Loughton is bounded by Epping Forest to the west and the Roding river valley to the east.
After the Epping Forest Act of 1878 prohibited any further expansion of the town into the forest, the forest and the river have formed two natural barriers constraining any expansion westwards or eastwards, and consequently most of the growth in the last 100 years has been through infilling and construction of new housing estates to the north and south of the old town centre, plus the purpose-built suburb of Debden to the north-east.
The arrival of the railway spurred on the town's development.
The railway first came to Loughton in 1856 when the Eastern Counties Railway, (later the Great Eastern Railway), opened a branch line via Woodford.
In 1948 the line was electrified and transferred to London Transport to become part of the Central line on the London Underground.
The arrival of the railways also provided visitors from London with a convenient means of reaching Epping Forest and thus transforming it into the "East Enders' Playground".
It is located between 11 and 13 miles (21 km) north east of Charing Cross in London, south of the M25 and west of the M11 motorway and has boundaries with Chingford, Waltham Abbey, Theydon Bois, Chigwell and Buckhurst Hill.
Loughton includes three conservation areas and there are 56 listed buildings in the town, together with a further 50 that are locally listed.
The settlement remained a small village until the early 17th century when the high road was extended north through the forest.
The road quickly became the main route from London to Cambridge and East Anglia, and Loughton grew into an important stop with coaching inns. Maitland, whose family held the manor for much of the 19th century.
The Ragged School Union began organising visits to the forest for parties of poor East End children in 1891 paid for by the Pearsons Fresh Air Fund.
Loughton artist Octavius Dixie Deacon depicted many scenes of the town including some of its residents during the late Victorian period.
The headquarters of greeting card company Clinton Cards and construction firm Higgins Group are also located within the Debden Industrial Estate.