Disney World, Ride Tips

Is Big Thunder Mountain Scary? What You Should Know.

August 28, 2023

Are you trying to figure out “Is Big Thunder Mountain scary”? Join me as I run through absolutely everything you need to know about this iconic Disney thrill ride.

It’s no secret that the Disney Parks are home to some seriously impressive coasters.

From Space Mountain and Expedition Everest to Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster, there’s plenty to get your blood pumping!

But what about The Wildest Ride in the Wilderness?

If you’ve never ridden Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, you might be trying to figure out whether it’s scary.

Hey, I’m with you – I’m not the bravest with drops, curves, and loops either!

In this ultimate guide, I’ll run you through everything you need to know about Big Thunder Mountain.

That way, you’ll be able to prepare for your trip without worrying about being frightened as you whizz around the track!

What Is Big Thunder Mountain?

Image Credit: https://www.instagram.com/wonderful.world.of.lexie/

Big Thunder Mountain is one of the largest and fastest rides at Disney World (and the parks in general!).

It stands at an impressive 104 feet tall and is designed to look like a runaway mine train!

Although you might think it’s relatively similar to Seven Dwarfs, its Old West theming sets it apart.

Plus, the train will take you through canyons (well, fake ones!), fun tunnels, and even past Billy goats.

It follows a similar general story across each park at the height of the Gold Rush in the American Southwest.

It’s said that the mining town very quickly became thriving thanks to the gold, but the mountain becomes cursed.

And that’s because it’s actually built on sacred land owned by local Native Americans.

As a result, tragedy strikes the area.

I love how different the stories are at each park, and the main difference is the tragedy that strikes the parks.

These are:

  • Earthquake (at Disneyland and Disneyland Paris)
  • A tsunami (at Tokyo Disneyland which is fitting for the area)
  • A flash flood (Walt Disney World)

Because of these disasters, it’s said that the mine trains now race around the tracks on their own!

Spooky stuff.

The entire concept is down to the hard work of Imagineer Tony Baxter and engineer Bill Watkins.

It was first conceived in 1972-73, but didn’t actually open until September 1979 in Disneyland!

Which Park is Big Thunder Mountain Railroad In?

If you’re visiting Magic Kingdom in Disney World, you’ll find Big Thunder Mountain in Frontierland.

In Disneyland Park (AKA: California), it’s also in Frontierland.

And in Disneyland Paris – you guessed it, it’s in Frontierland.

You’re seeing a theme appearing here, right?

The only place where it’s in somewhere slightly different is Disneyland Tokyo’s “Westernland”.

That’s because the word “frontier” doesn’t really have a direct Japanese translation that works particularly well.

Big Thunder Mountain fits perfectly with the Wild West theme of Frontierland and is one of the central attractions here.

Is Big Thunder Mountain Scary?

If you’re wondering whether Big Thunder Mountain is scary, I’d say that it’s mildly scary and thrilling.

The Wild West theme can be spooky (thanks to those Native American spirits!), but the drops and maneuvers are manageable.

And honestly, I wouldn’t say the “haunted” theming is particularly obvious.

I’ll say that some people are going to find this a very tame coaster. And others are going to find it completely shocking, thrilling, and scary.

It largely depends on your general tolerance to rollercoasters.

I’m someone that doesn’t particularly like big drops as the feeling of G-Force and my stomach dropping just isn’t something I like.

And I find Big Thunder Mountain surprisingly okay on that front.

The only thing I don’t like in the Paris version is the extended backwards drop backward in relative darkness.

I’d say that it’s designed to be a relatively thrilling family coaster, but it’s nowhere near the levels of Rock ‘n’ Roller or similar rides.

Now, let’s get into the ride experience slightly more to give you a better idea of whether Big Thunder Mountain is scary.

What Might Make Big Thunder Mountain Scary?

When you’re trying to figure out “Is Big Thunder Mountain scary?”, you’ll be thinking about several things.

