Dolly Parton shares Dollywood plan for new roller coaster

Dolly Parton donned her best park ranger outfit Friday to unveil Big Bear Mountain, Dollywood’s newest and longest roller coaster opening in spring 2023. 

The attraction, an expansion of Wildwood Grove, will bring thrills to this family-friendly area of the park. Big Bear Mountain is the largest single attraction investment in Dollywood history, with a cost of $25 million. 

Dollywood revealed a virtual ride-along Friday that shows the roller coaster taking visitors through a cave and waterfalls. It’s the park’s first ride with on-board audio, including music and words from Ned Oakley, the fictional caretaker of Wildwood Grove mascot Benjamin Bear. 

Orange track and SUV coaster cars set the scene for a journey with Oakley to find the elusive “Big Bear.” The ride will last nearly two minutes as it circles Wildwood Grove on 3,990 feet of track, reaching speeds up to 48 mph and a maximum elevation of 66 feet. 

The ride will include “three separate launches, multiple airtime hills, high-speed carousel turns, and tunnels, including a pass behind a waterfall,” a release said. 

Dolly Parton and Dollywood officials have revealed plans for Big Bear Mountain, the park's next roller coaster, scheduled to open in spring 2023. Located in Wildwood Grove, the ride marks the biggest single investment for an attraction in park history, with speeds up to 48 mph across nearly 4,000 feet of track.

“You know I’m not gonna get on that,” Dolly Parton said Friday during the Dollywood media event. 

Both the Dragonflier and Big Bear Mountain require guests be 39 inches tall, but the latter roller coaster will up the thrills by roughly 8 mph.

Wildwood Grove, a $37 million addition to the park, opened adjacent to the Timber Canyon area in May 2019. The addition increased the park size by 20% and includes the Hidden Hollow play area and the Dragonflier, a smooth roller coaster for families to enjoy. 

Big Bear Mountain was designed by Vekoma, which also designed the Dragonflier. The company has manufactured multiple rides for Disney parks, including Expedition Everest at Disney World. 

Dolly Parton and president of the Dollywood Company Eugene Naughton, announce a new addition to Dollywood,  a $25 million Big Bear Mountain roller coaster in the Wildwood Grove section of Dollywood, Friday, Aug. 5, 2022. A rendering of Wildwood Grove and the new coaster is displayed behind them.

“The Smokies are all about adventure and going exploring,” Parton said in a news release. “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.”