Tucked away in a corner of Dollywood where Wilderness Pass meets Craftsman’s Valley stands a hidden gem: the Tennessee Tornado steel roller coaster.
Opened in 1999, Tennessee Tornado put Dollywood on the map for coaster enthusiasts. A drop through a mountain, a 110-foot-tall “spiro loop” and speeds approaching 70 mph all made Tennessee Tornado a household name for thrill seekers.
Nearly 20 years later, it’s still one of my favorite rides at Dollywood, and below are just a few reasons why:
1. A 128-foot-tall drop through a mountain.
After you crest the 163-foot-tall lift hill, you’ll turn and plunge 128 feet down into a tunnel dug through the side of a mountain.
It’s very cool – literally. Even on a hot summer day, the bottom of the burrowed drop is dark, chilly and refreshing.
2. Beautiful views of the Smokies.
Tennessee Tornado’s reddish-brown track is nestled against a mountain and is shielded by a canyon of trees.
The roller coaster’s designers took extra care to ensure that the coaster’s beautiful surroundings were not disturbed.
The slow ascent up the lift hill will give you time to enjoy views of the gorgeous scenery as well as the twisted steel track that lies ahead.
3. Dolly’s Iron Butterfly.
Dolly herself had some creative input when Tennessee Tornado was being designed. The roller coaster’s designers created an “iron butterfly” maneuver inspired by Dolly’s love for butterflies.
You won’t have much time to notice while riding, but the back-to-back loops mimic the wings of a butterfly.
4. Shorter lines.
Because of Tennessee Tornado’s secluded location in the back of the park, it often has a shorter line, especially soon after the park opens and in the late afternoon or early evening.
So that means you can ride it more! I recommend riding at least once in the front row, which can’t be beat, and once in the back row for a more intense ride.
5. An arcade under the station.
Ok, so this one isn’t related to Tennessee Tornado itself, but who can pass up an arcade game? For those in your group not riding or for those who want to celebrate their bravery after riding, there’s a huge arcade under the roller coaster’s station. And since Tennessee Tornado riders exit through the arcade, it makes for a great meeting spot.
Tennessee Tornado may not be the biggest roller coaster at Dollywood, but don’t visit the park without giving it a spin (or two or three).
You can take a virtual ride on Tennessee Tornado before you visit the park here.