Ever since Dollywood announced Wild Eagle, America’s first wing roller coaster, I was looking forward to what looked to be a great ride. It not only boasts a eagle-themed trains that place riders to the left and right of the track with nothing above or below riders, Wild Eagle also has a layout in a wooded area. I’m a big fan of terrain roller coasters and you couldn’t ask for better terrain than a mountain.

Wild Eagle’s Theme

Wild Eagle - Statue - DollywoodDollywood did an exceptional job with Wild Eagle’s theme. The eagles on each row of the train looked cool in person, but the most impressive theming feature may be the massive steel eagle sculpture located at the plaza in front of the ride. It was the first indicator that Dollywood really pulled out all the stops for their new marquee attraction. As you enter the rustic, upscale station, you can’t help but get a sense of the ride’s uplifting, inspirational feel. Quotes like: “Today You Fly” and “Grab Adventure” adorn the walls and upbeat (but not hyper), music pervades throughout the lodge-like building.

The theme was refreshing and overall quite different. Usually thrill rides convey a sense of “extremeness” or “fear” to get your adrenaline pumping. With Wild Eagle, it’s more of an adventurous challenge than a death-defying hope-you-make-it-back-alive theme. I can appreciate the difference and it aligns well with Dollywood as a whole and their goal of adding a multi-generational thrill ride.

Loading & Lifting

Wild Eagle Lift Hill - DollywoodDownstairs in the cavernous station, the queue splits as guests choose which side of the train they want to ride. I was lucky enough to get exclusive ride time (ERT) on Wild Eagle in conjunction with TPR’s New Hotness Tour. So, in all, I got 5 or 6 rides on Wild Eagle. The front seat was especially fun. On a wing coaster you’re already pretty exposed, but without other riders in front of you it feels like it’s just you, a friend, and an eagle. Yes, I did catch myself looking over at the eagle like it was another rider.

Wild Eagle begins with a left turn and then an immediate climb up the mountain that it’s situated on. The ride’s layout is mostly out of sight except from a few spots (like high points on other rides), but all is revealed as you crest the lift hill. My last ride at dusk offered an incredible view as not only did the ride’s twisted blue track lie ahead, but also an unforgetable view of the Smoky Mountains in the background.

Wild Eagle’s Layout: Soaring Like An Eagle

Wild Eagle Reviews - Dollywood - 2012 Roller CoasterWhile some of the other wing coasters, start with that nifty drop loop, Wild Eagle has a traditional 135-foot straight drop. I don’t recall a lot of airtime on the drop (probably because of the restraints), but it’s quite a fun dive as the wide, eagle-themed train accelerates. Immediately after, the train navigates a huge vertical loop. It’s not as forceful as your standard vertical loop, but it’s still a solid maneuver. Next, the train twists riders through a good zero-g roll and then an Immelmann. The back-to-back inversion onslaught ends with the fourth and final loop, a corkscrew. The corkscrew is probably my favorite of the four.

Wild Eagle’s loops are done, but the ride’s not over just yet. The trains rises up and goes over a short little airtime hill that’s mostly air-less, but produced a little pop of air on occasion. Next there’s a wide left turn that can be seen from the pathways. Now, low to the ground the train traverses a heavily banked right turn. If you’re seated on the right side of train you’ll be a lot closer to the tree branches that are nearby. Finally, Wild Eagle comes screaming down a straight, sloped section of track. It’s slowed as you approach the station and you’re ride’s over.

Wild Eagle’s Restraints

As you can see from the video below, Wild Eagle’s restraints are very open. They’re not the horse collar-like restraints that you’d find on most looping coasters. The hard, metal part is nowhere near your head, so even if there was roughness (and there’s none at all), there would be nothing to bang your head into. Unfortunately, there were times when the restraints came down one more notch during the ride. It didn’t happen every time, but it did happen. That’s not unusual in itself, but when these restraints come down a notch, they feel pretty uncomfortable. Since this was infrequent and I didn’t really notice it during the ride as much as I did when I was waiting to get off, it’s notable, but only a small knock. Overall, the restraints are comfortable and should make tentative riders feel pretty secure.
Wild Eagle - Train - Dollywood

My Take & Final Rating

While there are other wing roller coasters, Wild Eagle’s location, atmosphere, and even its theme all add up to a unique experience. It’s smooth, has some fun inversions, and is meant to be a wide-reaching crowd pleaser and it fully delivered. Maybe it’s the theme, but there’s a larger sense of the experience than just what I’ve described above. It’s tough to put my finger on exactly why, but Wild Eagle is a special ride. It’s just a notch below the very best roller coasters I’ve ridden, so I’m going to go with a 9.0. That puts it in some fine company, right there with rides like Manta, Tatsu, Nitro, and X-Flight. Final Rating 9.0 (Excellent)

Here’s a Wild Eagle POV Video and an off-ride & rider POV video :

Note – These videos were filmed by professionals with permission from the park. For safety reasons, please DO NOT take a camera on a roller coaster.

A Cool Ride Tip & My Favorite Seat

One of the best things about Dollywood is the people that work there. A friendly ride op gave me and Doug a ride tip. He told us to hold on to the little black knobs on the sides of our seats. It sounded like weird tip, but we took his advice. We were rewarded with an odd and very vulnerable feeling during the first drop. It felt like we were being dumped out of our seats.

My favorite seat would be on the right side of the train in the very last car and in the outer seat. There’s a bit more of a pull during the first drop, a little more force on the inversions, and you’re closer to the trees during the final turn.

Learn more about Wild Eagle and Dollywood.

Have you ridden Wild Eagle? What’d you think? Leave a comment below.

About The Author

Founder of CoasterCritic.com. My favorite coasters are B&M hypers and gigas. I'm also a huge fan of terrain roller coasters.

13 Responses

  1. Nick

    How does Wild Eagle compare to Xflight? They seem very different when looking at their respective layouts.

  2. CoasterCritic

    You're right Nick. They are very different. It makes it tough to compare them, but I'm planning on a roller coaster showdown where I'll do just that.

    For now though, I'll say that you get a pretty similar ride. They're both packed with inversions so you spend a lot of time on both inverting one way or another. Like I suspected X-Flight's strength is those near-misses and Wild Eagle's is its setting. I'll go more in-depth in the showdown post. Stay tuned.

      • CoasterCritic

        Even I'm not sure how it'll turn out, but check back within a week and I'll have it up by 11/17. Sorry that it's taken so long, but showdowns take a while to write.

        Thanks for reading!

    • CoasterCritic

      Wild Eagle feels (and is) bigger, but X-Flight feels like an onslaught of action. It's really tight. Again, I'll be doing a roller coaster showdown for the readers AND for myself. I really need to think it out more. There's really not a clear choice because they are so different.

  3. Evan

    I rode this ride only twice during my visit to Dolly and I liked the left side of the train because of the first Zero-G roll with that side being higher than the other. On my last ride of the day I rode the front right and I liked it but I feel I would have liked front left, but I wanted to ride both sides so I did. When you were describing the front row I was saying to myself it felt different than riding front row than any other ride, but the way you described it, is how I experienced it but I just could think of how or why. You explained it dead on.

  4. Katherine

    Hi, I have a quick question. I’ve never been to rides like this because they are really scary to me, because of the speed and the big falls, I’m 15 and I am going to dollywood ina few weeks, I am kind of scared to ride this rollercoaster, but it seems really cool. Since I haven’t ride one, I don’t know how it feels like. I wanted to know since the speed is like 61mph, does it feel really fast and does it feel that you head goes insane because of the speed? Also if in the fall you feel that you stomach will go out of your body because of the speed and the hight. I hope you answer back and thank youuuu!!!!!!! :)))

    • Vicky

      Katherine – there are SO many types of roller coasters out there, and they all have a different feel and different sensations. If you’ve never been on any roller coaster at all, I would start with something smaller, like Blazing Fury (indoors, only a few small drops, very tame) and then work your way up, maybe try Thunderhead, the wooden coaster, or Tennesee Tornado, which is intense, but short (so if you hate it, it’s over quickly lol). Yes, Wild Eagle is going to feel fast, and yes, your stomach will feel like it’s coming out; the trick is to learn to embrace and enjoy that feeling instead of being afraid of it! The worst thing to do on any thrill ride, is tighten up and clench all your muscles and “fight” the motion of the ride. Try to focus on relaxing everything, and scream your head off if you need to; screaming out the fear and excitement is one of the best parts of being on a ride! And remember; no ride is going to kill you, you will come back into the station all in one piece, and probably smiling and ready to ride again! That first step is always the biggest one 🙂

  5. Judy P in Pgh

    On my last trip to Dollywood, I got to watch the safety trainer on Wild Eagle
    work with a new employee.The attentiveness of the trainer was impressive. Being
    a teacher myself, it was interesting to watch the different strategies used
    by the trainer to teach new skills and to confirm that the trainee was learning
    them. The next day, I had the opportunity to chat with the safety trainer. He told me
    that they invest 2 to 3 days of one-on-one training time for each new
    employee. He shared some of the teaching strategies they use and talked freely
    about how Dollywood believes it is worth the time investment in a new employee
    as it typically results in long-term employment. This particular safety trainer is
    assigned specifically to Wild Eagle and knows his ride and it’s policies inside
    and out. He was quite impressive for a young man of only 19 years of


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