Hermit Park is one of my favorite spots to go to where I can always count on having a great ride that I can make as short or as long as I would like.
Located just outside of Estes along hwy 36, this area feels secluded, close to the mountains, and has some great areas to pick up a long trot or lope. I would probably recommend front shoes or boots just as there are some rocky areas, that being said we do have a few equines with super tough feet that I have taken on this trail barefoot many times with no problems.
The wildlife here is spectacular and I have never gone here without seeing moose, deer, elk, or coyotes. Parking is super easy with 3-4 nice big spots by the campground, and another place for 2-3 trailers by the Homestead Meadows trailhead at the end of the road. I have always come here on a weekday and have never seen more than one other trailer and a few other cars... I am sure weekends are probably a different story. During times of heavy runoff, you can encounter a few little streams here and there, but other than that, water crossings are not something I have seen on this trail.
They have a great campground for horses with a bathroom close by, each spot has two 12'x12' (ish) pens for horses, a picnic table and a firepit. Most of the spots are well shaded.
I typically ride up the Homestead Meadows trail which only stays in Hermit Park for about a mile then connects to some fantastic forest roads that lead to a few older homesteads and some large mountain meadows that are full of wildflowers in the summer. Wear bug spray though! I have had the mosquitos be quite hungry in this area.
Overall - Beginner Friendly but Satisfies the fun for more advanced riders.
Encounters - Bikes / Hikers / Wildlife / Dogs on Leashes
Bring - A jacket and raingear (usually at least 20 degrees cooler than the front range), Bug Spray (for you and your horse), water and snacks (of course), I bring water for my horses, there are a few spigots by the campgrounds, but I wouldn't count on them, and plenty of time to explore - it's easy to spend 4+ hours here!
Things to know! No cell service, I occasionally had a few inconsistent spots of service, but nothing to count on.