I am a roller coaster junkie. So on my recent trip to Sevierville, I made it my mission to find the best rides at Dollywood.

It was a pretty chilly March day so I wasn’t able to try out the water rides but I made managed to ride each major roller coaster at Dollywood and some of them twice!

While roller coasters are always my first thought when visiting a theme park, Dollywood offers so much more than just rides. Make sure you have good walking shoes for theme parks because you’ll be doing a lot of it!

They have incredible shows, working tradespeople like blacksmiths and glassblowers, and award-winning dining. It’s one of the best Pigeon Forge attractions for sure and even one of the best theme parks in the US!

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girl holding ticket to Dollywood in front of eagle statue

11 of the Best Rides at Dollywood

Located in the heart of Pigeon Forge, Tennessee, the Dollywood theme park rides offer thrilling fun in the Smoky Mountains.

It’s home to exciting rides like the Mystery Mine and Thunderhead as well as my personal favorite – Lightning Rod.

You’ll want to eat a great breakfast in Gatlinburg or Pigeon Forge so you can fuel up and be ready for an adventurous day.

Read on to find out more about the best rides at Dollywood!

Lightning Rod

Lightning rod roller coaster sign and entrance

This was by far and away my favorite roller coaster at Dollywood. The frame is wooden but it’s actually a hybrid type build so they use a steel structure as well.

The theme for this one is based on a 1950s hot-rod so while you walk through the line you go through a car sales area and what looks like a mechanic’s shop. It reminded me of waiting in line for coasters at Universal Studios!

Lightning Rod does close occasionally and can even close during extreme cold or hot temperatures. If you know you want to ride this one then I would go first thing.

Right after entering the park, you’ll make a right and that takes you out to Jukebox Junction where you’ll find Lightning Rod.

The ride starts out with a bang as you are catapulted up 20 stories high and go from 0 to 45 miles per hour.

You don’t go upside down on this one but it’s still one of the best thrill rides you’ll find.

If you love a good stomach-dropping ride then this one is for you. You reach a max speed of 73 mph on the 3-minute ride.

This one has been named one of the top ten roller coasters in the US by USA Today multiple times. It’s one that shouldn’t be missed!


Thunderhead roller coaster sign and entrance

Sometimes people underestimate coasters if they are wooden. I wouldn’t do that here.

Thunderhead is the first roller coaster that you come to if you turn left after entering the park. In the morning before the rides open, you can find a pretty good line starting at the entrance to Thunderhead.

This one was definitely a favorite too with a 100-foot drop and top speeds of 55 mph.

One of the cool things about the ride is that at one point you’ll zoom back through the waiting area on a platform above everyone.

Many of the employees who work on Thunderhead even wear earplugs because of this!

Mystery Mine

Mystery Mine roller coaster sign and entrance

This was our first roller coaster of the day! We needed a warm-up coaster because my parents hadn’t been to a theme park in a while and I’ve been having some trouble with dizziness.

It’s such a fun one though! You ride in a mine cart and half of the ride is inside while half of it is outside.

There are a couple times where you literally are going straight up so you are lying flat on your back. Then you’ll go straight down!

It’s super fun going through the “abandoned mine” and then towards the end of the ride you’ll go upside down.

Definitely one of my favorite Dollywood theme park rides!

Tennessee Tornado

Tennessee Tornado roller coaster sign and entrance

Tennessee Tornado is supposed to mimick being caught up in a tornado so this one is pretty intense.

You go through a triple-spiral loop and it lasts a quick 1 minute and 48 seconds. In that short time you get up to almost 70 mph.

The entrance to this ride is right next to the arcade and food truck park so plenty to do for those who don’t want to ride!

This Dollywood roller coaster literally takes you up the side of the mountain then through a tunnel where you immediately enter the first up-side down loop on the other side.

It’s a quick ride but a fun one!

Wild Eagle

Wild Eagle roller coaster sign and entrance

I think Wild Eagle is the smoothest big roller coaster that I’ve ever been on. Unlike Alpengeist at Busch Gardens, this one doesn’t bang your head around and constantly rattle you.

At the entrance to the ride, you’ll find a huge statue of an eagle. The line is a little funky because you can choose to go left or right at the top of the stairs.

You find out why once you get to the top.

The middle of the roller coaster is made of an eagle head and that’s what sits on the coaster track. Then two seats are along each of its wings.

So each side loads two people per row on each ride. It was actually the first ride of this type in the US!

Your feet dangle for this ride and you’ll go upside down as well as corkscrew around the track. Not sure what the proper term for that is.

FireChaser Express

FireChaser Express roller coaster sign and entrance

This might be a good one for the younger riders though there is still a height requirement of 39″.

It’s cool to see the firefighter patches while you’re waiting in line and I love that Dollywood is celebrating these unsung heroes.

The cool part about riding this coaster is that it takes you forward and backward! And of course, there is a little bit of fire involved.

Kids will also love watching the cars come out of the “Fire Station”. This was a fun one but if you’re into big thrills then it will be a one and done for you.

