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.
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.
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…
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.
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.
Looking east you have Saddleback Peak from the top of Turtle Rock.
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.
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.
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.
Adjacent to the park is the Turtle Rock Summit Towne Collection.
A little farther down Turtle Rock Drive is the guard-gated enclave of Turtle Rock Summit.
Turtle Rock Drive is an attractive street with several areas bordering on the preserved hillsides.
The park serving the west side of Turtle Rock Drive has one of the sculptural turtles symbolizing the community.
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.
The top of the community is neighborhood known as Turtle Rock Crest.
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.
A park in Turtle Rock Crest.
Another typical Turtle Rock Crest Home.
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.
French Hill and the surrounding housing viewed across Turtle Rock Community Park.
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.
Walking up the hill going north.
If you walk these trails a lot, you will be in excellent physical condition. Turtle Rock is hilly.
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…
The trails are well maintained, beautiful and shady.
Several parks occur along the trail system path.
You might even see wildlife on your walk…
It is an impressive trail system.
With locations for every mood.
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.
Unfortunately, there really is not any commercial center or suburban plaza associated with Turtle Ridge. The center of community life is its neighborhood parks…
The neighborhood park in the Highlands is typical of those in Turtle Ridge.
Turtle Rock is designed as a series of neighborhoods with their own identity accessed from Turtle Rock Drive.
Even the lower elevation neighborhoods have larger homes.
All of the homes are very well maintained.
There is a mixture of single-story and two-story homes. Note the backyard with natural open space populated with boulders.
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…
The Highlands shows the typical land planning pattern with a park at the entry.
The Sierra Ridge neighborhood is on the west side of Turtle Rock.
It has a beautiful entry park with a tot lot, pool, basketball, and an open green space for flag football, picnics, etc.
This homeowner went all-out on his front yard landscaping.
Another western Turtle Rock neighbhorhood. Note the homes from Turtle Ridge in the background.
Turtle Ridge is the new nighbhorhood between Turtle Rock and highway 73 begun in 1999.
Another neighborhood park with our friendly turtle.
Beautiful local streets.
Neighborhood pool with gas grill and picnic area.
Another typical neighborhood park.
The smaller homes also show great pride in ownership.
Too many parks, too little time…
Nature preserves and hiking trails are central to the community.
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.