Every once in a while, somebody in the tourism mecca that is the Great Smoky Mountains gets a money-making idea. And suddenly, copycats spring up all over.
Think pancake houses and go-kart tracks.
Then came distilleries, which wasn’t necessarily a new idea. But rather a new way to capitalize on an old one.
So what’s the newest copycat idea sweeping Sevier County from Wears Valley to Sevierville and beyond? Alpine coasters.
People come from across the United States to East Tennessee and the Great Smoky Mountains National Park to ride the rails of glorified slides built upon the side of every ownable mountain in the area.
Area Deals and Discounts
Subscribe to our newsletter and we will instantly deliver the best area discounts to your inbox.
What is the best mountain coaster in Gatlinburg?
There are a lot of factors that go into choosing the right mountain coaster for you. For example, you’ve got to compare pricing, speed, length, height/weight requirements and location.
Are double riders allowed? Is there a scenic uphill ride? Is there other entertainment as part of the deal? Can I go ice skating at the attraction?
If I get scared, will someone be there to sell me fudge or ice cream and make me feel better after? Finally, is the coaster actually in Gatlinburg?
With this in mind, let’s take a look at some alpine coasters. But keep in mind, any pricing mentioned in this article may vary by season and is subject to change.
1. Ober Mountain
Gatlinburg; Ride length: 2,750 feet
Formerly Ober Gatlinburg, Ober Mountain is an alpine-style village with year-round ice skating, seasonal skiing and more. Having undergone a relatively recent ownership change, the new management is focused on bringing the park back to its former glory.
The Tennessee Flyer, formerly known as the Ski Mountain Coaster, is described as 2,750 feet of turns, dips, zig-zags, corkscrews and G-force adventures. It’s not as long as some of the other rides on the list, but it has the advantage of actually being up in the mountains at high elevations.
Riders must be 9 years or older and at least 52 inches tall to ride alone. Children age 8 and under must ride with someone 18 years or older. The maximum combined weight per coaster cart is 300 lbs.
And if you enjoy the mountain coaster experience, you may also be interested in their Alpine Slide.
Both the alpine slide and mountain coaster are included with a wristband purchase, which is currently $49 for adults ages 5 to 59 and $39 for seniors.
Other wristband activities include the Aerial Tramway ride up from the strip, ice skating, the scenic chairlift, a rock wall, summer tubing, ice bumper cars and the new jump pillow.
2. Ripley’s Mountain Coaster
Gatlinburg; Ride length: Unknown
The Ripley’s coaster is not as high in elevation as some of the other Gatlinburg coasters, but it’s easier to access and you don’t have to pay for anything extra.
There is a variety of combo ticket options with other area Ripley’s attractions, which can often sweeten the deal. But two coaster rides are $24.99 for adults and $12.99 for kids 3-9.
To ride solo, guests must be 10 years of age or older and at least 54 inches tall. Children ages 3–9 must be at least 38 inches tall to ride and must be accompanied by a companion who is at least 16 years old and 54 inches or taller.
The weight limit per coaster cart is 375 lbs per cart if the track is dry. However, it’s 330 lbs per cart if the track is wet.
3. Moonshine Mountain Coaster
Gatlinburg; Ride time: 5 minutes
Formerly known as the Gatlinburg Mountain Coaster, this coaster offers three pricing options: $17 per adult, $13 per youth 8 to 12 and $5 for kids 3 to 7.
Located on the other side of Hillbilly Golf as Ripley’s coaster, this was the first mountain coaster in Gatlinburg. After an ownership change, the site was rebranded and upgraded.
Drivers must be at least 56 inches tall and riders must be at least 38 inches tall. The maximum weight is 375 lbs in dry conditions and 330 lbs in wet conditions.
The ride is about five minutes long, which includes about three minutes of going uphill.
Gatlinburg; Ride length: 1,600 feet
Located at Anakeesta, the Rail Runner is 1,600 feet of downhill twists and turns.
In addition to your Anakeesta admission, the Rail Runner is currently $14.99 for single riders and $18.99 for tandem riders. General admission to the park starts at $34.99 with discounts available for kids and seniors. Usually tickets are about $2 less on Tripster.
The max weight for the rail runner is 230 lbs. Single riders must be at least 7 years old and 48 inches tall. Tandem riders must be 3 to 7 years old and a minimum of 38 inches tall. The combined weight cannot exceed 230 lbs.
Anakeesta will also soon offer a second coaster, called the Hellbender, which is set to open this fall.
5. Skyland Ranch
Sevierville; Ride time: 8 minutes
By my count, there are four alpine coasters in Gatlinburg. So, we’re gonna go off track, so to speak, with the remaining coasters on our list.
The area’s newest “amusement park” Skyland Ranch, located in Sevierville, offers several attractions, including the Wild Stallion Mountain Coaster. The coaster is billed as the longest mountain coaster in the Southeast, boasting a more-than-eight-minute ride.
One ticket for Wild Stallion Mountain Coaster includes a one-time ride on the coaster. You must be at least 3 years old and 38 inches tall to ride. All riders under 54 inches tall must ride with an adult. The weight limit is listed at 375 lbs.
It’s $18.99 for adults ages 10 and up and $9.99 for riders ages 3 to 9.
6. Rocky Top Mountain Coaster
Pigeon Forge; Ride time: 9 minutes
This coaster is located on Veterans Boulevard in Pigeon Forge and also claims to be the longest mountain coaster in Tennessee. It features four uplifts, multiple tunnels and a 9-minute ride.
The first ride for adults is $18 and the second is $9. For kids ages 7-12, it’s $14 for the first ride and $9 for the second.
Riders must be 56 inches tall to ride alone or 38 inches tall to ride with an adult. The maximum height is 84 inches. Each sled can hold up to 375 pounds in dry conditions.
7. Goats on the Roof
Pigeon Forge; Ride length: 4,875 feet
Located on Wears Valley Road, the Goat Coaster zig-zags and curls through the Smoky Mountains. It’s a twisting 4,875-foot journey.
All tickets are, at the time of this writing, $12. However, that’s listed as a limited-time offer.
Riders must be 38 inches tall, and drivers must be 54-84 inches tall. Single drivers must weigh less than 375 lbs and must be at least 3 years old.
8. Smoky Mountain Alpine Coaster
Pigeon Forge; Ride time: 7-8 minutes
Located on Wears Valley Road in Pigeon Forge, this coaster is billed as the longest “downhill” ride in the country. The circuit is over a mile long and takes 7 to 8 minutes to ride.
The height requirement to ride alone is 56 inches and you must be 38 inches to be a co-rider. The max height is 7 feet tall, and the max weight is 375 lbs in dry weather and 330 in wet weather.
Adults cost $18 and children cost $14. Additional same-day rides are $10.
What is the difference between an alpine coaster and a roller coaster?
Well, let’s start with a similarity. Both alpine coasters and roller coasters rely on the power of gravity to get riders around the track.
I’m ashamed to admit how old I was when I realized they were called coasters for a reason. In fact, I think it’s safe to say an alpine coaster is a version of a roller coaster.
The biggest difference is that an alpine coaster gets its gravitational force from the natural incline of the mountain whereas most roller coasters build that artificially.
Alpine coasters generally tend to be single-rider constructions and give the guest some control over the thrill level by letting them control the speed using a handbrake.
Are alpine coasters safe?
I reckon so. I mean, I look at some of those attractions and see the mass of rails and corkscrews and dips and twists that promise gravity-driven adventure and I wonder.
But there’s a safety feature I didn’t know about, courtesy of the good people at alpinecoasters.com. In addition to the handbrake, the cart has a centrifugal brake which limits its maximum speed to approximately 27 mph.
Also, some carts come with a distance-based anti-collision feature that prevents the person behind you from barreling through a 400-foot elevation change and ramming you into next week. It does appear that feature is optional which is … disconcerting.
Why should distance-based anti-collision be optional?
The No. 5 safety feature listed on aplinecoasters.com after seat belts, dual braking systems and the optional distance control is following the rules.
“As with all rides of this nature, it is important that riders follow the rules to ensure their safety.”
Yeah, have you met the folks we’re fixin’ to ride with on this erector-set-looking mountain gravity thrill machine that appeared out of nowhere last Tuesday?
We’re not gonna make it.
Business owners certainly do not want anyone to get hurt.
For example, according to the Moonshine Mountain Coasters FAQs, management keeps a close relationship with the state Department of Labor & Workforce Development and official amusement inspectors. The mechanical department performs weekly and monthly inspections and also an annual inspection is performed by the manufacturer.
Does that mean a problem can’t happen? No. There is an inherent risk in everything.
If you’re worried about safety, use your best judgment. Watch a few runs. See how the place is managed. If you’re uncomfortable, there are plenty of other options within a 50-mile radius.
Do you have a favorite mountain coaster ride in Gatlinburg? If so, let us know in the comments.