9 Best Gatlinburg Mountain coasters 2024 compared

Mountain coasters have recently exploded onto the scene around the Gatlinburg / Pigeon Forge area. The editorial staff at the Historic Gatlinburg Inn created this guide to tell you everything you need to know about them.

One of the most popular things to do when you visit the Smoky Mountains is ride a mountain coaster! Mountain coasters are fun for all ages and allow you to control your own speed. You can go slow and enjoy the views or race around the track at speeds up to 35 miles per hour! There are plenty of great options for mountain coasters in the Smoky Mountains. To help you decide which one to try, we’ve made a list of the top mountain coasters in Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge. Anyone who is on the lookout for best Gatlinburg Mountain coasters may take a look at this list and proceed.

What Is a Mountain Coaster?

A mountain coaster is similar to a traditional roller coaster. The major difference is that mountain coasters are single car rides in which the rider has the ability to control his own speed via a brake on the car. They are gravity coasters in which the car is pulled via chain to the top of a tall hillside, and then released to speed down the hill via gravity. These coasters do not go upside down.

What Does It Cost?

The average price for a mountain coaster ride is $15 to $18 for an adult. Children’s tickets are usually less (although childhood ends very early apparently). A child may ride along with an adult for a slightly higher ticket. The way most mountain coasters are priced is that after the first full price ride, subsequent rides can be purchased at a discount (sometimes half price or less). So, to ride a coaster just once can be fairly expensive, but if you ride multiple times, your price per ride comes down considerably. For a family of four to do two rides, you are probably looking at around $100.

Which Ones are the Best?

The writer of this article personally rode six of the seven coasters in the Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge area. We will describe each of those, give our opinions on each, and then attempt to rank them.

1. Rowdy Bear Mountain Alpine Coaster

Rowdy Bear Mountain Alpine Coaster was the fastest of the coasters we reviewed, and the best overall ride. Rowdy Bear’s operation and pricing is a little different from the others. Rowdy Bear has two attractions – the mountain coaster, and an attraction called a “mountain glider” that is similar to a zipline. The most economical way to ride at Rowdy Bear is with a package that includes two rides on the coaster and one ride on the mountain glider.

The mountain glider is a very different type of experience. Unlike a zipline, which has you moving in a straight line down a long cable, the glider moves you along a stiff, curvy steel rail that swings you way out to the side. It is a strange and exciting experience.

All in all, Rowdy Bear was our favorite. We loved the coaster, and we loved the mountain glider. From a money standpoint, it is much more cost effective to purchase the coaster/glider combination mentioned above.

You’re in for an adventure when you visit Rowdy Bear Mountain in Gatlinburg! The Rowdy Bear Mountain Coaster reaches speeds up to 35 miles per hour! You’ll control your own speed as you wind through the woods of the mountain. It’s easy to operate — all you have to do is push the handles forward to go and pull back to slow down! After your ride on the mountain coaster, try the Mountain Glider! It’s a single-railed air coaster that combines free falling and hang gliding.

2. Anakeesta Mountain Coaster

Anakeesta, which is an amusement park of sorts located at the top of a mountain near downtown Gatlinburg, has the most unusual mountain coaster in the area. It is advertised as “the only single rail mountain coaster in the United States.” If you are looking for the greatest scare factor, this is the one.

Rail Runner starts at the top of the hill, and then pulls you back to the top at the end of the ride. It is a strange experience because you feel like you are riding very low to the ground, and it is very steep. There are actually signs along the rail telling you to apply your brake at certain times. It seemed like a good idea.

This is a truly wild ride. It felt dangerous and made us nervous. Just like a good thrill ride should! It was the only coaster that required us to sign a waiver.

Strictly from a money standpoint, if you’re just looking to coaster ride, this is the most expensive option we reviewed because first you have to pay your admission to Anakeesta to get to it, and then you have to pay a separate fee to ride the coaster. In addition, on the day we were there, after our first ride, the coaster was shut down for maintenance the rest of the day. That was disappointing because we really loved the ride and wanted to do it again, and we did not get to take advantage of the lower cost of the second ride.

Anakeesta’s Rail Runner is becoming one of the most popular mountain coasters in Gatlinburg! It’s a single-rail mountain coaster that’s the first of its kind in the United States! There are 1,600 feet of twists and turns and a 400-foot elevation change, and you can reach speeds up to 25 miles per hour. After your exciting ride down the mountain, you can enjoy a scenic uphill ride back to the top of Anakeesta Mountain. Like the Gatlinburg Mountain Coaster, there are both solo and tandem rides.

