California Museums


Heritage Hill, Lake Forest, CA

Heritage Hill
25151 Serrano Road
Lake Forest, CA

Buildings at Heritage Hill Historic Park Serrano Adobe, circa 1863 El Toro Grammar School, 1890 St. George's Episcopal Mission, 1891 Harvey Bennett Ranch House, 1908

Heritage Hill in Lake Forest is operated by Orange County Parks. You'd never know this gem of a museum exists unless you're a local, or you come upon it by accident. Why? It sits in the back of a shopping center parking lot. While it lacks a grand entrance, it's fairly easy to find off the I-5 Freeway in Lake Forest (between Los Angeles and San Diego.)

Heritage Hill Historic Park rolls back the clock to a simpler time, where the county's early settlers were more accustomed to horses, sheep shearing, milking the cows and farming. Ditch your car and take a walk to see several historic buildings in shaded park setting on a hill where you'll even catch the scent of horses kept in nearby stables in the valley below. 

The park began as the site of an historic adobe but grew to include historic buildings saved from bulldozing.

History: Rancho Canada de los Alisos was granted to Don Jose Serrano in 1841 and 1846 through the Mexican government. He and his family's  Serrano Adobe (CA State Historical Landmark No. 199) was sold and used by a number of families till it eventually was first restored by Dwight and George  Whiting  in 1932.

Next owned by Mr. and Mrs. V.P. Baker from 1958 to 1969, restoration continued as the Bakers re-furnished the house for use as a vacation home and meeting place for the Aliso Water Company.  The Bakers sold the 5,000 acre Baker Ranch to Occidental Petroleum in 1969 for $11 million dollars with stipulation that the Serrano Adobe be donated to a public agency for preservation.

In 1974 the County of Orange took charge of the Serrano Adobe and land along Serrano Creek totaling 55.9 acres during the development of Lake Forest. 4.1 acres surrounding the Serrano Adobe were set aside for the development of an historical park.

Around the same time the Saddleback Area Historical Society came into being (1973) focusing their efforts on saving other historic structures from destruction as the old town of El Toro rapidly disappeared, transformed into housing tracts and shopping centers.

Relocated to Heritage Hill beginning 1976-1978

  • El Toro's first church, St. George's Episcopal Mission (1891)
  • The first schoolhouse, the El Toro Grammar School (1890)
  • Harvey Bennett Ranch House (1908) 

Heritage Hill Historical Park, Orange County's first historical park, opened in May 1981. Set in an historic village, Heritage Hill is the only historical site in Orange County to offer a chronological interpretation of the County's past comprised of buildings spanning several periods of historical development.

Open Wednesday through Sunday 9 a.m.-5 p.m. (subject to change) you can explore the free admission Heritage Hill Historic Park which contains Mexican Rancho era artifacts and buildings. Tours and admission are usually free except during events such as Fiesta Days or tour groups of more than 7 people.

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