My friends and I hiked this for a multi-day camping trip in April '16. This was the first time I had ever been on an overnight hike. It was grueling at times and I would NOT recommend it for a first timer who is out of shape. The only reason I did fine on this hike was that I upped my fitness level a little in the weeks prior to the hike (simply by going for daily long walks). The one member of our party who hadn't hiked in a long time and who was totally out of shape had a really, really tough time. There is a lot of up and down, at times pretty steep, and you hit the ups pretty early in the hike. It being my first hike, I couldn't conceive of how hard that would be with a 50+ pound pack!

Having said that, it was a spectacular hike. It was raining most of the time, which we expected, but it was mainly a constant drizzle/mist which made the experience and the views really, really nice. The rain caused a couple of minor hazards, but nothing serious (just have to watch you footing more carefully). Had it been dry and warm, it would have been exponentially harder. Whenever they open this up again, if this is your first overnight hike, I would recommend going in late April (that's when we went) or early May for cooler temps and the chance for some rain (yes, personally, I prefer a little precip on this kind of hike). Also, if your level of fitness is low or non-existent, I'd at least do some daily light cardio for 2-3 weeks prior to your trip.

Again, this is a spectacular hike and I found it to be very rewarding to complete, on a personal level. Most of our party were experienced hikers, most of whom had done this hike before. The hot springs can be a nice reward, even though most of my party was more excited about that than I was, but I think it's worth a soak after such a long hike. The trail was rather busy, which surprised me for such a long hike, but I actually liked seeing and talking to so many folks on such a lengthy and difficult hike. Somehow, I found that that camaraderie made the hike easier (and that's coming from someone who is typically anti-social).

This is a long and at times grueling hike. But it is also beautiful and rewarding and is well worth the effort. I'd definitely do it again and hope to someday.