These Are the 4 Scariest Attractions in Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg, Says Local

lightning rod roller coaster

Lightning Rod is easily the scariest ride in Dollywood (photo by Morgan Overholt/

From coasters to heights, the Smoky Mountains can provide plenty of thrills

Fear is in the eye of the beholder. There are attractions in the Smoky Mountains that aim to be scary – and to varying degrees – succeed. But then other places force us to confront our fears. As someone with a lifelong fear of heights, I understand that those attractions can often be scarier than those with more artificial thrills.

In this article, I will talk about the top four places in the Smokies that can induce fear – artificially or otherwise. These are attractions that cause our heartbeat to rise and cause us to battle back the fight or flight reflex. 

The Smoky Mountains area is full of scary attractions. Some of these include rides, like the Mountain Monster in the Mountain Mile in Pigeon Forge or the Lightning Rod coaster at Dollywood. Other scares are height-based, like the glass-bottom bridge at SkyPark in Gatlinburg.

The Mountain Monster in Mountain Mile
The Mountain Monster in Pigeon Forge offers a drop, a launch and a swing that may be scary for some (photo by James Overholt/

1. The Mountain Monster

Located in the Mountain Mile in Pigeon Forge, a collection of shops, restaurants and attractions, the Mountain Monster is a torture device disguised as entertainment. It’s a 200-foot tower and swing that offers guests three different experiences, each designed to frighten the bejesus out of you. The Monster Drop is like many amusement park rides you’ll see: the Tower of Terror, Dr. Doom’s Freefall or the Demon Drop. With nothing but a lap belt holding you in your seat, you ride up to the top of the tower – 200 feet – and then drops you. The free fall feeling will get the adrenaline going. 

The second option – the Monster Launch – is essentially a slingshot. You’re loaded into a seat and blasted up to a bar that’s 170 feet into the air. The ride vehicle passes the bar and you come close to the upper end of the 200-foot tower before you’re pulled back down to Earth. The negative G’s as you transition down are quite something and you might flip over a time or two.

The final option is Monster Swing. You ride up 200 feet to the top of the tower. You’re hooked into the ride vehicle attached to the swing that’s maybe 100 feet from the tower. You slowly tilt down, facing the ground and are let go, swinging out over a water feature toward the Island. If you survive the initial shock, it’s a fairly gentle swing with a nice view of Pigeon Forge.

glass panels on the skybridge
The highest point of the bridge is 150 feet off the ground and features glass floor panels (photo by Morgan Overholt/

2. The Gatlinburg SkyBridge

I have had a life-long fear of heights. However, I’ve been able to – for the most part – tamp it down and do the things I want to do. I’ve done the Eiffel Tower, the Empire State Building and the St. Louis Arch, to name a few. But I find it’s worse when I’m out in the open air and when I have my kids with me. I was a nervous wreck at Rock City in Lookout Mountain, Georgia. Anytime they got near the edge, it bothered me even though there was a thick rock wall between them and danger.

And so, for me, the Skybridge, located at the Gatlinburg SkyPark, is the scariest attraction in the Smokies. I know, there’s no real danger, as we sway 500 feet above Gatlinburg. There are several layers of clear glass in the middle, after all. I know that I’m not going to fall. But while my brain knows it, the rest of me is in agony until we’re safely back on the mountain and well away from the edge.

lightning rod coaster at dollywood
Lightning Rod is known for its intensity (photo by Morgan Overholt/

3. Lightning Rod Roller Coaster

In Dollywood, located in Pigeon Forge, the Wild Eagle is generally considered scarier because of the ride vehicle that leaves your feet dangling. But the Eagle – for all its thrills – is a smooth, almost relaxing ride once you adjust to the feet thing. The Lightning Rod? It feels like you’re being shot out of a gun, and you never quite settle into a comfort level. I grew up riding roller coasters at King’s Island and Cedar Point. I’ve known what it’s like to go fast since I was a kid. I don’t know that any roller coaster has felt quite as intense as Lightning Rod – even ones that go upside down and do a lot of aerial acrobatics.

Mysterious Mansion in Gatlinburg
Mysterious Mansion is a tour through a “haunted” house (photo by James Overholt/

4. Mysterious Mansion

This is maybe a more traditional type of scare, built specifically for people who enjoy the haunted house experience. Open from Spring Break through the fall, the Mysterious Mansion is located back on River Road in Gatlinburg. It’s a self-guided tour through a large “haunted” house.

There are winding staircases, secret passages and creepy, dark corridors with zombies, psychos and ghouls … and that’s just the visitors! I kid, I kid. But if you like haunted houses, this one is the best in the region that’s not only open for the Halloween season. But if you want a bigger scare and you’re visiting in the fall, consider Frightmare Manor in Morristown. It can be a little more intense and always draws a big crowd in the weeks leading up to Halloween.

Thrills come in all shapes and sizes in the Smokies. From jump scares to challenging heights to wild rides, there is a little something for everyone who wants to get their hearts pumping and blood flowing.

Are you planning a trip to the Smoky Mountains? Be sure to check out our coupons page for area promos.

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