3. Smoky Mountain Alpine Coaster

Moving into the Pigeon Forge area, we have Smoky Mountain Alpine Coaster. It claims to be “the longest downhill ride in the United States, with over 1 mile of track.” Of the coasters we tested, this one definitely had the longest track.

This was an exciting ride and we felt like it offered the best sensory mountain experience because it pulls you way up a hill into a tree-covered forest at the launch point. It’s also the best nighttime experience. It has very attractive lighting along the track rails. Parts of the track are sunk deep into the woods, so the surroundings get quite dark as the evening progresses. The lights really popped when the sun went down.

For a single ride (for the coaster alone), this was slightly more expensive than the other coasters in this article, but subsequent rides are a lower price. You will want to do it more than once. The short video clip at the top of this article was taken on this coaster as the sun was going down. This is definitely your after-dark ride.

4. Goats on the Roof

Goats on the Roof has a craft/souvenir store, gem mining, and a candy/ice cream shop. Oh, and they have goats. Some are on the roof, and some are at ground level. They are all cute.

And, of course, it has a mountain coaster! This mountain coaster is probably the best one if you have small children who want to ride. It’s a little shorter and not quite as extreme as the other coasters, but it is still a lot of fun! It is also the most affordable of the coasters we rode. After the first full price ride, subsequent rides were only $5 (at least on the day we were there).

This Pigeon Forge Mountain coaster is located very near the Smoky Mountain Alpine Coaster discussed above on Wears Valley Road. If you’re having a coaster-riding day, you should just do them both. Get ready for a unique experience when you visit Goats on the Roof in Pigeon Forge! The Coaster at Goats on the Roof stretches for nearly a mile and reaches speeds up to 30 miles per hour! You can make the ride as relaxing or as thrilling as you want. After you’re transported to the top, enjoy an exhilarating 4,375-foot journey to the bottom. Along the 7-minute ride, you can enjoy gorgeous mountain views on this mountain coaster in Pigeon Forge!

5. Gatlinburg Mountain Coaster

This is the original mountain coaster. No coaster-riding expedition will be complete until you ride the first mountain coaster in the area, the Gatlinburg Mountain Coaster. There is an additional level of adventure associated with this one because it is the only coaster we reviewed that does NOT have any kind of automated braking system to prevent cars from touching. So, it is REALLY important that you not stop on this ride! This may have been the fastest of all the coasters.

6. Rocky Top Mountain Coaster

Rocky Top Mountain Coaster is the longest in length of all of the mountain coasters in Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge. It is also the best-staged of the coasters. You go through barns and tunnels, past bears urinating off the side of a cabin, and various other mountain-themed props.

The coaster is also more multi-leveled than the other coasters reviewed here. There are four major up-and-down sections to the ride. It takes several minutes to complete the ride from start to finish. This is a very fun and visually interesting ride.

The Rocky Top Mountain Coaster is one of the best mountain coasters to open in the Smoky Mountains! It’s the longest coaster in East Tennessee, allowing visitors to enjoy a 9-minute ride. Each single cart can reach speeds up to 30 miles per hour! Along the ride, you’ll get to experience gorgeous Smoky Mountain scenery, 360-degree turns, several tunnels and even a few surprises. Ride during the day to take in the sights, or at night to see the track lit up!

7. Moonshine Mountain Coaster

Moonshine Mountain Coaster is one of the top rides in the Smoky Mountains! It’s a family-friendly ride that puts you in the driver’s seat. This coaster has both single and double rider cars so you can enjoy the experience with a friend or family member as you race down the mountain at speeds of up to 30 miles per hour. It’s a great opportunity for moms and dads to take their kids for a fun adventure! You can ride in the day and come back later for a different experience at night.

8. Sky Mountain Coaster

The Ski Mountain Coaster at Ober Gatlinburg is one of the most well-known mountain coasters in the area. The adventure begins with a relaxing ride to the top, along which you can sit back and enjoy the view. Once you’re at the top, you’re put in control of your own speed for the next 2,750 feet of turns, dips and more. This coaster reaches speeds up to 25 miles per hour. There’s room for two riders!

9. Smoky Mountain Coaster

“Ride the hill and feel the thrill” at the Smoky Mountain Alpine Coaster! The track is over a mile long, so you’re in for quite the adventure when you visit. Like the other mountain coasters, you’re in control of your own speed as you race around the track. This family-friendly ride allows 2 people to ride together and reach speeds to 30 miles per hour. You can enjoy riding this mountain coaster in Pigeon Forge rain, snow, or shine!

