If running the route counter-clockwise, the Painter's Pause Trail
is subtly uphill and in direct sunlight, especially in the AM. On hot summer days, water can be a lifesaver!
This route demands your full attention in parts, as exposed rocks and roots pose a trip hazard.
Depending on your opinion of hills, it is easier to run this loop clockwise, so as to climb in the shade and gain most of the elevation in the beginning. In order to do so, take a left from the trailhead on the Sleepy S Trail
and begin the run heading southwest towards Bergen Peak.
For the first two miles, the trail is rolling, with a net elevation gain. There will be an intersection with the Elk Ridge Trail
but continue straight on Sleepy S. The trail winds south before turning back north and west, and heading uphill at a steeper incline.
There is a beautiful shelter about halfway up the hill, which provides a great place to catch your breath and enjoy the forest. Once you're about two miles in, the trail begins to drop in net elevation, while remaining rolling. As the trail descends, the landscape changes from forest to more open meadow, affording expansive views of Bergen Park. The Sleepy S Trail
eventually turns into the Meadow View Trail
along the way.
If 5 miles seems a bit long, there is a bail-out point at the intersection of the Meadow View Trail
, and the Founders Trail, which shortens the loop by about a mile. If you're in for the whole tuna, continue on the Meadow View Trail
as it makes a sharp right turn, and dead-ends into the Painter's Pause Trail
. Take the right, and enjoy the fast descent into the parking lot!
When running through the grassland of the Painter's Pause Trail
, keep a look out for bluebirds and speckled woodpeckers, as they often nest there.
Elk Meadow takes its name from the large herds of elk that inhabit the area, but don't be surprised to see deer or the occasional coyote. During summer months, the meadow is also a haven for brilliant blue birds, woodpeckers, and a variety of hawks. Be alert during dawn/dusk hours, as mountain lions have been sighted in the area!
Visible from the parking lot is the original Bergen Barn, a well-maintained relic of the first settlers of the area. A common stop on the logging route, the Bergen's established one of the first general stores in the region.