Rock Creek Trail is a 5-mile out and back hike over a mixture of gravel and rocky terrain, offering some of the best views of not one but two of Eastern Tennessee’s waterfalls. The trailhead is located at the Rock Springs Recreation Area in Irwin, Tennessee and begins at a paved parking lot with restrooms, a playground, and picnic tables. An approach trail begins about a half-mile on your left after following a paved road past the lake area.



The "approach" path has three markers, one for the Bicycle Path, Rattlesnake Ridge, and Rock Creek Falls. You could also continue to walk along the paved road and reach the beginning of the Rock Creek Falls but the “approach trail” allows hikers to opt for the more scenic route alongside the creek and take in the rushing sounds of water and wind whispering through the trees.



This section of the trail has green markers until you approach a sign stating Rattlesnake Ridge is to the left and Rock Creek Falls is to the right. Turn left, and eventually, you reach the official beginnings of the Rock Creek Trail.





Here, the trail begins a reasonable descent for the next 1.5 to 2 miles until the falls. Within the first mile of the actual trail, a wooden bridge on the left appears like the obvious way to go but will only take you in a loop and bring you right back to where you started. Instead, continue on the same rocky, dirt path and veer right.


From here, you will come upon four creek crossings before reaching the falls. Each crossing increases in difficulty in terms of finding large enough rocks to hop across and keep your feet dry. It was particularly cold out on the day we went, so the stakes were high for keeping dry. During the summer, this might not be as much of an issue, and I would have just taken my shoes off and walked across if it were warmer out. After the fourth creek crossing, some of the trail’s most intense elevation gains happen until the first fall.



The first fall will be on your left and is visible from the trail, but there is a dirt path on the side to get its best views, which leads to the fall itself. The dirt path of rocks and roots is an extreme descent down, so do take caution if you are not prepared to climb back up; the next fall may be an easier viewing option. Many hikers will unknowingly mistake this for the trail’s main fall, but the trail does continue to a second waterfall. The second fall is much taller and is located in a charming cove-like area. From here, the hike back to the parking lot is about 2.5 miles. Each waterfall offers an excellent location to eat lunch while taking in the scenery. Pictured below is the first waterfall. The waterfall image seen at the top of this post is the second waterfall. Overall I would rate the trail as moderate in terms of difficulty and give it 4 out of 5 stars just because the first portion of the hike on a paved road is not as nice, but the waterfalls are both worth your time!






Daffodil Flats Trail is a 6-mile out and back hike over terrain that is anything but flat, ending at the actual Daffodil Flats–a glorious field of hundreds of wild daffodils. The trail kicks things off with a near 2,000 foot plummet– I mean hike, down the first two miles of trail. Many of the commenters on AllTrails will comment how difficult this part is because there are no switchbacks. Well, not to be a know-it-all, but I would like to add that there are technically two switchbacks towards the beginning of the descent; however, it appears as if whoever made the trail realized the work set before them and gave up on the switchbacks.



Most of the trail is easily identifiable, with little white circle blazes nailed to the trees. Towards the beginning section of the trail, there are a few overlook opportunities of rocks to look out on and such, as well as a wooden platform that has tremendous views.




Between the 1.5 and 2 mile mark, keep a lookout for a small pink flag, and prepare to swing a sharp left. The route AllTrails shows is incorrect and currently under closure (as of 3/23/22, they responded to a comment saying they updated the route, so maybe this is true). There is also a path that goes to the right and can easily be mistaken for the trail route. The trail begins on the Mountain to Sea Trail but switches to the Linville Gorge Trail, which continues well past the Daffodil Flats area if you choose to hike more. After the pink flag, the trail also begins to narrow out, making passing difficult at times, especially if you brought your four-legged friends along for the trek.



The beginning may be an extreme descent, but the remainder of the trail is a series of much more mild ups and downs over maybe 5-10 stream crossings. Each crossing ranges from 8 inches to 10+ feet in width, and some are surely enough to bring out your inner American Ninja Warrior while hopping across whatever rocks or logs you can find. Additionally, during wet months expect muddy sections of trail, even more so near water sources. During months with no leaves on the trees, this duration of the trail will have extra great views of the nearby mountains.



