Near the big city, a little Yosemite that offers wildflowers and a waterfall.
A bounty of wildflowers, a graceful waterfall, a gorge that evokes the beauty of a certain national park—these are the rewards of a spring stroll in Sunol Regional Wilderness. The 6,858-acre park near Sunol, Calif., northeast of San Jose, offers over 25 miles of trails. About a mile up Camp Ohlone Road (a trail and service route) lies the canyon dubbed Little Yosemite.
"It's an amazing jumble of boulders, some big as houses," says Park Supervisor Kelly Barrington. The rocks aren't salt-and-pepper granite as in Yosemite National Park but instead are a mix of smooth, chocolate brown basalt and fissured, green serpentine. Alameda Creek fights its way past them, frothy cascades dropping into placid pools.
For an easy 2.5-mile round-trip walk, loop back on the Canyon View and McCorkle trails, which after a rainy spring are lined with blooming goldfields and Chinese lanterns. As you walk, scan the sky for soaring birds. "This part of the Diablo Range is sort of the world capital for golden eagles," Barrington says. "It's an unusual day when you don't see one." (510) 544-3240, www.ebparks.org/parks/sunol .
Photography by Terrence McCarthy 
This article was first published in May 2009. Some facts may have aged gracelessly. Please call ahead to verify information.