How to get the best experience out of Gatlinburg Mountain coasters

There are many ways to enjoy majestic mountain destinations, either in summer or winter. The first activities that come to mind may be skiing, hiking and mountain biking. One that may not first come to mind is riding an alpine coaster. But it should as it tops our list of favorite summer activities. These days many mountain resorts offer fun variations of this thrill ride set in a natural alpine environment.

Since then, alpine coasters have popped up in ski resorts across the country. Two new alpine coasters opened in 2020. There’s no sign of this trend changing, and we should all be glad for it. An alpine coaster is similar to a roller coaster. But this thrill ride is set atop a mountain where riders can breathe fresh air. Riders take in spectacular natural views as you speed down the mountain, making hairpin turns along the way.

What is the difference between an alpine slide and an alpine coaster?

The alpine slide has been around since the 1970s. However, the alpine mountain coaster was first developed in 1997 by a German company, Wiegland.

Alpine coasters are designed to take advantage of the natural mountain elevation and topography. Gravity drives individual cars attached to a fixed track down the natural contours of a mountain. Riders control their speed with a brake lever. On a closed loop track, the car gets hauled up the hill at the end of the ride by a pulley system. Then there are systems where the rider takes a chairlift up the mountain and rides down the track. The alpine coaster is different from the original alpine slide. It is attached to rails and winds through the mountain topography most commonly on a 360 degree closed track.

The alpine slide originating in the 1970s is an unattached wheeled cart that slides down a concrete chute built on a slope. These go faster than the alpine coaster. There is less control. And they start at the top of the hill and end at the bottom.

Why should you ride an alpine coaster this year?

There are numerous great reasons available for you to go ahead with a ride in an alpine coaster. Let’s take a look at some of the most prominent reasons out of them that you should be mindful about.

  • Mountain alpine coasters are fun!

An alpine mountain coaster is similar to a roller coaster. It is a fast thrill ride that gives riders an adrenaline rush.

But the beauty of an alpine roller coaster is that it exists in a spectacular natural mountain environment. No concrete jungle surrounds these thrill rides. Your car may wind, dip and make hairpin turns through a lush green forest. Or it may soar over an expansive ski slope with majestic mountains and blue skies as the backdrop. Riders breathe in fresh mountain air as they let out joyous screams while feeling the thrill.

  • No lessons or equipment required on alpine coasters.

Unlike skiing, the most common way of speeding down a ski slope, an alpine slide does not require any kind of lessons. Nor does it require special equipment. The closest you will come to needing special equipment is that some alpine mountain coasters require close-toed shoes.

Kids as young as three years of age and at least 38” tall can ride with their parents or another adult. They can hop on and enjoy the thrill without expensive ski lessons. Ski resorts do typically require that a waiver be signed at check-in, prior to riding. Some may require purchase of a scenic lift ticket to get to the ride, whereas some are located at the base of the mountain.

Are alpine coasters safe?

As long as the rules are followed, alpine coasters are a safe thrill ride. Unlike alpine slides, the carts are actually attached to the track. While the rider is able to control speed to a certain extent, most max out around 25 mph. Moreover, there’s a system that automatically slows riders if they get too close to another cart.

How Mountain Coasters Are Different from Roller Coasters

If you feel like you have recently seen mountain and alpine coasters growing in popularity, you would not be wrong! Mountain coasters (referred to interchangeably as alpine coasters) are really having a moment lately.

An invention that originated in the Alps of Germany, before 2005, there were not yet any mountain coasters in the entire United States, but since the first one opened, their popularity has really taken off—and for good reason!

Many people have heard of alpine or mountain coasters and are not quite sure what they are or how they are different. Even if you are not a fan of roller coasters, chances are, a mountain coaster will be a blast for you!

You benefit from the natural terrain. Mountain coasters are built on mountains for a reason: They leverage the natural terrain of wherever they are (which would be the Rockies, in our case). With traditional roller coasters, the track is built to create the terrain needed to reach high speeds—but with alpine coasters, we use what nature has already provided!

You can be in charge of your adventure. Instead of simply being along for the ride, with a mountain coaster, you can choose the speed you would like to move at! The coasters work with gravity, but you can utilize the brake lever on your car to slow down or speed up as you would like to get the most out of your ride.

You can take in amazing scenery. We might be biased, but we think it is true that the Rocky Mountains are home to some of the most beautiful views on earth—and on a mountain coaster, you can soak them all in from a very unique vantage point. Because alpine coasters take advantage of the natural scenery, there is no better way to experience the gorgeous sites that our slice of the mountains has to offer.

Final words

From this article, you could get to know about the top Gatlinburg Mountain coasters that you can try in this year. You will be able to do your own research around them and pick the best alpine coaster that you can visit. Then you just need to go ahead with it, and you will surely fall in love with the experience coming on your way.