There’s an Abandoned Theme Park Rusting Away in the Smoky Mountains

Fun Mountain in Gatlinburg

The old, rusting lift can be seen from a paid parking lot in Gatlinburg (photo by Marie Graichen/TheSmokies.com)

Local theorizes what happened to Fun Mountain in Gatlinburg TN

In 1993, Dollywood was still in its first decade of growing out of its Silver Dollar City phase. Other Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge attractions were morphing with the dawn of the internet age. And Fun Mountain, located at the entrance to the strip in Gatlinburg, tried to lay its claim to the amusement park business revenue in town.

The old theme park Fun Mountain once offered go karts, rides and mini golf on top of a mountain in Gatlinburg, Tennessee. The theme park shuttered, likely due to fierce competition and the popularity of the nearby theme park Dollywood. But what makes this park interesting is that pieces of it can still be seen in town, rusting away and slowly being reclaimed by nature.

The key to success in Sevier County is certainly well-mapped, in theory. Put together a place with go-karts, bumper cars, mini-golf and some arcade games and watch the money flow down the mountain like a stream. The future must have looked so bright and promising for Reagan Resorts, the owners of Fun Mountain, in the heady days of 1993.

overgrowth around chair lift
Some of what remains from Fun Mountain is being consumed by nature (photo by Marie Graichen/TheSmokies.com)

What happened to Fun Mountain in Gatlinburg?

Today, all that remains of Fun Mountain is dreams and an empty, rusting lot. It surely wouldn’t have looked out of place in the Twilight Zone. Some seven years after its opening, the rides were auctioned off, piece by piece, to collectors. All that’s left is the rusting chair lift, a handful of storage buildings and a concrete pad that will confound archaeologists in 1,500 years much like Stonehenge. So what went wrong for Fun Mountain? Here are my theories on why it failed:

concrete pad that used to be go kart track
An outline of what appears to be part of the old go-kart track can be seen from the current parking lot (photo by Alaina O’Neal/TheSmokies.com)

1. Karma

First of all, Fun Mountain organizers tore down the historic Mountain View Hotel. The hotel was founded in the 1920s and was used by a wealthy sawmill owner to house his employees. In Gatlinburg, tearing down a historic 3-story, 100-room hotel with nearly 70 years of history to make room for the Do-Se-Do Scrambler ride is the cosmic equivalent of building a modern housing development on a massive, ancient Native American graveyard.

chair lift rotting in trees
While some of the old chairs remain intact, some can barely be seen (photo by Alaina O’Neal/TheSmokies.com)

2. Marketing

The Fun Mountain website is preserved for posterity on the internet archive way back machine. The site is an interesting relic of ancient web design. And it’s also a window into how the marketing department may have fallen down on the job. First, excessive exclamation point usage is a sign of someone who thinks they’re good at marketing but are not. If you need to tell people to get excited with punctuation, your sentence isn’t doing what you think it is. Secondly, whoever was in charge of naming the rides lacked a little of the poet’s soul. I would have been embarrassed as a teen to utter out loud, much less ride, the hyphen-friendly Go-Get-Em-Go-Carts, the Bump-Em Bumper Boats or the aforementioned Do-Se-Do Scrambler Ride.

From a personal standpoint, I was 17 years old in the summer of 1993. I lived 40 minutes away from Fun Mountain and was preparing for my life at the University of Tennessee. As a teen to young adult, I was squarely in the target demographic for the entirety of Fun Mountain’s run. Yet, I can’t remember a radio, TV or print ad for Fun Mountain.

old chair lift surrounded by trees
The first section of the lift can barely be seen from the first section of the parking lot (photo by James Overholt/TheSmokies.com)

3. Bad timing

Fun Mountain may have been the right idea at the wrong time. We were the disaffected Gen X. For instance, we wanted nothing to do with cheesy 80s-era rides or animatronics stolen from a defunct Showbiz Pizza. The Bear Jam Bumper Cars was in no way something that could be cool.

