An affluent, master-planned community, Rancho Santa Margarita is one of Orange County’s youngest cities. Located along the foothills of the Santa Ana Mountains, it is bordered by the city of Mission Viejo on the west, Coto de Caza on the south, Trabuco Canyon on the north, and the Cleveland National Forest on the east. Dove Canyon, a private residential community of approximately 1200 homes, is located within the eastern part of Rancho Santa Margarita.
Historically, much of the area has been known as Trabuco Canyon, stemming from an incident dating back to July of 1769 when a young Spanish soldier, camping in the area, lost his trabuco, or musket — a most valuable possession to any soldier. To mark this loss, the stream was named Trabuco. The name has been associated with the mesa, the canyon, and the entire area ever since.
Through land grants and several changes of fortune, in 1907 this area became part of the expansive 200,000-acre Rancho Santa Margarita y Las Flores, owned by an Irish cattleman, Richard O’Neill. In 1948, the O’Neill family donated 278 acres of canyon bottom land to the County of Orange for park purposes. By the 1960s, a rural cluster of homes had been present in Trabuco Canyon for decades, but it was not until 2000 that area voters incorporated the City of Rancho Santa Margarita — a city planned to be an “Urban Village”, offering the best of two worlds: all of the elements and advantages of a small city plus the quality of life of a small village.
The City is a general law city and operates under the council-manager form of government. Rancho Santa Margarita is a contract city. Police services are provided through contract with the Orange County Sheriff. Fire Protection services are provided through the Orange County Fire Authority.
The city currently has a population of over 49,000; residents and visitors alike enjoy the mix of retail shops, restaurants, parks, and annual events that take place throughout the year. The city also has many parks to suit many interests including a dog park, skate park and the scenic Lake Rancho Santa Margarita with a surrounding path ideal for walking, jogging or bike riding.