This one didn't turn out as good as we had hoped. But, instead of ending up on a marathon day getting stranded in the snow, we just turned around early and headed back. We got up the trail about 2 miles before the snow made it impassable. The snow is in patches but that last patch we encountered was too much. It's not deep, but just frozen and impossible to bust through. There were also no tracks at all, which made it very smooth and on a steep sideways slope. The only reason we made it as far as we did was because of some deer tracks that we were able to use for traction. The spot where we were stopped was just past the lava flow about 2 miles in. The area were we got stopped had the dreaded north facing slopes, so if would have been able to get over the saddle, things probably would have been better, but who knows.
Even with that, I wasn't too disappointed as the scenery up there is fantastic. This is a really nice area for a day trip with the family to do a short hike and some other sight seeing. I like that narrow red rock canyon along 288 on the way up.
We parked just past the TH along the dirt road and hiked up past the old Forest Service cabins to the trail. on our way back we hiked all the way down to the TH and took 288 back to where we parked. On the way back we saw a very friendly archery hunter with a heavy accent who got a late start.
On the way back home I spotted a grey FJ Cruiser with a HAZ decal. Seems like everyone puts those in the lower left hand corner of the back window.