But I think the main considerations are speed, the general ride experience, drops, and theming.

So, let’s take a look at those factors to help you assess whether you’ll tolerate the ol’ BTM!

Speed – How fast is Big Thunder Mountain Railroad?

I will say that Big Thunder Mountain is a relatively fast ride and comes in at an average speed of 35mph.

Believe it or not, this is actually 9 mph faster than Space Mountain (although I think Space Mountain feels quicker!).

Because you’re outside and are completely aware of your surroundings, I personally don’t find the speed to be an issue.

It sort of just feels like the wind is whipping through your hair.

I’d also say that the rickety bumpiness of the track (it’s safe, but adds to the experience!) can make it feel faster.

If you’re really not a fan of fast rides, you might want to give this one a miss.

The Experience – Is Big Thunder Mountain bumpy or a rough ride?

Speaking of bumpiness, the sharp turns and clackety track may not be right for you.

This ride has been open since September of 1979 with an official opening in 1980.

So, those tracks have been around for a while.

Plus, you need to remember that the theming and structure of the ride is trying to replicate a runaway mine train.

Mine trains aren’t particularly sturdy and they often bump from side to side as they move along the tracks.

The ride vehicles are way sturdier than that.

But you may well experience your cart jerking slightly as it tackles curves, turns, and quick direction changes.

It’s not something that’ll bother most people, but you may want to watch out if you have any back or neck problems.

To steer clear of the worst bumpiness, it’s best to head to the front of the carriage.

That’s because the back of the train is essentially dragged by the weight of the front which ups the bumpiness!

Although it’s not strictly related, I recommend that children or adults sensitive to noise pop on headphones for this ride.

The track is LOUD, and having an extra buffer can make a huge difference if you have sensory issues.

I’d also say that expectant mothers and anyone with major health issues should stay away from this ride.

The rickety motion of the ride might aggravate muscular issues or migraines too, so bear that in mind.

Drops – Does Big Thunder Mountain Railroad have drops?

Yes, Big Thunder Mountain does have drops, but I wouldn’t say they’re particularly scary, fast, or overly long.

There are also no inversions to worry about (AKA: no going upside down!).

The main thing you’ll want to think about here are small drops and surprisingly tight turns – not mammoth drops.

I’m talking to you, Expedition Everest!

The main thing I appreciate about Big Thunder Mountain is just how measured the drops are.

It might seem surprising because the ride is rickety, but the drops sort of “coast” along and don’t feel extreme.

If you get anxious about drops, the slow ascents and the clacking ride system might make the drops feel scarier.

But all-in-all, the gravitational pull is relatively minimal and you won’t get any horrendous G-Force feelings.

Weirdly, I found the small drops far more disconcerting than the bigger ones.

And that’s because they’re largely hidden (unlike the very last drop at Disney World which you see coming a mile away!).

I’ll mention here that Disneyland Paris has the most intense Big Thunder Mountain as it goes backwards.

There’s quite a long section where you head down a drop backwards and almost in the dark.

And honestly, that might just be too much for some people (which is totally understandable!).

I’ll also say that the drops and curves might feel scary for certain riders as they unsettle you in your seat.

The front lap bars are fine, but you might slightly shift over onto your partner which might make you feel a bit out of sorts!

Theming – Is the theming of Big Thunder Mountain Railroad scary?

The theming of Big Thunder Mountain Railroad is meant to be haunted by Native American spirits.

But I wouldn’t personally say that this was overly obvious and certainly won’t scare children.

The Wild West theming is way more prevalent on the ride with the stalactites, earthy rocks, and wild animals.

If you’re worried about the theming scaring you on this right – you just don’t need to be!

The ride vehicle

All the Big Thunder Mountain Railroad vehicles across the world are relatively similar.

The coaster itself is a metal track and the vehicles have long seats and lap bars.

The long seat design can hold anywhere from 2 to 3 people (depending on their sizes), and you might slip and slide into each other.

That isn’t to say that the lap bar isn’t secure.