Eventually, you will come upon a curve in the trail with stone steps, and here is where you will begin to hear rushing sounds of the Linville River, and the river itself soon becomes visible. The trail soon runs alongside the river for a good portion, and here there are beds of rocks by the river perfect for stopping and eating your trail snacks or lunch, but remember to pack out what is packed in, including apple cores and orange peels!


Soon after this section by the river, you will finally come across the Daffodil Flats! The flats are accessed via a side path on your left. If you wish to see the daffodils in bloom, the time you choose to visit is crucial and dependent upon the cold season for the year. We went on March 20th, 2022, but most of the Daffodils were already beginning to wilt due to the freeze a week earlier. Even though the daffodils were not in their peak condition, they were still a beautiful sight. I had never seen so many wild daffodils in one place. It was like a marvelous sea of yellow. There are several log benches to sit on and take in the scenery in this area. As a side note, please only walk along and take photos from the already existing worn-out paths. Do not be like the family of tourists I witness walk straight into the Daffodil patch to pose for a photo. Ultimately all you accomplish by doing this is trample the flowers and ruin them for future visitors hoping to make it out in time to see the daffodils in pristine condition.



Since this is an out and back trail, remember anything you endure on the trek to the daffodil fields; you will also have to revisit on the way back–including the whopping 2,000 ft elevation change. Climbing back up those last two miles is definitely more difficult than on the way in, but take frequent breaks and bring plenty of water. This was a pack both of the 32 ounce hydro flasks kinda day for me, both of which I ended up drinking all of by the end of this hike. In total, this trail will take about 3.5 hours to complete, not including snack stops or daffodil viewing. Expect more traffic on the trail when the daffodils are in peak season.


The trail is rated hard, and rightfully so, many of the reviews on AllTrails for this trail were extremely discouraging because of its difficulty. One of my favorite comments on this trail chose to turn their pain into comedy and wrote the following:



In conclusion, my advice is if you are a regularly active person you will be fine. Sure the last two miles back up may cause your butt muscles to be sore for the next two days like mine, but it was the right amount of challenge, outdoor fun, and beauty. I would give it 4.5 stars out of 5 just because of the last half mile that my calves became sore, but I would do the trail again any day–well, maybe just the first or second day after the initial hike or at least not until my butt muscles fully recover.


Extra notes to help plan ahead:

Parking at the trailhead is limited as the actual “parking lot” is just a gravel pull-off area. Additional parking is available alongside the gravel road, which is a highly bumpy drive; low clearance drivers, beware! There are no restroom facilities at the trailhead or anywhere along the trail, so plan ahead or be prepared to take 70 big steps (or 200 feet) away from the trail or any water sources. Lastly, overnight camping is allowed with a permit.




Updated: Mar 26


 



 

This state park may be known for its snorkeling excursions but it also offers some of the best kayaking in the upper Florida Keys. I recommend bringing your own kayaks so you are not limited to following the rental company's regulated kayaking area. At the park's entrance toll booth be sure to ask to borrow a kayak trail map if you do bring your own kayaks. The mapped out kayak trails are the equivalent of a corn maze for kayaks. You could quickly become "lost" if you are not following the map. Most of the marked trails are wide enough for kayakers to pass by each other. There are a few smaller side trails that become tight quite quickly. The amount of wildlife on the trails is limited possibly due to the busyness of the trails. Back in the trails I recall seeing a few stingrays and fish in the water but no birds. The majority of birds seen were spotted in unmarked areas that are only accessible to those who brought their own kayaks. As far as upper Keys kayaking goes I would give this park five stars!


 

Here are some of the birds spotted closer to the roped off beach area. There were more birds further out in the unmarked trail areas, most of which were too skittish to be photographed but still fun to observe.



 

Afterwards if you are looking for a great place to photograph or just watch sunset, then head to Rowell's Waterfront Park about a mile up the road on the bay side. The park has a jetty like rock area with mangroves you can walk out onto for a great view of the sunset!


On this particular day the sunset ended up being a dud but there were some pretty cotton candy colors reflected in the waters around the rocks.