For relatively inexperienced handgun owners, I usually recommend a revolver. While they can malfunction, they do so at a lower rate than semi-automatics. They are more tolerant of indifferent maintenance. They are also simple to operate during times of stress.
I would recommend a revolver that can handle .38 special +P loads. About all modern .38 spl revolvers can do so. With the right type of round, they are effective in home defense. Yet, they do not present real problems with recoil or muzzle flash.
You mention use as a trail gun. For anything but defense in a bear attack, a .38 spl +P load is also fine.
For cost savings, I would recommend a police trade-in revolver. There are some available at Bud's Gunshop for $279. http://www.budsgunshop.com/catalog/p...lice+Trade+Ins
. You may find something similar at a local store or other on-line dealer. Police trade-ins tend to have exterior wear and maybe some scratches. However, they are almost always in good shape mechanically. A lot of officers are not "gun guys" and only shoot enough to qualify. I have purchased a police trade-in from Bud's from an earlier lot and have been pleased. By no means limit yourself to those from Bud's, however. I bought a Model 65 (a .357 magnum) that was a trade-in from another store and it is my home defense gun (and I have a number to choose from). BTW, I load that magnum with .38 spl +P loads.