighborhood known as Turtle Rock Crest.

Turtle Rock Crest Home 1

Turtle Rock has a higher percentage of large, single-family detached homes than do the other neighborhoods in Irvine. This is one of the reasons it is considered one of Irvine’s premier places to live.

Turtle Rock Park 2

A park in Turtle Rock Crest.

Turtle Rock Crest Home 2

Another typical Turtle Rock Crest Home.

Turtle Rock Crest Home 3

And another…

Turtle Rock Park 2

Turtle Rock Community Park is a large park at the south end of Turtle Rock. Though open to the public, its location at the south end of Turtle Rock makes it reasonably accessible only to residents of Turtle Rock, Turtle Ridge and Shady Canyon.

Turtle Rock Park 3

French Hill and the surrounding housing viewed across Turtle Rock Community Park.

Turtle Rock Walk 1

One of the great features of Turtle Rock is the walking trail system. You can easily walk from the south end of Turtle Rock Community Park (above picture along the stream) to University High School on the North end of the Community going around the hills in either direction.

Turtle Rock Walk 2

Walking up the hill going north.

Turtle Rock Walk 3

If you walk these trails a lot, you will be in excellent physical condition. Turtle Rock is hilly.

Turtle Rock Walk 4

Turtle Rock Walk 5

In a few locations, long tunnels are built under the road so pedestrians do not have to cross the street. In other communities, this would be a safety problem, but this is Irvine…

Turtle Rock Walk 6

The trails are well maintained, beautiful and shady.

Turtle Rock Walk 7

Several parks occur along the trail system path.

Turtle Rock Walk 8

Turtle Rock Walk 8

You might even see wildlife on your walk…

Turtle Rock Walk 9

It is an impressive trail system.

Turtle Rock Walk 10

With locations for every mood.

Turtle Rock Walk 10

The trail system links the homes to the schools.

Schools within Turtle Rock include Turtle Rock Elementary School, Bonita Canyon Elementary School, University High School, and Concordia University.

Turtle Rock Elementary

Turtle Rock Elementary 2

Turtle Rock Elementary 3

Unfortunately, there really is not any commercial center or suburban plaza associated with Turtle Ridge. The center of community life is its neighborhood parks…

Turtle Rock Park 5

The neighborhood park in the Highlands is typical of those in Turtle Ridge.

Turtle Rock Entry 5

Turtle Rock is designed as a series of neighborhoods with their own identity accessed from Turtle Rock Drive.

Turtle Rock Home 1

Even the lower elevation neighborhoods have larger homes.

Turtle Rock Home 2

All of the homes are very well maintained.

Turtle Rock Home 3

There is a mixture of single-story and two-story homes. Note the backyard with natural open space populated with boulders.

Turtle Rock Home 4

I couldn’t resist photographing this one. There was enough HELOC money to purchase two new luxury cars and fill the garage with junk so the cars are parked outside on display, but there was not enough left over to put grass or landscaping the in the front yard. OK, this is Turtle Rock; perhaps these people actually make that much money…Turtle Rock Park 6

The Highlands shows the typical land planning pattern with a park at the entry.

Turtle Rock Entry 6

The Sierra Ridge neighborhood is on the west side of Turtle Rock.

Turtle Rock Park 7

It has a beautiful entry park with a tot lot, pool, basketball, and an open green space for flag football, picnics, etc.

Turtle Rock Home 5

This homeowner went all-out on his front yard landscaping.

Turtle Rock Entry 7

Another western Turtle Rock neighbhorhood. Note the homes from Turtle Ridge in the background.

Turtle Ridge Entry

Turtle Ridge is the new nighbhorhood between Turtle Rock and highway 73 begun in 1999.

Turtle Rock Park 9

Another neighborhood park with our friendly turtle.

Turtle Rock Street 3

Beautiful local streets.

Turtle Rock Park 10

Neighborhood pool with gas grill and picnic area.

Turtle Rock Park 10

Another typical neighborhood park.

Turtle Rock Home 6

The smaller homes also show great pride in ownership.

Turtle Rock Park 10

Too many parks, too little time…

Turtle Rock Park 10

Nature preserves and hiking trails are central to the community.

Turtle Rock Panorama 1

I hope these pictures have given you a sense of the quality of life in Turtle Rock. The community has a lot to offer: large homes, numerous parks, walking trails, nature preserves and hiking, etc. As you can see from the view, you are in the heart of Orange County, but the feeling of Turtle Ridge is more of a suburban fringe transitioning to rural. It does not feel as dense — or as claustrophobic — as some of the newer communities.

Irvine’s Turtle Rock: a great place to live.

18 thoughts on “Irvine's Turtle Rock

  1. Thomas

    As always – a GREAT post. Turtle Rock is my favorite area of Irvine. It gets away from the “Land of Stucco.”

  2. steve

    nice place but as with most of Irvine, how many good families really make the $250,000 per year (minimum) that it takes to afford these $1 million+ homes (not including the messed up ones who trash their children’s upbringing by allowing them to be raised at a daycare center or hire an illegal nanny while the corporate wife ‘nonMom’ works 12 hours a day)?

  3. EvaLSeraphim

    Here’s the info on the Turtle Rock (there is one!) from the OC Register:

    Q:I’ve been driving around Turtle Rock looking for the rocks that resemble a turtle. I can’t find them. I remember seeing them many years ago and I wonder if housing developments have obstructed the view. – Tina Williams

    A: The Turtle Rock has indeed been surrounded by homes, though one might get a glimpse of it while walking the Turtle Rock Riparian Corridor heading toward Mason Park from Turtle Rock Drive. The rock was identified by Gabrielino Indians who lived in the area as looking like a turtle and used for ceremonial purposes. You can get a close-up view at the corner of Rockview and Valley View, where Rockview turns into Rustling Wind. It is the centerpiece of a small neighborhood park there. To find it, turn left on Turtle Rock Drive from Campus Drive. Then take the first left on Hillgate, before getting to Concordia West. At the end of Hillgate, go right on Rockview and follow it around. The rock will be on your right. You can’t miss it.

  4. EvaLSeraphim

    “not including the messed up ones who trash their children’s upbringing by allowing them to be raised at a daycare center or hire an illegal nanny while the corporate wife ‘nonMom’ works 12 hours a day”

    Whoa there, Steve. (1) Why is it Mom who has to stay home, and (2) no comment about “the corporate [husband] ‘non[Dad]’ [who] works 12 hours a day?” Frankly, I see men as more than an ATM, but if that’s the role you want or see for yourself, have at it, it’s your life. The rest of us would like the same respect for our choices. And in some cases, a working Mom is not a choice, but a necessity.

    As to your first question, **waving hello,** and I only work 40 hours a week.

  5. Shauna

    “Frankly, I see men as more than an ATM, but if that’s the role you want or see for yourself, have at it, it’s your life. The rest of us would like the same respect for our choices.”

    Feeling a little guilty are we?

  6. EvaLSeraphim

    Actually, no. I was hoping that by demonstrating tolerant behavior, we might see more of it. Apparently, it didn’t work. Aside from wishing I had saved more money in my younger days, I’m pretty pleased with my choices.

  7. irvinesinglemom

    Let’s lay off the mom-bashing misogyny on this housing blog already, okay? Now, I have nothing against bashing FB’s who bought 800k houses on 80k incomes, but please don’t bash someone like me simply because I love my kid and I don’t feel any guilt about really enjoying my career.

    Great job again, IR!

  8. Larry

    Your community profiles are great! You should put permanlinks to them on your blog’s home page. And then you should become a relocation specialist. 😉 I’m guessing you’ve done more to understand and identify the pluses and minuses of Irvine neighbhorhoods than most of the realtors in the area.

  9. Norcalboomer

    There is a ton of green in that beautiful place out there in Southern California. Where is all the water coming from to support that lifestyle out in the middle of a naturally arid landscape? Is it sustainable?

  10. bkshopr

    Good Job IR. I am impressed by your knowledge of the entire Irvine. Turtle Rock was truly a by gone era of Irvine where land value and density were not paramount on the developer’s agenda. It was the vision of planner Ray Watson. The bridge that connect from UCI and University was recently renamed Ray Watson Bridge in his honor. He is still alive. Turtle Rock was under the guidance of the Irvine Family before the current Bren’s Irvine Company.

    Site planning was about good design that created neat and tree shaded places for people. It was not about many homes that could be cramped into an acre.

    Many of the wood traditional homes were built by craftsmans in Turtle Rock. This labor pool has long been extinct. The current craftsmans are laborers without much trainings and challenged with limited construction skills. Current neighborhoods are all stucco houses. The wood houses in Columbus, Tustin Field and Ladera are fake wood. The “wood sidings” are compressed cement fiber boards ( hundreds of thin layers of thin card boards glued together) The sidings in Turtle Rock are real.

    Due to sloppy craftsmanship and endless patchings are required stucco is the most forgiving material to use because it hides mistakes. Most wood supplies are inferior and to skin the exterior of a house will takes quite a bit of sorting for the good wood. I was at Home Depot shopping for lumber and 9 out of 10 boards are twisted, warp and full of knots.

