Smoky Mountain Alpine Coaster Review
One of the newest attractions in the Pigeon Forge area is the Smoky Mountain Alpine Coaster, the longest ride of its type in the US. Personally, it’s only the second alpine coaster I’ve rode after the one in Park City, Utah. What makes an alpine coaster different from your typical roller coaster is the rider has some control over the speed of the vehicle. There are two levers that must be pressed forward to maintain maximum speed throughout the course; let the handles lean back and you can take a slow, leisurely trip instead (but why would you?). The speed of the vehicle is also controlled by permanent brakes in the form of magnets mounted to the center of the track to automatically slow the sleds as they approach the big, red station. And it operates year round, even when there’s snow on the ground.
As we drove down Wears Valley Road and the alpine coaster came into view I was surprised at how high up the steel rails towered above us. After boarding one of the one or two passenger sleds the ride begins with a short chain lift, which I assume is what sets the initial spacing between the vehicles. Next, you slowly roll along a bridge over a babbling brook before engaging the seemingly endless lift hill cable. After a series of inclines up the side of the mountain and into the cool temperatures of the forest you reach the summit and it’s all downhill from there.
The scenic journey to the top takes more than five minutes while the trip down the mountain takes two or three resulting in an 8 or 9 minute ride. Highlights include a great, though brief, view of Pigeon Forge sprawled out below you. There are two helixes with surprising lateral forces as you spiral towards the bottom of the mountain. The majority of the track follows the terrain and seems to be only a foot or two above the ground plus the close proximity of the trees whipping past you and you’ll feel like you’re going much faster than the top speed of up to 27 miles per hour.
A ride on the coaster will cost one person $15 but you can find coupon books outside almost every restaurant or attraction in the area so you should be able to save at least 2-3 dollars. It’s still a bit steep at $12 per ride but more than worth it to do at least once, and a better value than many of the other tourist traps in town. Tip: visit the coaster first thing on a weekday morning for the shortest lines. It also may be a good idea to call ahead to see how long the wait is. Due to only one or two passengers per vehicle, the ride’s capacity is much lower than a roller coaster you’d find at a typical amusement park (and is one reason why you don’t see this type of ride at an amusement park).
Here’s a POV of the entire ride experience:
See the Smoky Mountain Alpine Coaster official website for height and weight requirements. Learn more tips for visiting the Smokies. I count alpine coasters as roller coasters and add them to my track record. Do you?