On a day when the Central Valley seems too hot and too far away -- when doesn't it? -- it's time to visit the East Bay's own Little Yosemite. There's not just one spectacular hike in the six-thousand-acre Sunol Regional Wilderness, but any visit should include a trip to the boulder-strewn Alameda Creek. This creek may be a fraction of the size of the Merced, but it also has a fraction of the crowds, and the $4 entrance fee beats the price of a Golden Eagle pass. Gigantic rocks create secluded pools for splash time here after a hike through the hills, and the boulders are perfect for practicing the hop-and-balance skills you may not have used for years. But first the hike: Trails range from quick jaunts through oak forests and meadowlands to multiday backpack adventures connecting through Mission Peak, Ohlone Wilderness, and Del Valle Regional Park (permits required for overnight stays). For those truly interested in replicating a Yosemite experience, inquire at the visitor center about climbing at Indian Joe Cave Rocks. Or, if you're a budding naturalist, pick up a trail map and head up the wooded canyon of Indian Joe Creek Trail for a one-mile, self-guided nature tour.
Readers' Pick for Best Hike: Tilden Park