Mystery Mine opened in 2007, the year after my first trip to Dollywood. So, I was eager to get back to the park and check it out. I’d either forgotten or never really knew exactly what happened on this partially indoor roller coaster and I’m glad that I did. When it opened, it was the first Gerstlauer Euro-Fighter roller coaster in the ‘States. Basically, these are steel looping roller coasters with separate cars instead of trains (with several cars). They’re typically compact and not as tall as the larger B&M looping coasters. Another notable hallmark of these coasters are their unusual 90-degree lifts hills that are often followed by beyond 90-degree drops. My first of this kind was Six Flags Over Georgia’s Dare Devil Dive.
Mystery Mine’s Theming
I was very impressed with Mystery Mine’s theming. The look of this attraction from the outside and in, really demonstrates that Dollywood is a step above your average regional park in terms of coaster quality and theming. After seeing the dilipated-looking building, its queue, and even the fake cracks in the support structure I’d have to say this park is approaching (maybe even on) the level of say a Busch Gardens in terms of the look of their rides.
Into the Mine
The line wasn’t very long, but it certainly seemed like the ride was operating at a great pace. After boarding the cars that are two rows with four seats across. The over-the-shoulder restraints come down and you’re off. The car immediately dives out of the station and then it’s slowed so that you can take in the dark ride aspect of the first quarter.
The car winds its way through the mine at a fairly slow pace. The walls are covered with creepy ravens with red eyes that watch the car go by. At one point, the car dives right under a massive spinning rock crusher. The track flattens out once again and while it appears the path continues straight ahead, you’re only looking at a screen on the wall. The car’s yanked to the left via a hairpin turn right as you realize that you’re looking at a wall.
Then the car slows as it approaches a 90-degree lift hill. Getting pulled straight upward is a little unnerving as you can kind of feel it gently jerking the car up. It had a sort of “I think I can, I think I can” movement that added to thrill a bit. The car crests the top takes a small dip and few small turns as you pass over the walkway below.
Surprise of the Year – Beyond 90-Degree Goodness!
Brakes slow the ride, before the car is sent down a small, but ultra-steep drop. It can’t be more than 40 or so feet tall, but it blew me away! It looks very short and harmless from off of the ride. You are literally thrown against the restraints as this little drop would like to toss you off of the ride. Thankfully, the restraints have other plans.
I was a bit underwhelmed by Dare Devil Dive’s beyond 90-degree drop and I was starting to wonder if similar drops on other coasters weren’t as exciting as they looked. I have to say that Mystery Mine made be a believer. This small, unassuming drop was amazingly intense and fun!
Then, the car navigates a playful little section that includes a flat 90-degree banked, u-turn element, another section of brakes and a downward helix. There is some roughness here and defensive riding is needing so that your head doesn’t get too banged up, but I’ve definitely experienced worse.
The Big Climb
After this section, the car speeds back over the walkway and once again into the mine. This time, the theatrics are increased as you meet another vertical lift hill. Dramatic music is playing, lightning is flashing, and those creepy ravens are back and this time they’re crowing away. The second hill is much larger. And the long slow climb is used to ramp up the drama. There’s a video screen on the ceiling with that shows a structure collapsing on you.
Theatrics & Aerial Stunts
The mine cart finally reaches the top and this time its held in place. Riders in the front seat get to watch what looks to be trouble as fuses are lit. Once the explosion is triggered, the heat is for real. Right after the explosion, the car drops down a much larger 85 foot drop at 95-degrees. It doesn’t quite have the same intense feeling as the smaller drop, but it’s still one of the best drops I’ve experienced.
The car rises up into an awesome heartline roll. It’s followed by the first half of a dive loop where the car seems to stay upside-down for an eternity. Finally, the car finishes the inversion and puts you on a course back towards the station. Mystery Mine finishes with a small hill and then the final brakes.
My Final Thoughts – You Can’t Judge a Coaster by Its Stats
45 mph and 1,800 feet aren’t the most impressive coaster stats, but Mystery Mine is a world-class roller coaster all the way around. Its adventurous layout makes it feel much longer than it is. The ride’s stats and even the video below just don’t translate the full experience and how good this ride is. There’s really something to be said for surprises. While I really liked Wild Eagle, I had a good idea of what to expect because I spent so much time covering it. Mystery Mine, on the other hand, was almost a complete surprise.
Mystery Mine is more of a dark ride-roller coaster hybrid so it’s a really tough ride to rate. I usually put rides next to others and see what group (6’s, 7’s, 8’s, etc) they fit in. Comparing a ride like this to say Intimidator or Alpengeist doesn’t really work. There’s a lot to like here and the only negative was a little roughness that I neutralized easily. I’ve thought about it quite a bit and Mystery Mine’s uniqueness and the fact that it’s got two memorable roller coaster moments (in the first drop and that crazy inversion combo) mean that I’m going to have to go pretty high. Final Rating – 9.5 Excellent (Excellent Approaching Superior)