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.