TPT logo

Your guide to theme parks in Orlando and beyond


Main menu

The 6 Most Spectacular Wooden Roller Coasters in the World

4. The Phoenix – Knoebels Amusement Resort

Image © Knoebels

The Phoenix claims a much different history than the other rides on the list. Like many of the amusement attractions at Knoebels, it’s a restored ride from a different park, in this case Playland Park in San Antonio. Formerly known as The Rocket, it debuted in 1947. You’re riding a piece of history when you board the Phoenix.

Knoebels purchased the attraction in 1985, five years after its previous park closed down. Even its name reflects this odd piece of trivia. It’s called The Phoenix, because it rose from the ashes of The Rocket. Many would argue that the entire mission statement of Knoebels as a park was impacted by this choice to restore a wooden roller coaster for the first time in many years. They now represent the afterlife for worthy theme park attractions.

The Phoenix is not the thrill ride that some of the others listed here are, which is understandable. That’s never been the mission statement of Knoebels. They’re about celebrating the fun of the theme park experience. This particular wooden roller coaster “only” goes 45 MPH over 3,200 feet of track, the lowest totals here. Still, people love it for features such as starting in a dark area and ending with a quartet of joyous bunny hops. Check out the video of The Phoenix, and then plan your trip to Knoebels, one of the ultimate destinations for true theme park tourists.

5. Thunderhead – Dollywood

Image © Dollywood

In 2004, Dollywood expanded yet again with the new Thunderhead Gap area. Their decision to add a wooden roller coaster paid immediate dividends when the attraction boosted attendance while proving that the park could renovate on the fly. The previous log flume ride and the adjoining region was torn down in order to make room for 10 new attractions over 18 months, Thunderhead the biggest of them. That’s fitting since it’s named after a large nearby peak in the Smoky Mountains.

Like The Phoenix, the specs on Thunderhead don’t tell the entire story. It’s 3,300 feet long and reaches a top speed of 55 miles per hour. The most significant vertical drop is 60 degrees, well short of some other wooden roller coasters in the category. What differentiates Thunderhead is the way that provides panoramic views of those Smoky Mountains while thrusting the rider through a circuitous path of wooden tracks. Thunderhead is also notoriously rough, which is a welcome change in an era where smoother roller coasters are in vogue.  You can enjoy all the bumpy action in this video.

6. Ravine Flyer II – Waldameer Park

Image via Flickr user dreamcircle19772006

If you’re unfamiliar with Waldameer Park, it’s a hidden gem of the industry. Located in Erie, Pennsylvania, it’s one of the ten oldest amusement parks in the country. It’s also located in a gorgeous portion of the country, nestled beside Presque Isle State Park and the accompanying peninsula leading to Lake Erie. For obvious reasons, it’s adjoined to a water park, and the translation of the word Waldameer reflects the beauty of the entire idyllic setting. Waldameer translates as Woods by the Sea, and any visitor to the park is rewarded with some of the most breathtaking views at an amusement park.

Ravine Flyer II capitalizes upon its location and heritage. There was a Ravine Flyer once before, but that ride was forced to close after a tragic accident in 1938. Seventy years later, a new version debuted, and it was promptly hailed as the Best New Ride of the year. Unlike the other rides on this list, Ravine Flyer II employs a different strategy in their track design. With a top speed of 60 MPH, it’s plenty fast enough, but the velocity is only part of the appeal. On this wooden roller coaster, the numbers tell the story. It features the longest drop of any wooden thrill ride with a free-fall of 120 feet. It also features a 90-degree banked turn, which is a marvel of engineering in and of itself. Finally, Ravine Flyer II features 3.5 G-Force, which is some of the strongest acceleration you’ll ever experience on a wood coaster.

Go to page:


There are 7 comments.

"Customer Coaster International" HAHAHAHAHAHAHA Too funny. Did you run out of room to post a YouTube link to Ravine Flyer II ? I kept looking for the third page of the article since the entire thing seems to have stopped dead in the middle of a paragraph.

We're supposed to believe ALL the world's most spectacular wooden coasters are in the USA? Seriously, nothing in Europe or Asia?

Boulder Dash at #1 is the best roller coaster I've ever been on. Well deserving of the top spot. It's just incredible, hugging the side of a mountain, and going through trees with lots and lots of airtime.

What happened to The Beast at King's Island??

The Beast by far exceeds any of these rides. It has been open since April 1979 and is still tearing though the woods at 60mph. #andstill the worlds longest wooden rollercoaster since April 1979 when the ride was first opened.

Hey other commenters, this top 6 list isn't the author's personal rankings, it's from the 2014 Golden Ticket Awards, which is based on Amusement Today's annual survey of well-traveled amusement park enthusiasts from around the world.

I think the track length figures for Boulder Dash and El Toro should be in feet, not square feet.


Connect with Theme Park Tourist: