Dolly Parton announced on August 5, 2022 the newest addition to Dollywood Parks & Resorts, “Big Bear Mountain,” a $25 million roller coaster that will take guests on an expedition through the Smokies in search of the elusive “Big Bear.” Stretching 3,990 feet as it extends the perimeter of Dollywood’s Wildwood Grove area, which opened in 2019, Big Bear Mountain will be the longest roller coaster ever built at Parton’s theme park.
The coaster’s structure will hug six acres of undulating topography that runs along the border of Wildwood Grove, with riders racing through the wilderness before soaring high above the forest on the search for a legendary bear. Featuring a top speed of 48 mph, Big Bear Mountain will take guests through three separate launches, multiple airtime hills, high-speed carousel turns, and tunnels, including a breathtaking pass behind a waterfall.
In addition to becoming the longest roller coaster at Dollywood, Big Bear Mountain will also be the first attraction at the park to feature on-board audio. The sound system will provide auditory thrills to match the ride’s dynamic movements. Though the coaster will offer plenty of excitement, its minimum height requirement is 39 inches, which means that even younger adventurers can come along for this ride.
The coaster will follow a fictional backstory: According to local legend, Big Bear is a massive black bear that has been roaming through Wildwood Grove for as long as anyone can remember. While no one has ever seen him, telltale signs regularly appear in the hills surrounding the Grove. Guests will be invited to join Wildwood Grove’s resident wilderness explorer, Ned Oakley, on an adventure to find Big Bear. From his base camp, Oakley will take adventurers for the ride of their lives in his specially outfitted “four-wheel-drive SUVs.” (The innovative coaster cars look like tiny off-roading vehicles.)
“The Smokies are all about adventure and going exploring,” Dolly Parton said. “I’m excited our guests will be able to head out on their own trip into the Smokies to see if they can find that Big Bear! Whether he’s out there or not, I’m sure they’ll find a lot of memories along the way that they’ll keep forever.”
Big Bear Mountain and the resulting expansion of the footprint of Wildwood Grove is one more step in Dollywood’s ongoing investment plan, which was announced in June 2021. Following a decade of unparalleled growth, last summer The Dollywood Company shared its plans to spend more than half a billion dollars across its properties in the next 10 years.