Lil Travel Folks is supported by its readers. If you purchase through a link on my site, I may earn a commission. Learn more
Headed to the Smoky Mountains and planning on giving Dollywood a try? Don’t miss the Lightning Rod coaster, the wooden coaster with the fastest speed at 73mph! It has a unique hybrid track structure and is the first wooden coaster to utilize a launch system instead of a traditional lift hill.
The Lightning Rod at Dollywood is a great example of wooden coaster charm combined with the capability of steel. What do they create? An awesome ride that keeps me and many other fans coming back for more! It’s one of our favorite attractions at the park, and it stays busy!
Lightning Rod Specs
- Riders Per Train: 24, two on each of the 14 1950’s style Hot Rod cars
- Height: 80 feet
- Full Height after Hill Drop: 206 feet
- Drop Height: 165-foot drop
- Launch speed: 45 mph
- Top Speed: 73 mph
- Track Length: 3,800 feet
- Inversions: 0
- Drop Angle: 73 degrees
- Total G-Force: 3.5 G’s
- Min height to ride: 48 inches
- Max height to ride: N/A
You will enter the tricked-out 1950s-era building and walk up several flights of stairs to be assigned a lane. You will then board in what looks like a hot rod car for your coaster train and pull down on the lap bar. Once you’re given the green light, you’re off.
You will make a 90 degree turn and you will launch up the hill at an almost constant speed of 45 mph. Once at the crest of the hill you make a short bunny hop as you near the large first drop.
You will speed down at 73 mph and then do a series of sideways turns and other stunts over hilly terrain. You will then circle back around the mountain doing many bunny hops so you can (with some excellent air time) and do an almost inverted and overbanked curve back around and over the original launch area.
At the end of the ride, you will brake to slow down and then perform a 180 degree turn back into the original loading bay. You will then offload and proceed to another set of flights of stairs to exit the building.
I personally think that the Lightning Rod is an incredible thrill ride that combines the best of both worlds. Its steel “I-Box” topper track on top of the wooden frame lets the coaster do things that a normal wooden coaster couldn’t do. Because of its hybrid design, it is a lot smoother ride than a standard wooden coaster.
It is fun every time and I adore the feeling you get when you’re being blasted up the hill! The downside is the seats. The lap bar has a plastic plate that forms around your thighs. It makes you feel safe alright, but is a bit uncomfortable when it’s the only thing keeping you from falling out! Also there is a bar to keep your legs (calves especially) from flying out which restricts your leg movement a lot, so if you’re one of those people who cannot stand being restricted, then be cautious.
There are handles that stick out from a 90 degree angle from the lap bar struts, so you have to bend forward to hold on to them sometimes. Except for the seats, I think overall it is a fantastic ride for thrill seekers!
If it is your first time riding the Lightning Rod, be ready for some fast speeds! The bunny hops almost make you feel like you are coming out of your seat, but don’t worry because your legs are held down by the restraining bar.
This ride, along with the Mystery Mine and FireChaser Express, tend to have the longest wait times in the park, so I suggest heading there first thing or waiting until not long before the park closes (if the theme park is packed it will still be very busy up until close). Check how to see the ride wait times here.
Occasionally this ride has been shut down on our visits due to technical problems, but they tend to get it going again quickly.
It will also close easily due to inclement weather conditions.
Final Thoughts on Dollywood‘s Lightning Rod Roller Coaster
The world’s fastest wooden roller coaster is definitely worth a ride, even if you have to wait a while. Coaster enthusiasts will love the first launch, consecutive drops, and high speeds, and also the fact that it’s the only wooden launch coaster, but be warned it’s not for the faint of heart. The steel ibox track almost is inverted at some points, and the world-record breaking speed is no joke, but rides like this are the best things at the park to our family.
Dollywood is the best amusement park in the Southeast and has many wonderful features: the best kids’ area, the best Christmas event, best guest experience and even the best theme park Halloween event! Any time of year is a good time to visit Dollywood, from March to the end of the year.