But I wouldn’t say it’s super tight.

If I’m being honest though, I always read lap bars (and not the over the body restraints!) as a signal that a ride is tamer.

Perhaps I’m being naïve, but there’s only so far you can go with intensity without being strapped in further!

In terms of how the gravitational pull works, I’d sit at the front if you want a more relaxed ride.

The back does really get pulled along and can feel bumpier and faster than the front of the carriage.

So, bear that in mind when you’re asking yourself “Is Big Thunder Mountain scary?”.

What Is Big Thunder Mountain Based On?

USA + Other Parks

The American parks have roughly the same storyline.

It’s said that the town of Tumbleweed got a major boost during the 1850s gold rush, but the residents were forced to leave.

In Walt Disney World, this is because of a flash flood. In Disneyland California, it’s because of an earthquake.

You can kind of assume that there was a bit of death and destruction involved, but it’s not explicitly mentioned.

Because the mining company was built on sacred land, it’s said that Native American spirits haunt the vehicles.

So, you’re essentially on the “Wildest Ride in the Wilderness” as it’s not being manned by anyone!

Well, aside from the friendly Cast Members, of course.


I have a soft spot for the Paris Big Thunder Mountain as I think it’s a lot more intense and the story is COOL.

It links to the Phantom Manor storyline in the town of Thunder Mesa which was also built during the gold rush.

One of the major players in the town was Henry Ravenswood (who’s also known as the Phantom!).

The people in the town quickly heard eerie voices after the mining company was built, and the trains would race driverless around the mines.

When the earthquake killed both Henry and Martha Ravenswood (his wife!), Henry came back as the evil Phantom.

It’s said that he lured Melanie’s (his daughter) groom into the attic and hung him.

This left her pining and wondering what happened to her husband-to-be until her death.

It’s said that her spirit still mournfully sings around the Manor to this day – spooky, indeed!

What Is the Best Age for Big Thunder Mountain Railroad?

I’d say that any age is a good age for riding Big Thunder Mountain as long as you’re over the 40-inch height requirement!

It’s probably slightly too intense for little ones under 4 (in my opinion) in both theming, drops, and general feel.

But overall, most younger children will be able to handle it without much issue.

I’d say it’s worth trying the Barnstormer and Seven Dwarfs Mine Train as tester coasters before hopping on Big Thunder.

The Barnstormer is an official kiddie coaster, and Seven Dwarfs Mine Train is similar (if not a bit smoother!).

If your tykes can handle both of those rides, I’d say they’d be absolutely fine with Big Thunder.

In terms of the best age though, I’d say teens and up just to give you the chance to appreciate that glorious theming!

It can sometimes go over the heads of smaller children.

What is the Best Time to Ride Big Thunder Mountain?

I’d say the best time to ride Big Thunder Mountain at any park is early in the day or right before close.

Queue times are virtually non-existent during these periods as most people run to rope drop other things!

I’ve found that Big Thunder Mountain wait times are around 30 minutes this year (just second to Haunted Mansion at 37 minutes).

So, it’s probably not worth buying an Individual Lightning Lane for unless you’re in a major rush.

It also doesn’t tend to break down that much (unlike Rise of the Resistance!), which makes it a reliable pick most of the time.

Is Big Thunder Mountain Railroad Scary and Is It Worth It?


On the whole, I’d say that Big Thunder Mountain is only scary if you’re seriously averse to rollercoasters.

As one of the old-school Disney staple rides, I’d say that it’s something that you should tackle at least once.

Plus, it’s an amazing alternative to rides with jam-packed queue lines like Mine Train (which is honestly similar!).

The major Saving Grace for Big Thunder Mountain is that the queue times are typically better than other rides in Magic Kingdom.

That might be down to a quicker loading system and larger carts.

And honestly, I do appreciate the classic rickety vibes, great scenery, and views over Frontierland on this ride.

Plus, if you’re riding in Paris, you’ll get next-level views over Phantom Manor which looks incredible from above.

