There’s a Gorgeous Superbloom in North Carolina—and It’s Getting Hikers Into Trouble

The daffodil flats of Linville Gorge are beautiful—but hikers trying to reach them are getting lost and injured on the rugged trails there, local search and rescue groups say.

Photo: wellsie82 via Getty

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As North Carolina’s fields of daffodils begin to bloom, Burke County Rescue has a message for hikers: don’t underestimate Linville Gorge’s terrain. 

Every year, thousands of people leave the comfort of their homes to feast their eyes on springtime flower displays. From the superblooms of California to the vast fields of daffodils on the east coast, flowers bring nature lovers outside. But Linville Gorge, a well-known climbing destination in North Carolina, is particularly infamous for causing trouble for daffodil seekers. 

The trails in the gorge are steep, and treacherous. For the inexperienced hiker, this means that the stakes are high. If they opt to hike without the appropriate amount of food, water, and clothing, it’s not uncommon for a flower-viewing expedition to end in injury or a full-blown emergency.

“Every year we see an increase in call volume concerning daffodil flats,” Burke County Rescue stated in a Facebook post. Burke Rescue would like to reiterate the importance of navigation skills, reading a topographic map, and carrying the 10 essentials. The Linville Gorge is a designated wilderness area – meaning there is little-to-no signage on trails. With its increase in popularity more people than before are seeking out the daffodils and many of them get lost, hurt or end up off trail.” 

Linville Gorge is also higher in elevation than much of the surrounding area. Ranging from 2,000 to 4,000 feet, this typically means that hikers descend to the lower elevations in the canyon to explore the well-loved daffodil flats, forcing them to tackle scree-ridden, wet trails along the way.

“A woman came through and she fell right off the cliff,” Kevin Massey, a volunteer with the Wild South group, told WSOC-TV.  We thought she had stumbled,” he said. “Eventually it came out that she hadn’t had enough to eat.” 

In many cases, hikers find the climb out of the gorge to be the most difficult part of the journey. After they’ve had their fill of daffodils, they still have to make a 1,700-foot ascent to get back to the car. Many injuries occur on the trip out.

Besides asking hikers to keep themselves safe, volunteers emphasized the importance of leaving the path clear for emergency responders, with Burke County Rescue writing that it had repeatedly had issues reaching the area due to hikers and campers parking in front of a Forest Service access gate.

The warning comes just weeks after the state of California started to see evidence of its first superblooms. Historically, large flower displays have not only wreaked havoc on the plants themselves, but they’ve also created safety hazards from an influx of traffic. In 2019, the town of Lake Elsinore experienced a multi-day gridlock, and local devastation after the town was inundated with thousands of flower-seekers. This year, the town closed the popular superbloom canyon to visitors to avoid similar devastation.

From 2023