The hike was amazing. Will confirm what all others have said, first part is easy to moderate, it's just like walking in sand at the beach. It's annoying and works your calfs but it's not the worst thing in the world. Plus you get to walk parallel to the lava beds and it's kinda cool. So much rubble and then it just stops. Kinda cool to think about how it happened back then.

And then you see it. The cone. And the steep incline. And you wonder if you can make it. Here are the only two things I would say a) it looks a lot worse than it is especially if you notice how tiny the people are as they are walking up and b) please take sticks. My husband made me a stick from a dead tree close to the bottom and I don't know how I would have made it without. Everyone tells you how it's one step forward and two steps back but with a stick it rarely happens. And then, seriously. Don't let anyone rush you. The path is wide enough people can pass you. Take your time. Let your quad muscles relax again before you keep going. Slow and steady wins the race as the say.

The good news is that it only goes around the side once. So what you see is pretty much it. There's a last bend that you don't see from way down but really that's it's.

Then enjoy the top. Use the inner trails if you don't like heights but want to see some views.

But my biggest lesson (and maybe it's just my perspective). THE INITIAL SLOPE UP IS WAAAAAY EASIER THAN THE BACK ONE. Just in case there's confusion: the darker one is what I can the initial slope. It's the first one you see when you come from butte campground/Lake. That is way easier up and mainly wider. Less stones so less sliding. The back one, meaning the one on the side of the painted dunes, is half the width. We walked down it and it was horrible. Plus when you're done, the "flatter" hike is twice as long as if you take the main slope.

Lots of detail here as hopefully it's useful for those of you, who, like me, feel like they need to read up a lot on things before venturing.

Bottom line, as with all things that seem difficult, you'll be so proud once you've done it. You hiked up a freakin' volcano for goodness sakes!!!!