For hiking, I would consider this an easy trail, suitable for all ages and abilities. The quoted 200 foot elevation change is all but unnoticeable. The scenery along the river (creek) is superb and there are a number of neat spots to access the river and swim, either in the rapids or a few deeper swim holes. The weeds get a little high around Runion, and we never saw more than the saw mill remains, but it's an interesting story nonetheless. Once you reach the RR tracks (hardly a steep incline, as described), the path to the French Broad, and the riverside itself is anticlimactic, but I wasn't going to walk 3.5 miles without reaching the end. As for the first three miles, pack a lunch, swim suit and some water shoes, and you'll be set!