    Turtle Rock is truely a special place that defined the surburbia lifestyle of early Irvine. The architecture was about good scale and texture and not so much of style. landscape was designed to be picturesque and meander into the community and not straight lined trees that are monumental and pretentious like a resort hotel.

  11. dude

    great post! turtle rock looks like a great place!
    maybe you could do a tour of the worst offenders regarding claustrophobic design and density, to compare?

  12. carl


    Kudos on a wonderful post… I am a former Turtle Rock homeowner, and your post almost brought a tear to my eye. It was a wonderful place to live, but alas, I was transferred to the east coast. Someday my wife and I want to return to OC and we will either go back to Turtle Rock or live in downtown HB.

    The “Turtle Rock Hill” you took the pictures of is actually called Chaparral Peak. At least that’s what the Irvine Co. called it in their orignal promotional materials in the early 70s. My wife and I used to have the best times there. We would leave from our house with our dogs, have a picnic at the top, and then walk down. It was great, and who says you need a car to have a good time in Orange County? The neighborhood vibe was the best I have seen in my time living in SoCal. It was like living at the United Nations, but everyone got along and spoke good english. I miss it very much.

    Incidently, do you think the value of housing will decline in Turtle Rock? When I sold my house to move back east last year is was REALLY slow and I had to drop my price a lot. The only downside to Turtle Rock in my opinion is the access to the 405. It takes over 10 minutes to get to a freeway because of all the red lights on Culver Dr.

  13. carl


    Thank you for the additional historical information about Turtle Rock. I am a former homeowner of a house in Turtle Rock’s Broadmoor neighborhood, which was original (my home was built in 1971). I must disagree with you that the homes were built by “craftsmen”. The quality of the early housing stock in Turtle Rock is terrible. I suspect they were mid to low-end homes when they were built. I had all kinds of problems due to the quality of the build. It is true that the wood is real, but the construction of the homes in the broadmoor is poor. It may be different in the higher end neighboorhoods up the hill, but those homes were built later (and they were mostly custom built).


  14. Bkshopr

    Carl, I love the East Coast as well. There is no substitution for the variety of trees and colors for the changing seasons. You are at a place where nature irrigates the vegetations and life really represent a much simpler time. I bet you really enjoy no mello roos and homeowner dues.

    IMO Turtle Rock’s topography is what saved the community from the flat land density solution. Architects could not put a grid pattern streets onto a hilly terrain. (San Francisco solution). Because of the grades and fast and rapid downflow of water. Many neighborhood parks were created as retention basin to absorb the water thus avoiding water running downhill to flood Culver. These parks were designed to be safety cusion as a result the Turtle Rock benefits from these enclave of surprises as one discover them from driving through the neighborhood.

    I am sad to hear that your home from 35 years ago was poorly built. I can’t imagine what craftsmanship would be like if a same house were to be built by todays unskilled labors.

    Culver is much worse than before. Several thousand units of UCI campus housing take access from Culver. The entire community of Turtle Ridge burden this street as well.

  15. looker

    Great photos. However, as usual, no one around.
    Are all working to pay the mortgage, or at the mall to max the credit cards?
    Why pay so much for a nice envirnoment and not enjoy it?

  16. tonye

    I too live in the Broadmoor. Have lived there for 20 years now.

    Having rebuilt my home from scratch, I must disagree that the homes were cheaply built. As we tore into the old structure, we found some rather expensive and well built walls and ceilings. Also, many of the Broadmoor homes allowed the buyers to opt for many options: roof lines, additional windows, intercoms, etc, etc.

    In fact, I had to research the Broadmoor builder to get the plans so we could build new plans. The county lost the original plans in a flood before Irvine became incorporated.

    Anyhow, I found out that the Broadmoor builder was actually a mid to upper level home builder. A lot better than the stuff you see today even in Turtle Ridge.

    TR is indeed a nice place. The area meanders around the hill and the view from the top is most excellent. The fact that you have to climb up discourages many people so that you are pretty much by yourself on that top bench. 😉

    The neighboorhood is also very nice.

    However, you showed my neighbor’s house.. Yuck! How in the world did he get away with that New Orleans front iron gate is beyond me. And even though you called it a small house, it’s actually 2100 feet. The home in the tract are laid out deep into the lot, so what looks like a tiny home is actually much, much larger. With large internal atriums too ( mine’s about 22 by 12 feet).

    Something else interesting about the Broadmoor: It’s the only place in TR where you can get a single floor, single family home and put a second story. That’s plays a big factor because you can easily take an 1800 sq foot home up to 2800. And that’s very nice.

    Of course, because of prop 13 I’m pretty much locked in, but I’m not too worried.

    Nice place to live, nice pictures and a lot cheaper that Turtle Ridge.

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