Big Bear Mountain at Dollywood Is Now Open, What To Expect [2023]

big bear at dollywood

Big Bear Mountain is now open at Dollywood (media photo courtesy of Dollywood)

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Last summer, Dolly Parton along with Dollywood officials hosted a BIG event at the theme park to release details about Dollywood’s newest ride, the Big Bear Mountain roller coaster.

The highly anticipated project is the largest single attraction investment in the park’s history. And, it is now open to the public.

It’s part of the $500 million expansion plan that was first announced in 2021. In total, this investment is set to include four new resorts, a campground and this record-breaking new attraction. The coaster itself was a $25 million project.

The first resort is Dollywood’s HeartSong Lodge, which is expected to open in November 2023. Dollywood guests can begin making reservations as early as June.

Read Also: A Look at Dollywood HeartSong Resort, Suite 1986

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What’s coming to Dollywood in 2023?

The 2023 season features “big” fun, with the new roller coaster opener as one of the main events. The 2023 season also featured the “I Will Always Love You” celebration in the early spring as well as 21 additional operating days in the theme park calendar.

The record-breaking new roller coaster is now open.

“2023 is all about the bears,” said Eugene Naughton, President of the Dollywood Company.

The new ride is the longest roller coaster as well as the largest coaster in the park.

“Y’all know I’m not gonna be on that,” Parton quipped. “If I go on that thing, you’ll find one of my wigs on top of a tree.”

big bear mountain coaster at dollywood
The new roller coaster stretches 3,990 feet (photo by Daniel Munson/

How tall is Big Bear Mountain at Dollywood?

The highest track elevation is 66 feet and stretches 3,990 feet. The massive structure hugs six acres of undulating topography.

The ride lasts about 99-104 seconds. It does not go upside down. Each coaster train seats 20 guests.

What is it like to ride Big Bear Mountain?

The ride itself is very smooth with several quick accelerations. While it’s an exciting ride, it’s definitely marketed to be a family-friendly coaster.

Also, it is the first of its kind in many ways. For example, the gigantic coaster is the first attraction in the park to have onboard audio as well as the first one to go through a waterfall.

The sound system provides auditory thrills to match the ride’s dynamic movements as guests come daringly close to Big Bear. The highly-detailed coaster trains resemble four-wheel drive SUV ride vehicles that feature working headlights and taillights.

It is a long, steel coaster, that will take visitors on an unforgettable expedition.

The ride runs the border of Wildwood Grove, where riders soar through the wilderness and high above the forest while they’re on the search for the legendary bear.

riders on the orange big bear coaster at dollywood
Riders only have to be 39 inches tall to ride this exciting new ride (media photo courtesy of Dollywood)

How fast is Big Bear Mountain at Dollywood?

The family-friendly ride will have a top speed of 48 mph. Additionally, it features three separate launches, airtime hills, high-speed carousel turns and even passes behind a waterfall.

The minimum height requirement for Big Bear Mountain is 39 inches tall, making it a family coaster and so that young adventurers will also be able to ride.

dolly parton with dollywood president eugene Naughton
Dolly Parton joins Dollywood President Eugene Naughton in a press event for Big Bear Mountain on Friday, May 12, 2023 (photo by Daniel Munson/

Who is the manufacturer of Big Bear Mountain Dollywood?

According to a press release, the ride is manufactured by Vekoma.

The ride is inspired by the legend of Big Bear, a massive black bear who has been roaming through Wildwood Grove for as long as anyone can remember.

While no one has ever seen him, telltale signs regularly appear in the hills surrounding the Grove.

So now, guests are invited to join Ned Oakley, Wildwood Grove’s resident wilderness explorer, on an adventure to find Big Bear.

From his Adventure Outpost Base Camp, located just a stone’s throw from the Grove’s Hidden Hollow, Oakley takes adventurers for the rides of their lives in his specially-outfitted four-wheel drive SUVs.

Oakley is also the caretaker of Benjamin Bear, the bear of Wildwood Grove. Apparently, some folks say Big Bear could be as tall as about 20 feet.

As a record breaker all around, it’s definitely a game changer for the park.

benjamin bear mascot at dollywood
Benjamin Bear celebrates the opening of Big Bear Mountain at Dollywood (photo by Daniel Munson/

Is Big Bear open at Dollywood?

Yes! As of May 12, 2023, the ride is now open to the public. To purchase one or two-day tickets to the park to ride the new ride, book online with Tripster.

When was Wildwood Grove added to Dollywood?

Wildwood Grove opened at Dollywood in 2019. The project cost $37 million and marked one of the largest investments in the park’s history. It is still Dollywood’s newest area, and even more expansions are in the works, as evidenced by the new coaster.

The new ride marks an expansion of Wildwood Grove, the three-time and current winner of the Golden Ticket award for Best Theme Park Kids’ Area.

“We said we’re going to expand Wildwood Grove, and we really meant it,” Dolly said prior to the Big Bear opening event.

“This ride is bigger than, well, Big Bear! Seriously though, I’m so glad we’re able to incorporate so much of the Smokies into this ride. I’m proud of where I’m from, and these Smoky Mountains truly are so much a part of me and who I am to this day.”

The Wildwood Grove section of the Dollywood theme park offers several rides and attractions inspired by Dolly’s childhood.

In fact, her love of the area and her childhood permeate each expansion.

Other rides in Wildwood Grove currently include the Dragonflier, a small roller coaster; The Mad Mockingbird, a spinning flying ride in the vein of carnival attractions; Frogs and Fireflies, a bouncing kiddie ride and the Black Bear Trail; a track ride in which guests can ride Benjamin Bear. 

Wildwood Grove served as an expansion where people could get in and out easier and have indoor and outdoor activities for families. It has become one of the most beloved sections of the park.

Lightning Rod Coaster at Dollywood
Lightning Rod is considered the most intense ride at Dollywood (photo by Morgan Overholt/

What is the most intense ride at Dollywood?

Although Big Bear Mountain is the newest, largest and longest coaster, it is not the most intense. That title likely goes to Lightning Rod.

Lightning Rod features a 165-ft drop and has a top speed of 73 mph.

Read Also: Dollywood Roller Coasters: A Complete List, Ranked [2023]

Additional investments at Dollywood

The big news and big fun continue at Dollywood, named last summer as the No. 1 theme park in the United States by Tripadvisor reviewers.

The Dollywood Company has invested millions of dollars into the growth of its properties.

Expansions undertaken since 2010 include Dollywood’s DreamMore Resort and Spa and roller coasters such as Lightning Rod and FireChaser Express.

Additionally, there are rumors that Wildwood Grove may have even more expansions in the future.

“Big Bear Mountain also expands the footprint of Wildwood Grove and serves as another monumental step in the ongoing investment plan Dolly and I announced in June 2021,” said Naughton during a previous media event.

“She’s keeping me busy. Now that we’ve [opened] Big Bear Mountain, I’ll start working on the next projects she has lined up for me!”

Dollywood also brings new surprises each season and features festivals like the Flower & Food Festival in the spring and the Summer Celebration in the summer.

In the fall, the park features several pumpkins and decorations as part of the Harvest Festival presented by Humana. In the winter, the park lights up the season with the famous Smoky Mountain Christmas event. The beloved festivals feature special live entertainment, culinary treats and iconic decorations.

Dollywood is located in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee and is rated one of the best family vacation destinations in the U.S.

Guests looking for special offers and packages during their trip to the Smokies should visit

Sometimes you can also find a few deals on the Tripster page.

What do you think about the new ride announcement? Let us know in the comments below.


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Alaina O'Neal

Alaina is the owner and founder of Alaina Media LLC, a freelance graphic design agency, the owner and founder of, and the co-founder of LLC – a media company that specializes in regional travel sites.

2 thoughts on “Big Bear Mountain at Dollywood Is Now Open, What To Expect [2023]”

  1. I Would Love To Be One Of The First Front Row Riders On The First Ride. I Might Be 68, But Still Love A Thrill..

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