Daredevil Falls

One of the best water rides at Dollywood! Sadly, since it was the middle of March we didn’t do any of the water rides. Didn’t want to catch hypothermia.

This ride takes you through an abandoned logging camp. Dollywood really loves their abandoned places, don’t they?

It’s the iconic log flume ride where you’re taken down a huge drop and get splashed at the end.

This one takes you down a 60-foot drop at almost 50 mph though!

Smoky Mountain River Rampage

You know the ride where you sit in a circle as you’re taken around a lazy river that isn’t so lazy? The shape mimics a lazy river but it’s more like rapids with all the dips and curves.

This is that ride.

Typically they also have the banks boobie-trapped to spray water at your group out of nowhere or dump a bucket of water on your head.

You can either exit the ride completely dry (except for where your butt was on the wet seat) or you’ll be soaked to the bone. Seems there is no in between.

Kids always seem to love this one though! They always think it’s funny when their parents are the ones getting blasted with water.

It’s one of two water rides at Dollywood.


Barnstormer roller coaster sign

This is one of the unique Dollywood rides as you typically see this type of ride in the shape of a ship. It swings you like a pendulum arm and gets higher and higher each time.

You’ll be 81 feet high at the peak of the ride and according to Dollywood, the views are supposed to resemble those of what a 1920s stunt pilot would have seen.

It’s located in the Owens Farm area and you’ll also find a large play area for kids as well as a splash pad.


Like the FireChaser Express, this is one of the easy rides at Dollywood and good for kids. You won’t go upside down but it’s a step up from the teacups and high-flying swings.

This one is located in the Wildwood Grove section of the park and the whole section is very kid-friendly.

The ride only lasts for about a minute and it’s supposed to make you feel like a dragonfly – soaring above the rest of the park.

Blazing Fury

Blazing Fury roller coaster sign and entrance

I will have to be totally honest here and say that this was not a favorite of mine. However, Blazing Fury is the oldest attraction still in operation at the park so it’s basically a must-do.

It opened in 1978 back when Dollywood was actually Silver Dollar City. This iconic Dollywood roller coaster takes you around an 1880s town as it’s being taken over by an out-of-control fire.

As you go around the town you get to see a number of different characters as they’re dealing with the fire.

The ride is completely indoors so it was a nice escape from the chilly weather while we were there.

It’s labeled as family-friendly but if you have younger kids that are scared of the dark then it may scare them.

FAQs on Dollywood Theme Park Rides

What is the scariest ride at Dollywood?

This totally depends on who you are but personally, I didn’t think any of them were scary. If you don’t like big coasters then I wouldn’t do Lightning Rod or Wild Eagle.

If you have a younger kid that isn’t a fan of the dark then Mystery Mine and Blazing Fury aren’t for them.

To me, the water rides at Dollywood might be the most nerve-wracking because you have no idea how wet you’ll get!

Which rides at Dollywood go upside down?

Rides at Dollywood that go upside down include Mystery Mine, Tennessee Tornado, and Wild Eagle.

There are plenty of other fun rides here that don’t go upside down. Two of my favorite Dollywood coasters – Lightning Rod and Thunderhead – both don’t go upside down!

What rides should I ride first at Dollywood?

If you are a huge coaster fanatic then head to the Lightning Rod first thing! When you enter the park turn right and make your way to Jukebox Junction.

If you want a good warm-up coaster then check out Thunderhead or Mystery Mine first. When you turn left after you enter the park, they are the first two big coasters that you’ll come to.

Plan on arriving at the park 30 minutes before opening (earlier in peak season) and go ahead and park and walk in as they open the gates before the rides officially open.

There will be a decent line at Thunderhead but we were on the first cart for Mystery Mine.

Grist Mill behind pond at Dollywood

How scary is the Wild Eagle at Dollywood?

It looks like it would be terrifying but I found the Wild Eagle to be a smooth ride. I’m used to big roller coasters though.

It does go upside down and you corkscrew a few times but it didn’t feel like we were going very fast.

How many thrill rides are at Dollywood?

Well, if you’re just looking for adult roller coasters at Dollywood then there are 11 different thrill rides.

However, there are many more kiddie coasters and carnival-like rides. On Dollywood’s website, they list 16 rides under their “Thrill” category.

How fast does the Lightning Rod go?

The Lightning Rod reaches a top speed of 73 mph. At the very beginning of the ride you go from 0 to 45 mph pretty quickly!

It’s definitely one of the best rides at Dollywood!

Wrap Up: Best Rides at Dollywood

If you like to get your adrenaline pumping, then these Dollywood roller coasters are the perfect ticket. Whether you’re visiting Great Smoky Mountains National Park or just checking out the Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge area, a visit to Dollywood Theme Park is a must.

The Lightning Rod is a favorite for thrill-seekers, but don’t sleep on Thunderhead! Mystery Mine is another one that will surprise you and leave you wanting to ride again and again.

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