Lil Travel Folks is supported by its readers. If you purchase through a link on my site, I may earn a commission. Learn more
The Thunderhead is a wooden coaster in Dollywood’s Timber Canyon. It brings you back to when you were a kid riding old fashioned roller coasters! The ride is one of the best wooden coasters and truly the wildest ride in the woods, and is unforgettable.
This ride opened is manufactured by Great Coasters International and uses GCI’s Millenium Flyer Trains. It opened in an area of the park that was known as Thunderhead Gap. It’s been thrilling visitors since it opened in 2004. Rides you will find near the Thunderhead include the Whistle Punk Chaser, Drop Line and Lumberjack Lifts. Not too far away is the Mystery Mine and the entrance to Wildwood Grove, the newest area of the park.
So, what’s up with the Thunderhead? Let’s find out!
Thunderhead Ride Specs
Riders in each Train: 24, two in each of the 12 cars
Height: 100.4 feet
Drop Height: 100 feet
Top Speed: 55 mph
Track Length: 3230 feet
Duration: 2:30 min
Min Height to Ride: 48 inches
Manufactured by: Great Coasters International
When you arrive, you will go through a series of wait lines before going up a final flight of stairs to the ride station and then assigned a row (or depending on the line you can choose). You will then board and fasten your seatbelt and pull down on the lap bar restraint. Once the crew has checked you and has given the green light, you are off!
You will take a 270 degree turn and start the climb. You will climb for 100 feet and then you do a steep almost 180 degree turn at almost 55 mph. Then, you will do a many series of accelerated turns before coming to a large turn near the entrance (this is where the camera is, so be sure to smile!).
You will then go through the entrance at a higher level and proceed to the next set of turns. After this you will slow down and go through the coaster storage facility and sometimes wait for the next train to leave. Then you will re-enter the loading bay and deboard.
You will descend down some stairs and exit via the exit platform right next to where you came in down the exit ramp.
My personal opinion is that the Thunderhead is a great thrill coaster. The physics involved make each turn accelerate, which adds a great deal of excitement. The seats are leather and are actually very comfy and good at cushioning you from the wooden coaster shake. The only problem is if you ride it a bit too much, you can get a headache (or maybe I’m just sensitive to these things)! Overall, I think it is a classic coaster that highlights some of the best features one would expect from a great wooden coaster. I would highly recommend the Thunderhead to any wooden coaster enthusiast or thrill seeker!
This ride often has a longer wait time, so if you see a wait less than 30 minutes it’s a good time to check it out. (See how to check ride wait times from anywhere in the park here)
Most commonly, the busiest rides in the park, in order, are: Lightning Rod, Mystery Mine, FireChaser Express, Thunderhead and then the Wild Eagle. The Tennessee Tornado and the Blazing Fury tend to stay a little less busy.
As far as wooden coasters go, this is really one of the best coasters out there, according to many theme park enthusiasts. If it’s your first time riding it, expect a great overall experience (although it’s as bumpy as most wooden coasters). You get a decently long ride, experience a 100-foot drop and reach maximum speeds of 55 mph.
Before the park opens they sometimes will let Time Saver guests ride before official opening time, so if you are doing Time Saver passes you might want to check it out.
Final Thoughts on Dollywood’s Thunderhead Roller Coaster
If you’re visiting this famous Pigeon Forge theme park, definitely give the Thunderhead a try. It’s one of the many unique experiences at Dollywood, along with the other thrilling coasters, fabulous shows and great food. Overall, Dollywood is worth a visit (we go several times a year!).
When you enter the park you have the option of turning to your left or right. Turning right takes you to the Showstreet area and then along to rides such as the Lightning Rod, Rockin’ Roadway and Smoky Mountain River Rampage.
If you turn left upon your entrance you will be taken to Timber Canyon, and the Thunderhead is one of the first rides you see when you enter the area. It’s a tall ride so it’s easy to spot!
So, when you are at Dollywood, consider giving the Thunderhead a ride. You’ll be glad you did!