Quite frankly it is the opinion of numerous average, but seasoned, well traveled backpackers. That this trip is rated somewhere between moderate, and low end difficult. But I do stress “Backpackers”.
If you ask a large group of people this question, you will get back responses from “It’s Piece of Cake”, to “It’s grueling and miserable”.
The difficult part of the trail is the switchbacks. Both going down, and stepping the whole way back up. For the people that might tell you the trek is a “Piece of Cake” I suggest you don’t listen to that end of the spectrum. Not until you make at least one trip and form your own opinion based on experience. If you find yourself in this “Piece if Cake” category after the trip, consider yourself very fortunate. Fortunate in your physical abilities, and your choice of gear and footwear. And also in a much smaller group than some may lead you to believe.
Someone inexperienced that followed the lead of a “Piece of Cake” type response might very well be lead down a path of misery. Especially in the heat of summer, or someone going pack heavy.
You are going to hear some macho types crow about how easy it is, and how fast they can do it. This type often references a whole slew of other trips they’ve done.
Others omit they had all their gear transported.
You are going to hear from some that had all kind of physical issues, or how hard it was. Often if you dig into this group they went way over on pack weight, did not prepare their body and gear. Or they are just plain on the other end of the spectrum from that person that says they do it in 2.5 hours.
For the most part if you are an experienced Backpacker you most likely will not even be interested in this subject. To you, it is pretty much a 12 mile line on the map, and you can handle whatever the terrain throws at you. You are most likely savy (from experience) with a pack in the 20lb range or lighter. But even then I haven’t seen one person, ladened with a pack, that has taken the switchbacks without raising their pulse considerably.
For all levels, you do have to make sure you have an adequate supply of carried water. There is no source on the trail until you are in the vicinity of the village.
If you are asking or inquiring about “how difficult is the trip”? We assume strenuous hiking, or backpacking, is new to you. Or doing 12 miles one way on a single hike or backpacking with a load, has you seeking out opinions. You have taken the first step in approaching this trek in a sensible manner.
There are various ways to cover the distance to reach the Village or the Campground. The majority of visitors backpack the entire route, in and then back out. They actually backpack all their gear, on their back. These are “Backpackers”
Others pay to have their gear transported via various methods. They then hike in with little more to carry than some water. These are not backpackers. These are “Hikers”.
Lastly those that arrange to be flown to the village on the helicopter, along with their gear. These are “Tourists” in the minds of backpackers.
Even though the locals refer to all of us visitors as “Tourists!” LOL!
The point of all of this is to bring to your attention there are two groups of people that are not truly “Backpacking” this destination. Not to discount the “Hikers” or “Tourists” or their idea of what they wish to experience. But their opinions, when it comes to truly “Backpacking” this destination, do not count. This is for those that backpack in with all their gear, food, and water, strapped on their back. Going in, and going back out.
There are various factors that will also make this trip seem easier or more difficult. How fast you want to cover the distance? Are you going in the heat of summer? Going in cold weather that equates to heavier gear, clothing, and pack weights? Having ultralight gear and low pack weight. Or do you have standard gear, need lots of “stuff” and you are going heavy?
Footwear is another huge factor. Go cheaply made, or for “looks” factor over functionality. Or footwear not built, or rated for this type of use, to lessen injuries. Then you can expect a good chance of a negative experience to some degree.
Are you the type that will ignore warnings from experienced people. Not do pre-conditioning hikes with elevation changes and pack weight? Do not break in your gear prior to the actual trip?
Being overloaded, overexerted, and overly ill prepared, can lead to anything from something minor like painful foot blisters, to stumbling and fracturing bones.
For those that say “It’s a piece of Cake” . Don’t believe it! For those that say “It was miserable, I’ll never do that again”! Ignore them. Prepare well, have quality gear and footwear, listen to many voices of experience, and you will be saying “I’ve got this”!
BACKPACKS – PACKS – Weight & Total Carry Weight recommendations
BACKPACKS – PACKS Compares & Info on weight
CONDITIONING Getting into shape
FOOTWEAR & FOOT CARE Recommendations from experts
MAPS Trail and Car Mileage
WATER SOURCES – DRINKING Trail-Village-Campground-Filter?