What’s the Deal With Goats on the Roof in Pigeon Forge?

a white goat on the roof at the goats on the roof attraction in pigeon forge

The aptly-named Goats on the Roof attraction in Wears Valley features a gift shop, a mountain coaster and you guessed it – goats on a roof. But have you ever stopped to wonder why? (photo by Morgan Overholt/TheSmokies.com)

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Goats on the Roof in Pigeon Forge has two locations – one is on Wears Valley Road and the other shopping-focused venue is on the Parkway.

Both will invariably start with a simple question: Why?


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What is the deal with the goats in Pigeon Forge?

The simple answer is that there are a lot of places selling ice cream and homemade fudge and kitschy tourist trinkets in Sevier County. So you’ve got to do something to stand out. 

But that answer still begs the question: Why goats? That answer is a little more convoluted.

In fact, the story begins with a Chicago-born Swede who moved to Door County, Wisconsin to sell square pancakes, whitefish, Swedish meatballs and other staples of Swedish cuisine.

To fit with the Swedish theme, Al Johnson and his wife, Ingert, renovated their eatery to be more – well – Swedish. This included a sod roof. 

I think you can see where this is going. 

petting goats section at goats on the roof
The Goats on the Roof attraction offers goat feeding (photo by Morgan Overholt/TheSmokies.com)

Down here, a Swedish restaurant would stand out from the crowd. However, in Sister Bay, Wisconsin you need a little oomph.

A goat turned out to be the answer for Al and Ingert when a man named Wink sneaked the animal up on the roof as a gag.

Wink’s gag proved to be a godsend for a natural marketer like Al. More rooftop goats followed. For decades, people came to see the restaurant, check out the goats and try the whitefish.

In fact, the legendary Al Johnson’s Swedish Restaurant & Butik still remains a destination of fascination – live goats, Swedish pancakes, goat cameras and all – in Sister Bay today.

coaster at goats on the roof
The ride in Pigeon Forge is one of the most affordable alpine coasters in the area (photo by Morgan Overholt/TheSmokies.com)

How did Goats on the Roof make its way to the Smoky Mountains?

So how did a goat-themed, Swedish eatery in Wisconsin begat a pair of tourist stores in Sevier County?

It’s vague but apparently, it’s an idea that coalesced about a decade ago. There’s a licensing agreement and everything.

It appears old Al trademarked Goats on the Roof even if that isn’t the name of his restaurant and gift shop. 

And here’s a fun bit of trivia. There was an attempt to strip Al of that trademark by a man named Robert Doyle, which was denied by both the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office’s Trademark Trial and Appeals Board as well as the U.S. Federal Circuit Court of Appeals.

So, as you might imagine, the licensing portion of this venture was key.

Thanks to a licensing agreement with the restaurant, the Pigeon Forge attraction now shares the “same fun and unique features” with visitors to the Smokies.

Read Also: 15 best things to do in Pigeon Forge with kids [COUPONS]

sign for gem mining at goats on the roof
Do some prospecting and try your hand at gem mining at the Pigeon Forge attraction (photo by Morgan Overholt/TheSmokies.com)

What can you do at Goats on the Roof Pigeon Forge?

Well, at the main location, you can feed the goats using a bicycle-powered conveyor system called the “goat-cycle” that carries the goat food and cans of goat chow to the top of the building.

You can watch the hungry rooftop residents dine from a second-floor observatory.

You can enjoy a hunk of homemade fudge or delicious ice cream or shop for Sevier County-themed souvenirs.

There’s also a gem mining operation where you can pan for treasures like “rare gems, emeralds, sapphires and rubies” as well. Although, the rarity and authenticity of those gems have not been confirmed.

But the premier attraction at Goats on the Roof of the Smoky Mountains – aside from the goats – is the Goat Coaster.

Located on Wears Valley Road, the Goat Coaster is a nearly mile-long alpine coaster. It carries you up into the mountains above the goats and the roof and then sprints you back down through a series of curves. You do not go upside down at any point.

The coaster – which is as of this writing $12 per ride in a “limited time offer” – reaches top speeds of 27 mph but with a handbrake, you can control your speed. 

Read Also: 5 best mountain coasters in Pigeon Forge, with coupons [2023]

pov of coaster at goats on the roof
The coaster goes up to 27 mph (photo by Alaina O’Neal/TheSmokies.com)

How long is the Goats on the Roof coaster?

The track is 4,875 feet long. The ride time is listed as seven minutes, but I think that depends on the rider.

I think it’s more like six minutes and a significant portion of the ride is being carried up the mountains and hills of Tennessee via a system of in-track pulleys.

The cart can hold one or two passengers. 

And there are restrictions, including a height limit and an age limit. Younger kids can ride, but only when accompanied by an adult. Currently, limitations are as follows: 

  • Drivers must be at least 16 years old and at least 54 inches (4.5 feet) tall.
  • Passengers have to be at least three years old and 38 inches (3.1 feet) tall.
  • Maximum rider height is 84 inches (7 feet).
  • The rider weight limit is 375 pounds per sled (or 330 pounds in wet weather).

You can purchase tickets for the coaster on-site.

Goats on the roof on the parkway
There’s also a Goats on the Roof gift shop on the Parkway with live goats, located within the store and not on the roof (photo by Alaina O’Neal/TheSmokies.com)

Goats on the Roof has two locations in the Smoky Mountains

One location features goats located on the roof, the other does not. Both locations are just minutes outside of Gatlinburg.

The Goats on the Roof gift shop is located on the main strip in Pigeon Forge at 2631 Parkway. And while there are no roof goats, there are baby goats on the premises for photo ops. But petting and feeding are not allowed.

The main location is on Wears Valley Road. This location features the famous (or infamous) roof-dwelling goats as well as the aforementioned mountain coaster.

The Goat Coaster opens at 9 am daily. Crowd sizes tend to be larger on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays.

And just for fun, don’t forget to check out the Johnson Family’s famous Goat Cam. To learn more about the Pigeon Forge attraction, visit them online.

Have you visited either of the Goats on the Roof locations on your Tennessee vacation? What did you think? Tell us about your experience in the comments below.

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John Gullion

John Gullion, Managing Editor at the Citizen Tribune, is a freelance contributor for TheSmokies.com LLC – the parent company of TheSmokies.com and HeyOrlando.com.

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