Big Bear Mountain at Dollywood: Opening Date, What To Expect [2023]

big bear mountain orange coaster in wildwood grove at dollywood

Big Bear Mountain is set to open in May 2023 (photo by Alaina O'Neal/

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Last summer, Dolly Parton herself 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.

This much-anticipated project marks the largest single-attraction investment in the history of Dollywood.

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

The first resort is Dollywood’s HeartSong Lodge, which is expected to open in November 2023. 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, including the opening of Dollywood’s longest roller coaster, Big Bear Mountain, as well as 21 additional operating days and the new I Will Always Love You Celebration, honoring the 50th anniversary of Dolly’s iconic song.

The record-breaking new roller coaster is opening in May.

The exciting ride was first announced during the “Big Bear Search Party” event last summer. The ride will be the largest coaster in Dollywood.

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

The new ride is set to be the longest and largest roller coaster in the park.

“I’m proud of all the firsts,” said Naughton of the new ride.

It will be the first ride to have onboard audio as well as the first one to go through a waterfall.

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

Park officials have unveiled a video that shows a long, steel coaster, led by four-wheel drive SUV ride vehicles that will take visitors on an unforgettable expedition.

Dolly on stage with Dollywood President and Benjamin Bear
Dolly Parton announces the new roller coaster at Dollywood last summer with Benjamin Bear and Dollywood President Eugene Naughton (photo by Daniel Munson/

How tall is Big Bear Mountain at Dollywood?

The highest track elevation is 66 feet. The newest addition costs a whopping $25 million and stretches 3,990 feet. The massive structure hugs six acres of undulating topography.

The ride is expected to last 99-104 seconds. And according to a POV of the coaster, it does not go upside down.

The last piece of the track was put into place on January 10, during the park’s seasonal closure. It is still under construction at the time of this writing and is expected to open in May.

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

Construction on big bear mountain shows large boulders and orange coaster tracks
Construction crews make progress on Big Bear Mountain during opening weekend in 2023 (photo by Alaina O’Neal/

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 will be 39 inches tall, making it a family coaster and so that young adventurers will also be able to ride.

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, this spring, Dollywood 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.

big bear mountain coaster over water feature
The new Dollywood roller coaster travels around Wildwood Grove (photo by Alaina O’Neal/

Is Big Bear open at Dollywood?

The new attraction has an anticipated opening date of May 2023. Dolly Parton has plans to return to the park to mark the occasion.

What day does Dollywood open in 2023?

The park opened to the general public on Saturday, March 11, 2023. Guests can book with Tripster for their one or two-day admission passes.

Black Bear Trail
Little ones can currently ride Benjamin Bear on Black Bear Trail in Wildwood Grove (photo by Dr. Candi Overholt/

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.

This 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 will be the newest, largest and longest coaster, it will likely not be 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 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 media event.

“She’s keeping me busy. Now that we’ve announced 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.

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: Opening Date, 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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