old tunnel
A tunnel sits just up the road from the parking lot (photo by Marie Graichen/TheSmokies.com)

4. Parking and location

Parking and location were an issue, even though you’d think the spot at the start of the strip would have been ideal. A parking lot essentially took its place, which is telling. For instance, Anakeesta solved the parking dilemma by building parking at the strip and giving transportation to the park set back in the mountains. Therefore, if Fun Mountain had stumbled across that model 30 years earlier, it would have been helpful to their success.

old chair lifts in sky
Several chairs from Fun Mountain are visible from the parking lot area (photo by James Overholt/TheSmokies.com)

5. Poor finances

Finally, lack of finances is likely closest to the truth. Specifically, many small businesses fail as a result of being undercapitalized. Fun Mountain launched with many poorly named stuff and relied on word of mouth to survive. Likely, they didn’t allow enough funds for marketing and didn’t account for the massive growth at Dollywood, which ate up market share like Pac-Man swallowed yellowed pellets. They needed to be able to survive longer and dig in deeper. On paper, Fun Mountain should have worked. Go-karts, bumper cars and boats? Mini-golf? Carnival rides and arcade games? All for one reasonable price? If that place was open today, we’d take the kids a couple of times a year. Instead, it’s a dusty, haunted place.

no trespassing sign
If you find the old attraction, stay in the parking lot and do not cross the “no trespassing” signs (photo by Marie Graichen/TheSmokies.com)

Where is the abandoned theme park in Gatlinburg?

The remains of the old, abandoned park are visible from a public parking lot in Gatlinburg. We strongly encourage our readers to not venture too far and respect the “no trespassing” signs. Stay in the general parking lot area.

Do you remember Fun Mountain? Let me know in the comments.

Have a question or comment about something in this article? Contact our staff here. You may also contact our editorial team at info@thesmokies.com.

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31 thoughts on “There’s an Abandoned Theme Park Rusting Away in the Smoky Mountains”

  1. U remember going there in 95. We had a great time. It was my first outing after having my oldest daughter. I was sad to see it close. It was not busy so we didn’t have to wait in line. Just 1 more tragedy. Could’ve been great.

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  2. We stayed at the Mountain View Hotel when I was a kid with Mom, Dad, Aunts and Uncles. It was a big place. I had always wondered what had happened to it on my trips back to Gatlinburg decades later.

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  3. Oh my goodness I do remember that place. What a walk down memory lane! I remember my parents surprising us one day that we were going to Magic World (also a closed tragedy) and we ended up going to Fun Mountain. Good times!

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  4. I have lived in East TN my entire life between Knoxville and Seymour and had never heard of this place until reading this article. Thanks for sharing!

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  5. I see it all the time just a lil before what I now call you ketster. I find it funny one park failed so they open a similar idea almost right next to it that to me don’t seem much better, unless you into ropes courses nature etc. Which I am but I expected more when the old an new attraction are almost side by side

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  6. I use to work there in 1996 I met Lee Greenwood there with his son I put his son on the big jungle gym we had one of the best days of my life

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  7. Worked there a couple years as a ride operator. Still have my Fun Mountain staff t-shirts. It was a pretty good time. 1996-97

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  8. Did you have to tide a 2 seat lift up a steep hill to get there? Was there a gift shop at the top? Might have went there in May of 1995.

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  9. I agree w author that they had NO MARKETING At All that I know of AN THAT WAS A BIG PROBLEM! Their Biggest I believe. We went multiple times a year to Gatlinburg from my early childhood 80’s through my teens in 90’s when Fun Mtn was open and I remember seeing it multiple times up on the hill as you come in to Gatlinburg from pigeon forge it would be on your left, and if you were going out of Gatlinburg towards Pigeon Forge- it would be the last big major turn/ intersection on right before the tunnel and it sat way up on hill. It was kind of hard to see unless it was lit up and even then I never saw an entrance or exit sign. We never saw a pamphlet or any info though, an I guess with so many other things around that did have marketing and similar attractions, we weren’t intrigued enough or ever drawn to it enough to go find the parking lot – which btw was hard to access from the strip, an then how to find out cost an details. There weren’t even any signs or anything like that. Those are really the only reasons that we never went. It didn’t appear to have a lot of attractions as far as carnival rides, all I could see other than a ferris wheel was a Carousel an that was all you could tell about the place. Depending time of yr an where on road u were you might see a part of chair lift.

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  10. My family & I went to the Smokies back the end of Oct. 2021. Drove 3 separate cars & arrived at different times of the day. We stayed on good old ROCKYTOP in a beautiful home way up on top of the hill. It was beautiful. The only complaint I had was we were always 45min. away to where we wanted to go.
    Each time we left we would go right by the lifts. I always wondered where the entrance was. We never knew that it was abandoned. I believe it was also lit up at night. We wanted to explore it, but never did. We said maybe next time. Lol
    There was always so much to do & see & eat. Whether it be Gatlinburg or Pigion Phorge. You need to stay more than a week, to see almost everything. We never made it to Dollywood either. Diffinitely going back someday.

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  11. I’ve lived here my entire life and this is the first I’ve heard about this park. I do remember the old hotel, but this not at all. Hillbilly Golf, and the water slide, can’t remember the name, many memories there.

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  12. Did not lift cross the main road going through Gatlinburg? And going up the mountain wasn’t there an ice-skating rink on the top of the mountain?

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    • You are thinking of Ober Gatlinburg. The place the video is about is at traffic light #3, where the Parkway and 321 split.

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  13. I remember seeing it as u come into Gatlinburg at the red-light u hook to the left and it was on the right little ways up on the hill never made it there but I remember where it was..read the story behind it so sad to see things go..but Keester has really took off..always busy when im n Gatlinburg tenn.

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  14. The parking lot is at the base of Gatlinburg Chateau (I think it is still called that) off 321. If you take the backroads to get over to Cherokee Orchard road, turning next to the Student apartments you can see some of the old lift chairs. I remember the ferris wheel. I don’t think we ever went even though we went to the Smokies and Gatlinburg many times a year in the 80’s and 90’s.

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  15. Me as well. I am 43 years old and never heard of the place. My family and I always went to Magic World and Dollywood. I guess my papa never wanted to venture to Gatlinburg, as I do now! Thanks for sharing the comments and article.

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  16. My sister and I took our kids to Fun Mountain every summer when they were younger. The price wasn’t bad. They had free parking. I think you had to pay for riding the rides there and playing the games there too.
    We really loved going there every year. When Fun Mountain closed down, my children didn’t like that at all. They liked it better than Dollywood, and also liked going to Magic World in Pigeon Forge TN. When both parks closed down, my kids did like that and blamed Dollywood for both of them going out of business.
    They, also, blame Dolly Parton’s Splash country for closing down Ogles Water Park. That was a fun place too. On mother’s day, mother’s get in for free. On father’s day father’s get in for free.

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  17. I’m a life-long Tennessean and I can remember going to Silver Dollar City before it was Dollywood; but, I have never even heard of Fun Mountain. I spent a lot of time in Gatlinburg in the late 90s after high school. Marketing problem for sure.

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  18. I have been going to the Smokies just about every year, since I was a kid; now, 33yrs after spending our honeymoon there, we still go almost yearly! Took our 3yr old baby boy (now 30yr old, this December!) to Fun Mtn. Had an absolute blast! The park was so unpopulated the day we went, that the guy manning the mo-mo the monster ride just kept it going for us, with our never having to get off. That is, til Derek started turning green and felt like he was going to vomit! LOL! He still remembers this. But we did have a great time. 🙂

    Reply

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