One of the most popular thrill rides in the Magic Kingdom is Big Thunder Mountain Railroad. This outdoor roller coaster is in the Frontierland area, adjacent to Splash Mountain. Is Thunder Mountain a ride worth waiting for? What can you expect on this roller coaster? Let’s take an in-depth look at this popular Disney attraction!
Thunder Mountain – The History
In the early 70’s, a few Disney Imagineers came up with the concept of this ride. However, at the time there were a lot of resources working on Space Mountain and other projects. So this project was shelved until the late 70’s, opening in Disneyland in 79, and in Disney World in 1980. Computer technology was first used by Disney on Thunder Mountain, which would lead to a better ride and a smoother overall experience.
The basic theme of this ride is that you are on a run-away mine train through the American Southwest. The ride is a older style chain lift, which gives it the distinctive sound as it climbs to the top. As it makes twists and turns over the water, you have the illusion of flying into the water before you quickly turn back to safety! There are earthquakes, geysers and other manufactured events that are all themed to give the feeling that things are out of control.
Thunder Mountain is an extremely fun ride. It’s not the fastest, the highest or the scariest. But it’s a classic Disney World roller coaster that never fails to disappoint.
Tips for Thunder Mountain
Like Splash Mountain and Space Mountain, the wait times can get really high, especially during the mid-day and in peak periods. As such, you need to plan to attack this ride with your fastpasses, if possible. Some people love coming to the back end of the park early in the day and hitting Splash and Thunder first thing. That’s a great plan if you don’t have young kids and don’t plan to spend a lot of time in Fantasyland.
But if your kids are small, you’re going to want to head to Fantasyland first and come back to Thunder and Splash Mountain around lunchtime.
Throughout much of the year, wait times for Thunder Mountain aren’t incredibly long if you get there before 1pm or so. Thunder is usually 4th or 5th on our list of fastpasses for the Magic Kingdom. I’d try to get Mine Train, Space Mountain and Splash Mountain before I’d use one one on Thunder. But the good news is that if you can use 3 fastpasses before 12 or 1PM, you can often login and get a 4th fastpass. It’s very possible that you can get that 4th fastpass for Thunder Mountain.
We’ve also found that late nights are great for Thunder Mountain. As the fireworks are getting ready to start, you’ll find that the bulk of the crowds will move to the front of the castle. This leaves the back end with very manageable wait times.
Fore more tips on fastpasses, see our article on Magic Kingdom Fastpass Strategy.
Park - Magic Kingdom
Park Section - Frontierland
Height Requirement - 40 inches
Ride Type - Steel Roller Coaster
FP+ - Fastpass Eligible