Terrain roller coasters use the natural layout of the land that they’re built on. Often they use a ravine or cliff for their drops. They can be any type of roller coaster from the steel flying coaster Tatsu to the wooden coaster Boulder Dash. These types of roller coasters have been around for many years and I don’t really know of a defining first terrain roller coaster.
While there may not be a terrain coaster pioneer (that I know of), these are some of the largest and most prominent examples:
Six Flags Fiesta Texas is built in an old quarry, their wooden coaster Rattler takes advantage of the park’s rocky terrain (pictured above). Beast at Kings Island is one of the most well-known terrain coasters. It uses the natural terrain of the forest surrounding Kings Island. Phantom’s Revenge is a great example as the course features a once record setting plunge into a ravine. Ravine Flyer II, as the name suggests, uses the hilly terrain on the banks of Lake Erie at Waldameer. Boulder Dash is the ‘Mountain Coaster’ as it is situated on a mountain behind Lake Compounce in Connecticut.
Ultimate at Lightwater Valley (UK) is the third longest roller coaster in the World with a mile and a half course using the terrain of Yorkshire, England. And Dragon Mountain at Marineland (pictured above) is likely one of the longest loopers in the World at 5,500 feet. It’s an Arrow looper that uses the hills at Marineland (Niagara Falls, Ontario) for its four loop, two tunnel, and one helix layout.
Suspended Coasters Love the Terrain
Big Bad Wolf was another notable terrain coaster with that famous dive to the Rhine River. There are a number of other suspended terrain coasters like Iron Dragon at Cedar Point, Ninja at Six Flags Magic Mountain, Flight Deck at Kings Island, and the highly ranked (in Mitch’s Coaster Poll) Eagle Fortress at Everland.
Terrain roller coasters are my favorite type as they offer unique experiences. My Top Ten has five roller coasters I would classify as terrain coasters. For some reason, RCDB doesn’t classify Apollo’s Chariot as a terrain coaster even with that drop to the river that Fabio would like to forget. ‘Parking lot coasters’ like Six Flags Great Adventures Great American Scream Machine and Magic Mountain’s Scream! are the complete opposite. Not only are they on flat land, but there’s very little done to dress up their surroundings.
Here’s Robb Alvey from Theme Park Review checking out Ravine Flyer II at Waldameer: