The canyon and foothill area to the north and east of Rancho Santa Margarita is known as Trabuco Canyon. The lower canyon area maintains a rural setting just moments form the amenities of the bigger city of RSM. This is a rustic setting lined with old oaks, and populated by many 4 legged critters in addition to the sparse collection of humans. An old country school still operates and serves its parent district as an outdoor science center in addition to educating its small population of local children. The canyon is home to a general store, post office, a historic steak house, and a popular cantina. It is also the gateway to the upper canyon areas with small cabins on land leased from the Cleveland National Forest.
The upper canyon area was developed into several neighborhoods, including Robinson Ranch, The Highlands, Walden, Rancho Cielo, Dove Canyon, and Coto de Caza. Homes in this area range from apartments to large multi-acre estates.