I did this hike on a Friday afternoon in early October, and I had the entire trail to myself. Since I want to write about this hike on my own website, I am only going to make a few comments here.
As forewarned, I had difficulty finding the trailhead, even though I made detailed notes and looked at Google Earth pictures beforehand. What eventually saved me (after stopping twice along Tioga Road, looking in vain for the trailhead) was my GPS. (I had uploaded a CA map on it, and the map had the trail marked on it. If I had not belatedly thought to consult the GPS, I might have just given up trying to find the trailhead. There was enough traffic on Tioga Road that driving slowly and trying to look into the woods for the trail sign simply wasn't doable.)
There was a bit of meadow near the beginning of the trail (pretty much all dried grass that late in the season), but most of the hike was a climb up through a rock and boulder studded forest. There was at least one place in the forest where the trail disappeared into a boulder field, but I just picked my way though and found the trail again on the other side.
For all that it climbs 800', the trail has been described as "mellow" and "well graded", and in my limited experience, I have to say that this is true. (This isn't to say that I found the hike *easy*... for me, it was a moderate hike... but then, I am not exactly the most fit hiker, either. (I do disagree that you rate this trail about as difficult as the one around Tenaya Lake; being both level and shorter, that trail really IS easy!))
Eventually the trees thinned out, and at the top of the climb the trail emerged from the forest into a beautiful meadow. The last 0.6 or so mile to the lake was a very nice, scenic stroll, except for the last little bit. On the final approach to the lake, the trail sort of disintegrated, but it was not too difficult to hike cross-country to the lake shore. (Care had to be taken not to stomp on the fragile plants, and I had to watch out for the maze of channels cut into the ground there - that was NOT the place to twist an ankle or break something.)
The lake itself was beautiful and peaceful, and there were comfortable boulders along the shore for sitting and enjoying the view. I stayed there only 30-40 minutes and I wish that I could have stayed longer. (I finished the hike by headlamp and flashlight as it was, though.)
To summarize, the climb through the forest is moderate, but the trail is not bad (few stone stairs, and those navigable), and the visual payoff at the meadow and the lake makes the effort of the climb worthwhile. Do make an early enough start so that you can give yourself lots of time to enjoy the lake.
(The hike took me, in all, about 6 1/4 hours, including the time I spent at the lake. Yes, I am a slow hiker... As the saying goes, HYOH. :D )
This is a great, varied hike suitable for almost anyone--although there's a substantial elevation gain, the trail is well graded and MUCH easier than the nasty start of the Upper Gaylor Lakes trail. The first 2/3 of the hike is through unusually pretty woods, with not only a big meadow but several smaller meadows full (as of 7/24/12) of wildflowers and butterflies. Then you come out onto a sub-Arctic tussocky tundra, with a few trees, LOTS of very big boulders, and marshy reflecting pools. (Well, not too many actually had water, but it was a VERY dry winter.) The lake itself is smallish but backed by an impressive mountain, and you can see other peaks all around. I saw 5 people on the whole hike, probably because the trailhead really is hard to spot. The marker now has a "red circle/slash" "No dogs" sign, which makes it slightly easier to see, but you still may have to make a couple of passes. Just check your mileage and keep your eyes peeled. This is a hike to soothe your soul if you've recently been pushing your way through the crowds in the valley.