By Suzanne Webel
Larimer County Parks and Open Lands has recently opened a brand new trail complex at its 1,362 acre Hermit Park Open Space near Estes Park. Time to go check it out!
Stop near the entrance station and pay the nominal $6 entry fee. It’s worth it, because this is an exceedingly horse-friendly park.
There is new, excellent, designated horse trailer parking at the Kruger Equestrian Campground (P-1). The CG itself is a well-designed facility with five level sites, each of which has two sturdy pens with buckets, and the area has a nice restroom complete with a hitching rail!
There is also designated horse trailer parking at the end of the road, the Moose Meadow Trailhead (P-2). Assuming you start here, proceed down the road to the new trail junction, “Moose Meadow / Limber Pine” trails. (The previously-constructed trail connection from Hermit Park to Homestead Meadows has now been abandoned because it was hopelessly steep, rocky, narrow, and unsustainable.) Proceed up to the next trail junction. If you turn left on the Moose Meadow Trail you will find yourself on your way to Homestead Meadows (see revised Homestead Meadows trail log).
Turn right on the Limber Pine Trail, so named for the tree whose needles are so pliable you can gather a bundle of them and tie them in knots. We didn’t notice any). The trail then meanders for 1.4 miles through somewhat boring piney woods to another junction, the 0.3 mile link trail down to the Equestrian Campground. Continue straight on Limber Pine for another 1.0 mile, containing more piney woods but with nice open clearings and aspen as well, to the Kruger Rock Trail.
A northward extension of this new trail is currently being constructed and will extend all the way to the entrance station, and is set to open sometime in 2018. It will double the amount of trail mileage at Hermit Park… However, no new trail is currently planned to complete the Limber Pine Trail on the east side of the entrance road – where there is a fabulous network of old ranch roads that would do the job with a minimum of environmental impact – so, instead, riders will have to return to the trailer parking via the road or retrace their steps on the trail.
Anyway, that’s for the future. For now, turn right on Kruger Rock Trail 0.35 mi. to the road and return to your trailer (about another 1.0 mile).
On your way out, please stop in at the little visitor center and thank Larimer County for providing such an excellent place for equestrians to ride. Please consider leaving a written comment or contacting Larimer County via their website to support a true Hermit Park Loop Trail utilizing the old ranch roads east of the entrance road. I have!
Total distance: about 5.27 mi. of new trails and old roads
Total time: about 5 hours round trip
Difficulty: moderate – difficult
Dogs: yes, on leash or under voice & sight control
Jurisdiction: Larimer County Public Lands, https://www.larimer.org/naturalresources/parks/hermit-park
USGS Topo: Panorama Peak