Wilderness Run Alpine Coaster: Complete Guide

Roller coasters are a blast, but amusement parks are sometimes overwhelmingly busy. The Wilderness Run Alpine Coaster offers an exhilarating ride, and the line is never too long. That is because Wilderness Run requires a reservation before you show up. They schedule out the day so that the line is never too long. 

Plus, flying down the mountainside and through the trees is a memorable experience that a traditional roller coaster just can’t match.

Visit Wilderness Run Alpine Coaster

Wilderness Run Clubhouse
Wilderness Run Facilities

Our family loves the Wilderness Run Alpine Coaster for more reasons than you can count. Still, the high-country ride offers a distinct vibe compared to something like Carowinds in the Charlotte suburbs. The unique experience is what we love the most about this mountain coaster. 

One specific difference between an alpine coaster and a traditional coaster is that the alpine coaster is built with hand brakes. This means that you can control your speed to a certain extent. The handbrakes are one of the reasons I was comfortable taking my son down the mountain for the first time when he was just three. 

A German company called Wiegand-Sports designs the sleds to seat one adult, or one adult and a child. You will both wear seatbelts, but I tend to grip my son with my knees.  It’s an unnecessary precaution, but the ride down the mountain is exhilaratingly fast, and my natural reaction is to hold my son down.

Still, we both love the experience. He is a little older now, and we fly down the mountain applying no brake pressure whatsoever. I expected him to be terrified, but he loved every minute.

You can buy one ride or a bundle of three rides (to ride consecutively).  The ride goes quickly, so we recommend purchasing the bundle. The entire experience is great fun whether you are a kid or an adult.

Can Kids Ride The Mountain Coaster?

Yes, kids can ride the alpine coaster, and I have personally taken my three-year-old down the mountain run. You must be at least nine years old (and 54” tall) to ride the mountain coaster by yourself. Those under nine must ride with an adult (at least 16). Children must be at least three years old and 38” tall.

As previously noted, two adults can not ride together. On a more practical level, the sleds fit one adult and kids just fine.  A second adult’s legs would be crunched on the front of the sled, so you will be more comfortable on separate sleds. 

Alpine Coaster Rules
Alpine Coaster Guide & Rules

How Long Is The Wilderness Run Alpine Coaster?

Wilderness Run is more than 3,000 feet long, and the ride takes about 7 minutes. The ride up allows you to look the track over and enjoy the mountainous beauty. As you crest the top and turn back down, twists, turns, and adrenaline-pumping fun awaits. 

We recommend the 3-ride bundle for a near half-hour of excitement. 

How Fast Is The Wilderness Run Alpine Coaster?

Anecdotally, I will add that the coaster feels much faster than it sounds. The alpine coaster reaches speeds as high as 27 mph. Each coaster sled is equipped with a hand brake so riders can control their pace down the mountain.

Pictures are available for viewing (and purchase) as you finish your ride.  Let me just say that if a picture is worth a thousand words, most of the pictures I’ve seen communicate ecstatic joy. If you have a head full of hair, expect it to be whipping in the wind.  

Wilderness Run Ascent
Wilderness Run Ascent

Is The Wilderness Run Alpine Coaster Scary?

The great thing about Wilderness Run is that each sled includes a built-in handbrake. The ride might be intimidating if you don’t apply any handbrake. Still, I’ve gone down the track with small children, applying no brake, and they had the time of their lives.

Whether you consider the coaster scary depends on your adrenaline tolerance and whether coasters make you queasy. The alpine coaster doesn’t have the vertical loops and extreme speed that a traditional coaster would. 

Nonetheless, the sharp turns and quick speeds might turn your stomach slightly if you ride three consecutive times. This likely won’t be a concern for most people, but I felt a twinge of nausea after my third ride. 

Try The Adventure Course Too

Did you know that the Wilderness Run Adventure Course is now open next to the Alpine Coaster? If not, it is worth checking out.  It enables a complete experience, which was missing before. 

Before the Adventure Course was open, it might have been a stretch to drive over from Charlotte or Raleigh simply to spend 30 minutes on the alpine coaster. Most people likely looked at the coaster as something to do on their way to or from somewhere else. 

You can make a half-day event out of visiting both. For instance, the first time our family went, we went hiking in Linville Gorge and swung by Wilderness Run afterward. The Adventure Course changes this dynamic.

You will still have time for a hike or to visit the nearby Tweetsie Railroad, but with the Adventure Course, you can plan your trip around Wilderness Run. In the past, you might have had to fit the coaster into your plans, with some other attraction as the main anchor. 

North Carolina Mountain Coaster
Mountainside Coaster in Trees

Where Is The Wilderness Run Alpine Coaster?

The Wilderness Run Alpine Coaster is in the small town of Banner Elk, North Carolina. While you might not recognize Banner Elk, Boone and Blowing Rock are only 20 minutes away. Plus, other nearby destinations include Hawksnest Snow Tubing, hiking in Linville Gorge, the Moses Cone Manor, and Tweetsie Railroad.

The more you learn about the area, the more there is to love. It is a unique setting in the Blue Ridge Mountains because there is no close concentration of activities. Still, none of the destinations listed are more than 30 minutes away from the others.

There is plenty to do in the area to make an entire weekend trip. The hiking trails are breathtaking, especially in the fall. And where else can you ride a steam-powered train at Tweetsie Railroad, go snow tubing, and ride an alpine coaster on the same day? 

Honestly, visiting the Boone and Blowing Rock region is a one-of-a-kind experience.  The unique combination of potential activities and the natural beauty of the mountains makes it one of our favorite areas in the Carolinas

For instance, Grandfather Mountain features a Mile High Swinging Bridge and a Wildlife Habitat you must visit when you are in the high country.

Alpine Coaster Loop
Alpine Coaster Loop

Hotels Near Wilderness Run Alpine Coaster

There are not many hotels in the Banner Elk era, but you are sure to find some excellent short-term rentals through a platform like Airbnb or VRBO. Short-term rentals are ideal if you have pets, are planning an extended stay, or have a large family. There are cabin rentals available near Grandfather Mountain.

Otherwise, we still enjoy traditional hotels when we don’t have our dog. We recommend staying in Boone or Blowing Rock for hotels near Wilderness Run. Downtown Blowing Rock is fun or restaurants and shops for you to visit, so that’s an excellent place to start. 

Is Wilderness Run Alpine Coaster Worth Visiting?

The Wilderness Run Alpine Coaster is exhilarating and fun for people of all ages. The only downside is that you might be done in as little as 30 minutes, so we recommend that you plan your trip to include the adventure course, hiking, or a stop at one of the nearby attractions.

Tweetsie Railroad and Hawksnest Snow Tubing and Ziplining are both close by. Nonetheless, the coaster run is an incredible experience, and it is definitely worth building into your high-country plans. 

End of Coaster Run
End of Coaster Run

North Carolina’s Mountain Coaster

There are only a few mountain coasters in North Carolina. In our opinion, accessibility to central North Carolina cities is one of the reasons that Wilderness Run is the state’s preeminent alpine coaster. Highlands Outpost is the other prominent alpine ride but is closer to Greenville, South Carolina, than most cities in North Carolina. 

The ride is exhilarating, and it is nearby other prominent attractions in the high country. We recommend planning a Wilderness Run Alpine Coaster trip as soon as possible!

Jeremiah moved to the Charlotte area with his wife, Erin, back in 2013. The family has grown over the years, and they now call the Carolinas home. They enjoy hiking and adventures, road trips, backyard fire pits, and pizza night. Jeremiah loves to explore, and looks forward to sharing tips, tricks, and resources for your next trip.