Big Thunder Mountain Railroad

Opened: September 23, 1980.


In the very back of Frontierland near Splash Mountain.

Extra Magic Hours: Evening.

Ride Length: 3 minutes 30 seconds.

Type: Roller coaster.

Similar To: A tamer Expedition Everest.

Requirements: Must be 40” or taller to ride.

Scary Factor: Medium. Big Thunder Mountain is tame for a roller coaster by just about any definition, but it still moves forward with a maximum speed of about 30 miles per hour. There are no corkscrews, inversions, or significant drops. If you adamantly “hate” roller coasters then this probably won’t be for you, but anyone who enjoys Space Mountain, Expedition Everest, or any similar roller coaster will enjoy Thunder Mountain. If Expedition Everest is a 7/10 on the intensity scale then Big Thunder Mountain is about a 4, if that.

What to Expect: Big Thunder Mountain Railroad’s queue is long and winding, though interactive elements help reduce boredom during longer waits.

The ride is themed like you’re on a runaway train as it careens down Thunder Mountain without a conductor or crew. The emphasis is on the scenery and theme rather than exciting drops or turns. Pay attention to the authentic mining equipment strewn throughout the ride and the 20 animatronic animals. Big Thunder Mountain Railroad is a good “beginner’s coaster” for people who aren’t sure what they can handle.

If this is too much for you, then you probably want to stay away from Disney’s other coasters. If you thoroughly enjoy it, then you should enjoy Space Mountain and be ready to try Expedition Everest and Rock ‘N’ Roller Coaster.

Note that this is looking backwards at the lift hill, but it should give you an idea about the track layout.

Where to Sit: Each row seats two adults or up to one adult and two children.

Because of the way the vehicle travels, the front row actually offers a tamer experience because the front of the train will be about half way down a hill before it starts picking up speed. For the wildest wide in the wilderness, request the back row.

FastPass+: Yes – high priority. Consider using one of your three pre-selected FastPass+ or secure as a 4th or 5th at a kiosk as soon as possible.

What You Miss Using FastPass+:

As part of the 2013 refurbishment, Disney installed a plethora of interactive elements and additional theming in the queue, almost all of which is skipped when using FastPass+. The various posters and details are neat to look at for those waiting for an extended period of time, but most people will probably prefer to board their train in less than ten minutes rather than languish in the queue for 60+ minutes.

Total Average Experience Time with FastPass+: 18 minutes.

4th FastPass+ Availability:

Expect to Wait:

When To Go:

Visit before 10am, in the final two hours of operation, or use FastPass+. Those that visit first thing should enjoy a train more or less to themselves as pictured above.

Rating: 9/10

Commentary: While not really a thrill ride compared to coasters at Six Flags or Universal Studios, Big Thunder Mountain Railroad is one of Disney’s best-themed rides and a real treat for anyone who appreciates Disney magic. On the other hand, it may be a bit of a letdown for diehard “thrill junkies” due to relatively slow speeds and a lack of significant drops.


  1. Don says

    Since it is a train and all of the cars are connected, I’m curious how it is that the car in the back is going faster than the car in the front?

    • Aidan says

      The carriage in the back is pulled over the hills and around the turns by the carriages in front, making it go faster. Hope this helps

    • Ben says

      The front of the train has already started going down a downhill portion when the back hasn’t gotten there yet, this means that the train speeds up, so that when when you at the back reach the downhill portion, you are going faster than the people at the front when they reached it.

  2. A says

    One of my fondest memories of Disney two years ago was riding Big Thunder Mountain Railroad during the fireworks show…it was an awesome experience! So I definitely recommend trying to catch this one in the later evening if possible!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *