Dollywood Clearing Land for 2019, 2020 and Beyond

Major land clearing is underway at Dollywood near the Timber Canyon and Wilderness Pass areas of the park.

Making room for Dollywood 2019, 2020 and beyond.

While riding the Dollywood Express train over the weekend, I got an up-close look at the massive, now-barren site.

It’s clear that Dollywood is planning something big.

Below is a satellite image of the area where land is being cleared (I did some guessing on the land clearing boundary).

Dollywood 2019, 2020 and Beyond Construction Overview

Site Overview Legend:

  • Red: Dollywood Express train route
  • Orange: Service road running behind FireChaser Express and Thunderhead
  • Yellow: Land clearing (again, estimated)
  • Green: Pathway through Timber Canyon and Wilderness Pass

Below is a 3D view of the same area from Google Earth, which provides a better perspective of the terrain. This image was taken sometime in 2013 as FireChaser Express was under construction.

As you can see, it’s a hike up this hill to the area being cleared and leveled. You can explore the Google Earth 3D view of the site here.

I used the GPS coordinates embedded in my iPhone photos to get a better idea of the location of this clearing in relation to the train route:

Currently, much of the work consists of flattening the land, which is necessary for infrastructure, buildings, etc. I think it’s safe to say whatever is in the works for this area is more than one attraction:

Bulldozers and dump trucks are scattered throughout the entire area. Notice Wild Eagle and the new-for-2017 Drop Line poking out from behind the trees.

The park is losing a lot of trees as part of this land prep, but Herschend Family Entertainment (who shares ownership of Dollywood with Dolly Parton) reportedly plants three trees for every tree that is removed.

It’s fun to imagine the possibilities of what can be done with this much land (keep reading for my thoughts and ideas at the end of this post).

Photos really don’t do the massive size of this area any justice.

Views like this will be gone once the trees’ leaves return in the spring.

Below, you can see Drop Line on the left and the peak of Thunderhead’s lift hill on the right.

This gives you a much better idea of the elevation of this area.

Likewise, this area is nearly level with the top of Mystery Mine’s show building. Considering that Mystery Mine houses an 85-foot-tall drop, this clearing is possibly 100 feet above the Timber Canyon and Wilderness Pass midways.

So what is Dollywood planning for 2019, 2020 and beyond?

The following is pure speculation and wishful thinking on my part. I have no insider information as to what the park is planning. But here are my ideas (in no particular order):

Ski Resort Themed Area

Given the higher elevation of the area where this work is underway, imagine taking a ski lift up to a new area themed to a ski resort with snow- and ski-inspired rides, shows, dining and more. An avalanche-themed coaster would be the centerpiece — perhaps a Bolliger & Mabillard inverted coaster (watch out, Alpengeist). Or maybe an RMC single-rail coaster themed to a bobsled.

I can’t take full credit for this idea. If I recall, the park many years ago sent out a park survey which included an “Ice House” coaster as one of the options. If you have any additional information about that survey, please share it in the comments section below.

And on a somewhat related note, Dollywood was once planning a snow park in Nashville, Tennessee, so perhaps they could re-purpose some of those plans in this new area.

Hyper/Giga Coaster

A hyper coaster — or perhaps even a giga coaster — taking full advantage of the mountainous terrain would be a stellar addition to the park’s already impressive coaster lineup. At first, I thought Bolliger & Mabillard would be the clear choice to build the ride. But given Silver Dollar City’s recently announced Time Traveler spinning coaster, Mack could be a contender. Regardless, the views would be stunning.

As I stated earlier, I think this space is being cleared for much more than a single attraction. So this hyper or giga coaster would likely be the centerpiece of a new area.

Expansion of Wilderness Pass

Since the service road leading up to this construction site is so close to the Wilderness Pass area, I think an expansion of the Wilderness Pass area is plausible. Dollywood has always maintained a strong connection to its natural surroundings — this new area could forgo roller coasters and other traditional theme park rides (gasp!) for a more nature-focused selection of experiences such as the nearby SkyZip.

Imagine nature trails, educational wildlife shows and other “return to nature” type of attractions, possibly themed to a camping expedition. This wouldn’t cater to us coaster enthusiasts, but it would likely appeal to families and outdoor enthusiasts who may pass on Dollywood in favor of hiking through the Smoky Mountains.

On-Site Resort Hotel

An in-park hotel would solidfy Dollywood’s position as one of the most unique theme parks in the United States. Dollywood’s DreamMore Resort and Spa seems to be a hit (read our review here) as are the park’s cabins scattered throughout the area. But I think there’s enough demand for another hotel resort. And how cool would it be for the hotel’s grand lobby to connect directly with the park?

Of course, the area could contain a mix of all the above. Again, I highly doubt this work is in preparation of only one attraction.

Dollywood has already announced its 2018 plans — a huge investment in live entertainment — so this groundwork is likely in preparation for the 2019 season at the earliest.

The Dollywood Company revealed in 2013 that it would invest $300 million its parks, resorts and other properties over the next decade. As less than five years have passed since that announcement, we can assume that big things are in store for this area.

What do you hope is in the pipeline for Dollywood? Share your ideas in the comments section below.

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14 Responses

  1. Tenita Fiddler says:

    Well, silver dollar city aka Herschends sold the park half share to Dolly. So I would imagine since SDC owns half, it may be a Mac coaster and something else.

  2. Anthony Estepp says:

    Would love to see an old ride called Round Up at Dollywood. Riders stand up and floor is dropped from underneath the riders. Riders secured by centripetual force.

  3. Jonathan says:

    This is very intriguing. Opening up this section of land will allow Dollywood to expand further outwards and give them the space they need for future major attractions. Like you, I’d like to see a B&M Hyper in this location, even if it’s only the size of Mako at SeaWorld. The park has been lacking a big steel coaster for a while, and this area would make for a great place to put one. I could see a Mack spinning coaster like Time Traveler as a viable option as well, since it could be marketed towards families.

  4. Teresa Mccracken says:

    Which this is great for the adults, they never add anything for the little guys, I have been going there since it was silver dollar city, I’m now 57, took my daughter, now my 6 and 9 year old grandkids, they dont like the big roller coasters so theres not a handful of rides for them. With such steep prices for tickets one would think they would offer more for the kids, which surprises me due to the fact Dolly, herself is so much about family and children. I purchased season passes for Christmas gifts for the pass but not this year. The park has went down hill terribly, the fee for parking, cost of the food is too expensive for the quality. The employees for the pass two years have been rude both in Dollywood and Splash Country. Never was like that before. When I talked to customer service I was blown off. I’m so disappointed because there has never been a year since my late teens that I haven’t been to Dollywood, it’s just a tradition that will come to an end.

  5. Nick says:

    Personally, I’d like to see an indoor ride that the whole family can enjoy together, either a dark ride or a slow moving boat ride ala it’s a small world.

  6. Judy Jones says:

    I would like a RV resort and more indoor things for is always exciting to find out what is planed for the coming years.

  7. Chasity says:

    I agree with Nick’s comments above I would love to see a slower indoor ride for families, I personally have health issues and can ride lots at Disney but Dollywood is needing a few slower family rides, they already have a lot if great thrill rides. I have been a pass holder for years and I enjoy the park, shows and scenery but there is only a few rides me and my children can ride.

  8. Matt says:

    Talked to an employee last weekend and all he said it was “kid park” expansion…

  9. brady henson says:

    i would loved to see a hyper coaster made by b&m it will perfect from its line up

  10. brady henson says:

    suggestions from my dad is black bear rush , escape , rampage , express , or run and another one is runaway bear and my suggesttion is great smokes 310 for a hyper or giga coaster

  11. Emily says:

    I would love to see an updated version of the Flooded Mine! It was my favorite as a kid, and I was sad when it was removed.

  12. Steve says:

    I agree with you guys that whatever it is I’m sure will be quite amazing. I agree that the park has lacked a large steel coaster but the park has somewhat stayed true to the coasters need to have a slight story narrative & it seems a big giant hyper coaster are really hard to theme out other than the station building. My guess would be like the article mentions a Wilderness Pass Expansion or a whole new land expansion. In looking at John’s photo one could think that the new lands entrance could actually be right where River Battle is being demolished (right at the point of the path curve) even if it has to be a tunnel given the mentioned terrain elevation difference. But just think how cool a Wilderness Retreat type area would be with all new restaurants & shop facades, it would be epic! Also with the silver dollar Mack relationship, who knows this new area could house a new spinning coaster even to go with the new expansion. But also like you guys mentioned all of this could be the ground work for an entirely new resort as I couldn’t see this huge piece of land being used for just one ride but I just see the space being used better for actual themed expansion & multiple rides. I could see a snow resort type area but that just doesn’t seem to lend itself good to summer crowds that pack into Dollywood. Its kind of like Disney where Blizzard beach is really cool.. but you really want to be at Typhoon Lagoon haha. Whatever they do I’m sure it will be quite awesome and its really satisfying that with Star Wars Land, Toy Story Land, all of that coming down south that Dollywood is looking to expand also. My last bit of pure speculation for the new area is Dollywood looking to add a new dark ride experience.Its one of the most charming parks I have ever been to and it looks like they are making good on their $300 million dollar promise and looking to possibly disrupt some of that Orlando 2019 hype 😀 – Dollywood AP Holder since 2014

  13. Bryan says:

    I live in Pigeon Forge… 5 minutes from Dollywood and a lot of my friends work at Dollywood, but never take what park employees say as official word, because nobody truly knows what’s going on at Dollywood with the construction expanding from the Preferred Parking Lot all the way around to the former River Battle. Some said Hercshend and the Dollywood Company was building housing for employees (which I highly doubt), while others said they heard that it’s the site for the next resort hotel, which I also highly doubt since DreamMore celebrated it’s 2 year anniversary in 2017. I’m going to say that none of us will actually know until Herschend Family Entertainment and the Dollywood Company makes an official announcement summer of 2018, with Dolly Parton making the big announcement to the public when she’s there- probably during Dolly’s Homecoming event.

    My hopes are that we don’t see any new roller coasters at least until 2021/2022. The entire area of Timber Canyon and Wilderness Pass is congested with roller coasters- and if you’re not a coaster enthusiast (which I am, don’t get me wrong) there’s no point for guests to venture back that way. It would be nice if they relocated the Country Fair area towards the back of the park, and opened an entire new area expanding Jukebox Junction (where Lightning Rod is located), or even turned the Country Fair area into a themed area for small children to enjoy, since little kids really don’t have that much to do, especially with their parents other than the Barnstormer play area, the Whistlepunk Chaser beside Thunderhead and Drop Line, and the various kiddie rides in Country Fair, and they just removed River Battle. Now if they’d didn’t relocate Country Fair, then expanding a themed area near Firechaster similar to SDC’s Fireman’s Landing would be perfect adding new themed kiddie and family rides, interactive attractions, and a multi-level play area, or at least theming it to Wilderness Pass with a nature-influence and incorporating elements from River Battle and the short-lived Adventure Mountain attraction.

    I also highly doubt Dollywood would ever get a coaster similar to Time Traveler. SDC doesn’t have a B&M Wing and it doesn’t have Gerstlaurer launch like Dollywood’s Firechaser Express. Hercshend wants each of their properties to be unique from each other since they both have similar themed areas. Just like I doubt Flooded Mine will ever return to Dollywood since SDC has a Flooded Mine ride. There are several older attractions in Dollywood that I feel should be retired, rather than closing newer attractions. I absolutely love Tennessee Tornado but it should close even if it’s one of the last Arrows- perhaps replace it with a B&M Floorless, or open the area to be themed around Firechaser Express; Blazing Fury is another that should be removed. Use the existing building and create an interactive dark ride.

    All-in-all, each area of the park should have at least 1 or 2 attractions that everyone of all ages can enjoy and not junk up the entire backside of the park with over-the-top roller coasters- Dollywood isn’t Six Flags. Now I will say a Mack Water Coaster would bring something new to the park, and I think there’s only 2 Mack Water Coasters in North America. Dollywood only has 3 water rides- Smoky Mountain Rampage in Rivertown Junction, Daredevil Falls in Craftsmen Village and Mountain Sidewinder also in Craftsmen Valley; so incorporating the thrills of a roller coaster and a water ride together would bring in more visitors to the park, and Dollywood will have more than enough room for an attraction such as that up behind Thunderhead. I just feel that Dollywood is on a successful track attracting new visitors now, but its still lacking in flat rides, dark rides and overall… something the entire family can do together.

  14. Nick says:

    Thanks for your thoughts Bryan. As a father of two, I would love to see more attractions for young kids or something the entire family could enjoy together, a la Disney-esque gentle + high capacity indoor themed rides. I really want Dollywood to be a step above the Six Flags and Cedar Fair parks. Simply building another coaster keeps them on the same level as other parks, but a high quality family attraction would put them a step above in overall quality in my book.