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Closest Thing to the Sierras Right Here at Home 

Sunol Loop and Little Yosemite Hike in Sunol Regional Wilderness

Few places in the East Bay offer a better glimpse of classic California landscapes than the Sunol Regional Wilderness. The rocky peaks and oak-studded grasslands are awe-inspiring, especially in spring when wildflowers blanket the rolling hills and the waterfalls gush with runoff. Though the seven-thousand-acre preserve is nestled between Pleasanton and Fremont, you may feel like you're hundreds of miles away or that you stepped into some 19th-century time warp. "There are hidden places around the Bay Area that make you feel as if only you know about them," outdoor author Tom Stienstra wrote in California Hiking. "This is one such place." Begin this five-mile, moderately strenuous loop by heading north on Indian Joe Creek trail and then hiking up to Cave Rocks, a series of natural rock formations. Go right on Rocks Road/Cerro Este Trail and traverse the 1,720-foot summit and its breathtaking views. Hike down the other side -- give the herds of sometimes-aggressive cattle a wide berth -- to Canyon View Trail. Make a left on Canyon View for the side trip to Little Yosemite, a miniature gorge of waterfalls and steep cliffs carved by Alameda Creek. To finish the three-to-four-hour trek, head back on Canyon View to the parking area.

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