If you ride at the right time, you’ll even see the fireworks over La Chateau de la Belle au Bois Dormant!

For those non-French folk among us, that’s Sleeping Beauty’s Castle.


Is Big Thunder Mountain scarier than Seven Dwarfs Mine Train?

I’d say that Seven Dwarfs is definitely a tamer ride than Big Thunder as it’s slower and shorter.

Seven Dwarfs Mine Train is also classed more as a kiddie ride with no major drops or thrills.

So, if you’re introducing little ones to coasters – this is the one to try first!

Is Big Thunder Mountain Railroad scarier than Space Mountain?

I wouldn’t say that Big Thunder Mountain is scarier than Space Mountain as it’s generally a calmer ride.

They’d both fall under the “Thrill Ride” umbrella, but Space Mountain is entirely in the dark (well, almost).

This makes it feel way faster, and you won’t be able to prepare yourself for any dips or drops.

Because you’re riding in a single row in Space Mountain, the twists, turns, and wind effects also feel a lot more intense.

But if you’re more frightened by rickety tracks and bumpiness, then Big Thunder Mountain will scare you more!

It’s all down to you.

How long is Big Thunder Mountain Railroad?

I’ve always found that Big Thunder Mountain is one of the longer rides at 1.5 miles long (track-wise!).

It lasts an incredible 4 minutes in Paris and just under 3 and a half minutes at the American parks.

If you’re waiting a decent amount of time, you’ll certainly feel like you’re getting your money’s worth!

Is Rider Switch available for Big Thunder Mountain?

You can use Rider Switch for Big Thunder Mountain if you’re traveling with young children and have 2 adults wanting to ride.

You essentially need to wait for one parent to be done with the ride and wait in the queue before the second parent takes over.

And don’t worry, you only need to queue once for both parents!

Is there a single rider line available?

I honestly don’t know why there’s no single rider for Big Thunder Mountain in the USA, but it’s currently only available in Tokyo and Paris.

It’s worth taking advantage of this when the parks are busy, as you can usually cut your wait time in half.

You’ll also probably end up behind or in front of the rest of your party in most cases.

So, it’s worth the gamble.

Can you use Genie+ or Individual Lightning Lanes?

You can use ride-skipping tactics for Big Thunder Mountain, but I recommend only using them at peak periods.

The lines can either be horrendous for Big Thunder Mountain or completely manageable.

You can also use Premier Access at Disneyland Paris if you’d like to skip the queues.

I always try to ride Thunder Mountain and Phantom Manor right after one another – trust me, it hits differently!

Are there any accessibility or safety considerations?

If you’re visiting Disney World in a wheelchair or scooter, you’ll need to transfer to ride.

Cast Members are more than happy to help you with this if you’re unable to handle the transfer with members of your party.

It’s also worth mentioning that there’s a hinged side door that will make transferring easier.

Oh, and no service animals are allowed on Big Thunder Mountain.

What is the Big Thunder Mountain Goat Trick?

Image Credit:  FigmentJedi 

You may have heard of Billy the Disney Goat who appears on Big Thunder Mountain Railroad.

He’s tucked on the rooftops of the town of Tumbleweed and is central to the infamous “Goat Trick”.

The trick involves turning your head back to stare at the goat as you move past it on a drop.

It’s said to give you a greater sense of disorientation as you barrel around the track.

You’ll want to look out for the goat on the second chain lift (he has TNT in his mouth!).

If you’re wondering how it works, it essentially tricks your inner ear into feeling G-Force differently.

The pull of the cart just adds to this, creating a seriously bizarre feeling in your body that you won’t forget!

I hope that this ultimate guide has helped answer the question “Is Big Thunder Mountain scary?”.

Do you have any more questions about riding Big Thunder Mountain? Overall, I think it’s an incredibly classic ride that’s worth queuing and buckling up for. How do you feel about this old-school, Wild West-themed roll around the track? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments!

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