Review: FireChaser Express at Dollywood

FireChaser Express is a family roller coaster that debuted back in 2014 at Dollywood in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee. Designed by Gerstlauer, it is geared toward families and young coaster riders, but not without packing a few surprises as well. The attraction replaced the former Adventure Mountain, a ropes course situated on the same hillside FireChaser currently occupies–and an attraction that was very popular with guests. So it is fair to say that FireChaser had some big shoes to fill.

The entry portal for FireChaser. That large tower structure the coaster goes through was re-used from the old ropes course attraction.
Location, Location, Location

FireChaser is located in the back of Dollywood and is a hefty walk from the entrance. Since the park is located in the Smokey Mountains, it has a long winding path that loops around a central mountain. FireChaser is on the far side of this loop, right across from Wild Eagle’s station.

As mentioned before, FireChaser is built onto a hillside–making it a terrain coaster (and a very photogenic one at that; I had way too many good pictures of the ride that I couldn’t fit into this post). But not only does the track wind up and down the hillside, it travels through multiple wooden towers–towers that were kept and re-purposed from the old ropes course. As you walk into the entry area, the ride flies over and around you, past rock work, waterfalls, and those tall towers themed to pass as watch towers used to spot fires–it truly is a beautiful sight.

The interesting thing with the ride being on the hillside is that FireChaser actually is decently tall. At a height of 78 feet, it is definitely more than a kiddie coaster. Standing in the valley below, looking up at the ride structure reinforces this sensation. Similarly, riding the park’s steam train also gives you a cool perspective that is almost the reverse–instead of looking up at the ride, you are now at the height of the ride looking down at the path. This view turned my teenage sister off from riding FireChaser, although to be fair she is not a coaster-rider by any stretch of the imagination. For younger children not ready to experience the coaster, though, Dollywood provided a little play area for them to have fun while their siblings ride. Joel wrote about how he took advantage of this (and more) in his visit to Dollywood back in 2015.

Details Galore

Another thing that must be noted is the level of theming surrounding FireChaser Express. I already alluded to this, but the details are wonderful. Yes, the terrain is fantastic complete with rock work and a waterfall, but Dollywood didn’t stop there. The queue and station are filled with authentic scenery:

As you walk into fire station no. 7, you begin to realize there’s something different about this coaster. Namely, that the trains enter and leave the station in the same direction.

Dollywood has always been good about putting effort into decorating their attractions, but it’s still refreshing to see–especially at a regional park. And as you walk into fire station no. 7, you begin to realize there’s something different about this coaster. Namely, that the trains enter and leave the station in the same direction. That’s odd. For now though, suppress your questions as you take your seat aboard the train and pull down your simple lap bar restraint. The trains on FireChaser are 7 cars in length, with each car seating 2 guests.

A one-of-a-kind angle, being able to stand directly behind a train in the station.

The Ride Experience

Once everyone has been secured, the crew wastes no time dispatching you; it’s time to put out some fires! You are suddenly launched forward, going from 0-16 miles per hour in 1.1 seconds. Although that seems modest, it actually has a decent force behind it. Throttling out of the station you traverse a series of figure 8 turns right next to the adjacent path and onlooking guests, before heading up a lift hill. It’s at the top of this hill that you reach your peak height of 78 feet, although it doesn’t feel that high because the track actually hugs the mountainside–the height seems to be measured down to the valley below, where the paths are.

Motion blur because of inadequate cameras, but it does reflect that the coaster has a decent speed to it.

At the peak, you disengage from the chain and begin a slow descent at first, going down a few dips and winding back and forth before taking the main plunge. Although it’s still a relatively modest drop, it is plenty fun. Rising up, you bound over a double up (with a decent bit of airtime, I might add), before diving through one of the wooden towers’ structure right over the entry plaza–a great maneuver. After a brief slowdown on the mid course brake run, you start to descend toward the walkway area again. This time, you go up over a sweet airtime hill, right over a rocky waterfall. For a family coaster, FireChaser has quite a bit of airtime. Following that you head off past the station into a sweet trick track section–a maneuver where the track banks back and forth rapidly to give you some nice lateral G’s!

Crazy Charlie’s Fireworks Factory–the small showbuilding where you’ll come face-to-face with Big Bertha the rocket! Note the track switch used to allow the trains to complete the full circuit.

Soon you find yourself in a fireworks storage shed, with no apparent way out. Flames begin to appear and a voiceover yells at you to get out of there. A giant firework rocket falls, pointed right at you. As this rocket begins to ignite, you are propelled backwards out of the building at 20 miles per hour! This is the “trick” I referred to early in the review, and one you and most guests probably figured out beforehand. But still, it is fun. Even if you know you’re going to end up backwards, the sensation still feels unique. You bowl around a few turns and bumps before heading down into the final brake run.

My Take

FireChaser Express is great at its role: being a stepping stone coaster. It’s not as scary as its neighbor Wild Eagle but it’s also not a simple kiddie coaster like Whistle Punk Chaser. Kids will feel they’ve conquered a significant milestone after riding it, and adults will still have fun riding it with their children. This combination makes FireChaser a fantastic family coaster. And, for what it’s supposed to be, FireChaser is nearly perfect. Ultimately, though, it has to be ranked on an enthusiasts’ scale and compared to world-beaters like Lightning Rod or Thunderhead.

Final Rating – 7.0 out of 10 (Good)

This video was taken by Dollywood. Do not attempt to film on rides unless given permission by the park!

Your Thoughts

What is your take on FireChaser Express? Is it a worthy replacement for the Adventure Mountain ropes course? Is it the perfect coaster for families and rising coaster enthusiasts? Let us know with a comment below.

This was a part of our 12 Days of Coasters special! Every day from Christmas until January 5th, we gave away a roller coaster review for you to enjoy. You can check them all out here. We thank you for reading, hope you’ve had a merry holidays, and wish you a happy New Year!