Lightning Rod opens officially at Dollywood

June 13, 2016, 10:32 AM · The world's fastest and first launched wooden coaster is now open. Dollywood officially opened Lightning Rod today. The Rocky Mountain Construction coaster had been scheduled to open with the park back in March, but troubles with the first-of-its-kind launch system for a wooden-support coaster delayed the official opening until today. The park had been testing the ride under a soft opening since late last month.

Lightning Rod gets moving with a 45 miles per hour launch from a rolling start, then hops across twin airtime hills before plunging toward its top speed of 73 mph at the bottom of its main drop. From there, the coaster twists and jumps while hugging Dollywood's Smoky Mountain terrain before returning to its Jukebox Junction station.

Let's take a ride, with the POV video:

Rate and Review:

More New Attraction Coverage:

Replies (12)

June 13, 2016 at 12:02 PM · WOW! That one snuck up on me. I thought they were still testing/tweeking it. All of a sudden, "Lightning Rod is OPEN!"
June 13, 2016 at 6:11 PM · That's a short, but intense looking ride. I can't wait to ride it!
June 13, 2016 at 6:19 PM · Glad to see that this is finally open. There is still a slight possibility I may be able to make it here this year, but if not Dollywood is definitely at the top of my return visit list as soon as possible.
June 14, 2016 at 2:57 AM · It still isn't a wooden coaster though, since the tracks are made of steel. The supports don't determine the coaster type. If you placed wooden tracks on steel supports it would still be a wooden coaster. I think the best name for the RMC coasters would be "Hybrid coasters" because while the look like wooden coasters they are actually steel coasters.
June 14, 2016 at 8:21 AM · I'm afraid I don't agree with you Ireeb. It the ride was using tubular steel track sitting on a wooden support I might see your point. This however (as best as I can see) is a flat steel track built on wood, supported by wood. All coasters ride on metal track of some kind. California Screaming tries to match the look of a classic wooden coaster, but I think everyone would agree it's all cosmetic. Additionally, the quality of the ride is greatly impacted based on rather the supports are wooden or metal. I agree lines are being blurred on how we define coasters, but I doubt many would disagree that Lightning Rod is a wooden roller coaster.
June 14, 2016 at 8:41 AM · No it is a wooden track. RMC coasters like The Joker, and Storm Chaser have steel track. Lightning Rod, Wildfire, Goliath, and Outlaw Run have wooden track.
June 14, 2016 at 10:28 AM · Looks great, would love to make it back to Dollywood soon.
June 14, 2016 at 11:41 AM · @Jaiden - RMC uses metal I-beam track for all of their installations. As Rob has noted, technically, all wooden coasters have a metal track that the trains ride on. Before RMC, most builders nailed metal rails to the top, side, and bottom of wooden timbers to form the track. The trans glide along the metal rails (older coasters would require maintenance to grease the rails daily to reduce friction and rust), but the heart of the track was made of wood, along with all of the supports.

RMC's innovative I-beam track creates a similarly shaped track, but they are completely made of metal. Wood cannot create the bends, turns, and inversions that RMC can accomplish with their I-beam track. If you have any questions about their track, take a look at their website...

June 14, 2016 at 1:50 PM · RMC uses two types of track: I-Box and Topper Track. I-Box (also known as Iron Horse) is a steel I-beam with an extra wide top flange in order to create a running rail. This type of track is used on all the RMC conversion coasters as a replacement for the original wooden track, and is designed to ride like a wood coaster with the elements possible on a steel coaster. Topper Track, on the other hand, consists of a single steel running rail on top of a standard wood stack. In essence, the top two layers of wood are replaced by a single steel beam instead of having flat steel rails secured to the sides of the wood stack. This allows significantly more precision in design and also reduces maintenance requirements significantly. All RMC coasters that are built from the ground up use Topper Track, and a handful of wood coasters have had this track installed in high maintenance sections of the ride. A photographic comparison of the two track styles can be found here (I-Box on the left, Topper track on the right).

It has been hotly debated whether RMC rides qualify as wood coasters or steel coasters. The general consensus is that I-Box rides are steel coasters and Topper Track rides are wood coasters, but the reality is that both feel very similar to each other. I agree with the majority opinion here, as Topper Track does utilize wood as a core element of the track construction while I-Box is an entirely steel track system built on top of a wooden support structure. However, the difficulty in classifying these rides has led to the rise of the term Hybrid, though Hybrid coasters have actually been around for decades (RMC just popularized the idea). Whatever the case, the lines between wood and steel coasters are definitely becoming blurred, with RMC and Intamin being the biggest contributors to this phenomenon. Ultimately, it doesn't matter what you want to call it, as at the end of the day it's still a roller coaster.

June 14, 2016 at 2:34 PM · I was at Dollywood a few weeks ago. Lightning Rod was non-operational. I was emotionally shattered.
June 14, 2016 at 5:03 PM · Lightning rod is a fantastic ride. We rode it yesterday and today. It is one of the funnest coasters I've ever been on and we've been to a lot of parks. It starts out fast and never feels like it slows down all the way to the end. Also with lots of airtime. Its a whole ton of fun and a must ride if you are able! Wow!!!
June 15, 2016 at 3:37 PM · I rode it today, it is relentless. You never catch your breath until it's done and you're sitting there heart pounding waiting to pull up to the exit. Too bad the wait was close to an hour bc I'd like to see if the insanity tempers off on a second ride.

This article has been archived and is no longer accepting comments.

Park tickets

Visitors guides

Weekly newsletter