It’s one of the grandest hikes of them all: Sunol Regional Park positively beams this time of year. And it’s even more banner after great rains. So take the grand tour and see all the major landmarks in the park on a 6-mile (round-trip) hike featuring everything from fast-flowing rapids to babbling brooks, beautiful peaks, and burgeoning wildflowers sure to pop lively and bright across the hills in the coming weeks.
There’s some solid climbing on this route to get to the views … but the vista you get is worth the effort. Start from the Sunol Regional Park headquarters. Cross Alameda Creek via the bridge to the Canyon View Trail on the right. Walking through the small valley, you’ll feel whisked along by the sounds of the creek just a few feet away. Take your second left onto the Indian Joe Creek Trail, which is the beginning of your ascent. The trail quickly leads you to your first highlight of this trek, Indian Joe Creek. As you climb, the trail meanders its way along the creek and even features a handful of stream crossings.
Take time to listen to the water flowing on the climb up the mountain as you pass though oak savanna that is dotted with California poppies. After nearly 1.5 miles of climbing, you’ll reach a T-intersection. Follow Cave Rocks Road to the right. The trail also offers panoramic views of the neighboring hillsides and the Calaveras Reservoir a few miles to the south. The top of your climb marks your second highlight of the trip, marked by the large rock Cerro Este Overlook sign and a bench. Take a breather, grab a snack, and soak in the view. On clear days, you can see the Bay. Head down the mountain on Cerro Este Road.
As you get closer to the valley floor, you’ll start to hear the rush of water again. Follow the signs to the third highlight, Little Yosemite. The spring rains have filled Alameda Creek to the brim, and the canyon shows off some impressive rapids and waterfalls. Scramble down a few rocks to the water’s edge. Hop a bit more and explore the area on the giant boulders that give Little Yosemite its grandness. Get back to the parking lot by backtracking slightly up Cerro Este Road to Canyon View Trail (about 0.2 mile). Take a left and follow the trail for the final 1.5 miles.
This is great for a cooler day or a morning hike. The hike is difficult, with over 1500 feet of elevation gain that is mostly completed in the first half of the hike. Be sure to bring plenty of water and snacks for the trail. A park access fee of $5 is required when the attendant is on duty. The park has poor cell service, so grab a trail map or snap a picture of the map that is posted before crossing the Alameda Creek bridge. You can also download the trail map here. Dog-friendly!