The Gatlinburg Mountain Coaster

Gatlinburg Mountain Coaster ReviewEver since writing a post about alpine coasters, I’d been hoping to ride one for years. These cousins of traditional roller coasters are built on mountains, often giving ski resorts a year-round attraction. With alpine coasters (also called mountain coasters) there are two main differences from the roller coasters you find in theme parks. They always have solo cars where most roller coasters connect cars into trains. And, riders can adjust their speed by using hand brakes. The Gatlinburg-Pigeon Forge area is now home to four alpine coasters. So, while we were in the area for a family trip to Dollywood, I included a visit to one of these rides in our itinerary.

No Brake Nights

I chose the Gatlinburg Mountain Coaster assuming it’d be a bit tamer for my wife and 5 year old daughter. When we arrived, it was dark and we were told by the employee at the ticket counter that we couldn’t brake or slow down. Since it was dark they urged all riders to not use their brakes until we reached the end. Slowing down might cause us to get rear-ended by another rider that was moving faster than we were, but couldn’t see us with how dark the mountain was at night.

Gatlinburg Mountain Coaster Review - The CarsMy 8 year old was still up for the challenge, but I suggested my 5 year old and wife sit this one out since I didn’t know how fast the ride was. The cars fit either 1 or 2 riders.

The Mountain Climb

After hearing instructions from the ride operator, being seated and buckling in, the ride op asked me to brake and then release my brake. I did and then we were dispatched. The long slow climb up the mountain was surreal. We were greeted by the orchestra of singing summer bugs. In certain areas it was pitch black and in no time we felt pretty far from civilization even though we were only a football field or two from a busy road connecting Gatlinburg to Pigeon Forge. The Christmas lights along certain sections of the ride looked really cool.

It’s Going Down!

Our trip down was a lot of fun. Knowing that I couldn’t brake and that I didn’t have to make any calls on when to brake, we just settled in and enjoyed the ride. The Gatlinburg Mountain Coaster starts out at a gentle pace, but really picks up speed as you move down the mountain.

The rides course is a series of slight turns and straights connecting large downward helices. The last helix or two really had some decent g-forces. Though she has about 15 coasters under her belt, I don’t think my daughter was used to riding something where the g-forces were this strong, plus she was sitting up in between my legs and couldn’t really sit back like I could. We had fun, but one ride was enough for my daughter. Even if I was alone, I would have been on the fence about a second ride.


Overall, it was a fun ride and I’m interested in re-riding it during the day in the future. The night experience was awesome, but I’m also curious how different it feels when you can see the ground and trees whizzing past you. I’m not sure how it measures up against the other alpine coasters in the area, but I’d recommend it if you’re interested in something a little more thrilling than other local attractions (outside of Dollywood of course).

When you exit there’s a sign offering a discounted re-ride. So, you might want to have some extra money handy in case you’ll want to re-ride. Inside the main building there’s some merchandise and you can buy your ride photo. Ours turned out excellent even though it was night. I still opted not to buy it.

Tip: Be Prepared to Go FAST on Night Rides
My only tip for this ride is pretty obvious. I’m not sure how the other alpine coasters in the area are run at night, but if you think that you might want to brake, do not visit Gatlinburg Mountain Coaster in the evening.

More here: Gatlinburg Mountain Coaster Also watch this video of the Gatlinburg Mountain Coaster:

I’m looking to return to Dollywood in 2016 to ride Lightning Rod. While I’m in the area I’ll be looking to experience the other alpine coasters in the area. I’d interested to see how they compare. The other alpine coasters in East Tennessee are: The Coaster at Goats on the Roof (which Lance from ScreamScape really enjoyed), the Ski Mountain Coaster that just opened at the Ober Gatlinburg Ski Resort and the Smoky Mountain Alpine Coaster which is the second longest in North America at 5,400 feet in length.

What’s Your Take?
Any questions or comments about the Gatlinburg Mountain Coaster? Leave them below.

About The Author

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

4 Responses

  1. dru

    Sounds scary at night! I was too afraid to gun the throttle the whole way down on the first 2 I did at wisp and Okemo. I did gun it the whole way at Camelback. It was all about the amount of banking to the turns.
    I did not realize there were 4 alpine coasters near Dollywood. This just motivates me even more to make the trek…

  2. Judy P in Pgh

    Pigeon Forge, here we come! I am hoping to get my mom (84) on her first-ever mountain coaster this week. If we head to Ober Gatlinburg, I can use their Oktoberfest German food as bait!

  3. Jason

    I’ve ridden Smoky Mtn AC about 5 times now, but none of the others in the area. The Gatlinburg one looks like a must-ride, though. The SMAC version is very fast and a nice mix of close to ground track and up in the trees track. A lot of the loops really test a rider’s resolve to not touch the brakes till the end. The night-time ride is really cool, with the entire track paralleled with chaser LEDs.

    The Goats facility has more extras – like, goats – crafts and some great locally made Ice Cream.

  4. Thomas

    The 2 on Wears Valley Rd. have lights on the cars, headlights and tail lights in addition to all the track lighting.

    (Goat coaster had them last fall. Smky Mtn just got new cars)
    Personally, I’d prefer a lights out option.

    All 3 offer discounted same day re-rides. Just show the receipt.

    Not a clue about the one at Ober Gatlinburg.


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