Hopping Off The Parkway in Pigeon Forge for Epic Family Fun on The Smoky Mountain Alpine Coaster
U.S. 441, better known as the Parkway, stretches the entire length of Pigeon Forge, (Gatlinburg and Sevierville too), running parallel to the Little Pigeon River, skipping back and forth across the muddy waters like a wayward schoolboy. We descended from the dizzy heights of the mist covered Smoky Mountains during a storm, and the kids’ eyes widened at our Pigeon Forge approach: the glittering bright lights and multi-leveled go-cart tracks mesmerizing them as if we had led them into a gigantic candy store for the first time- that Oh Wow factor.
The Parkway itself could keep any family satisfied for the duration of their Pigeon Forge, Tennessee vacation. There was certainly a plethora of amusements to choose from: varied museums like the Hollywood Wax Museum and Wonderworks (a cool hands-on science museum), numerous arcades, the 20-story high Great Smoky Mountain Wheel on The Island amusement area, go-cart tracks like The Track and Extreme Racing, dinner shows such as The Lumberjack Feud and the Hatfields & McCoys, and pancake houses-lots of pancake houses (we counted 17 in the 3 mile stretch of Pigeon Forge). While we did join in the Parkway fun, it was the alternative adventures off the Parkway in Pigeon Forge that stood out, such as The Smoky Mountain Alpine Coaster.
Before leaving for the Tennessee Mountains, I had stumbled across a Go-Pro YouTube video of the Smoky Mountain Alpine Coaster (They have one from their website you can check out here). I remembered seeing something like it a few years back in Germany or Austria, so it came to no surprise that this Pigeon Forge attraction had been set up by a German couple. They had it installed with incredible engineering precision- over a mile of gleaming silver track, wrapped around and down the mountainside. The attraction opened in 2013.
A small unassuming red barn on Wears Valley Road, a short 1.3 mile ride from the Parkway, awaited our arrival. There we hopped into the yellow school-bus colored sleds and after buckling up and a quick safety and instructions talk, the sleds were pulled up the track to the top. We all rode solo, though the cars can carry two, and with levers on either side of us, we controlled the speed of our individual sleds(all out, hammer down is best!). There’s a sign that says the sleds can reach a speed of 27 miles per hour, and I have no doubt we all reached it.
Riding down the winding loops, and curves the only sound I heard was my own breath- I imagine it was like skiing (we haven’t tried that yet)-being one with the mountain- something you can only experience for yourself. It wasn’t at all like the screeching and screaming rollercoaster rides I had taken in the past, though I probably was responsible for most of the screaming myself; this was an absolutely unique and breathtaking downhill adventure.
The yellow sled slid back to the red barn at the bottom of the mountain too soon, and everyone disembarked in a state of awe (promptly begging to go back on again!) We exited the ride and went through the customary attraction gift shop with Smoky Mountain Alpine Coaster T-shirts and official photos of our experience. There I learned that although a few other Alpine coasters have popped up in the area, the Smoky Mountain Alpine Coaster remains the longest downhill ride in America. There was construction on site when we were there, where a smaller kids’ area is being built. Attractions that thoughtfully catered towards all ages seemed to be a continual theme throughout our stay in Pigeon Forge (family fun for all ages!)
The Smoky Mountain Alpine Coaster is open year round-(yes, even in the snow) from 9am till 11pm- operation times can vary, so check their website for changes. They have rain guards, so they operate in all weather (except thunderstorms). Try a night glow ride for added thrills down the hills! This truly epic adventure is worth the trip. So hop off the Parkway in Pigeon Forge for some alternative family adventures, your epic sled ride awaits! (And oh yes, the kids did go around again!)
Things to Know Before You Go
- The Smoky Mountain Alpine Coaster is located at 867 Wears Valley Road in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee.
- Parking is free.
- Alternately, you can catch the Wears Valley Fun Time Trolley from Patriot Park (Patriot Park is located behind The Old Mill and has free parking)- the bus stops right in front of the Smoky Mountain Alpine Coaster. A current one-way ticket for this route is 50 cents per person. Check their website for more information at http://www.pigeonforgetrolley.org
- Prices for the Alpine Smoky Coaster are $15 for adults, $12 for 7 to 12 years old and $5 for 3 to 6.
- You must be 56 inches tall to ride alone.
- You cannot bring any loose articles with you like cameras, hats, bags, etc. ( I did wear sunglasses though.)
- There are restrooms inside the gift shop.
- There were drinks and light snacks available at a concession stand on site, and I did see a family picnicking by the lower parking area by the river.