Everything You Need to Know About Big Thunder Mountain Railroad

You’re going on vacation to Walt Disney World! The only problem? You’re not sure which attractions are right for you and your kiddos and you have questions. Which attractions are too intense for little ones? What rides do I really need a FastPass+ reservation for? What’s the disability access like for certain attractions? We’re answering all those questions and more in our Everything You Need to Know attraction series with today’s focus on Big Thunder Mountain Railroad at the Magic Kingdom!

What is Big Thunder Mountain Railroad?

Big Thunder Mountain Railroad is a runaway train themed coaster through a detailed mountain set in the Old West at the time of the California Gold Rush.

Where is Big Thunder Mountain Railroad?

Big Thunder Mountain Railroad is located in Frontierland next to Splash Mountain at the Magic Kingdom.

What is the History of Big Thunder Mountain Railroad?

Big Thunder Mountain Railroad was created by Imagineer and now Disney Legend Tony Baxter. The idea came from concepts for the unrealized Western River Expedition attraction for the Magic Kingdom. Disneyland’s version of Big Thunder Mountain Railroad opened first on September 2, 1979, and replaced Mine Train Through Nature’s Wonderland. Its signature rockwork was inspired by Bryce Canyon National Park in Utah.

The Magic Kingdom’s version opened the following year on September 23, 1980. While the track was pretty much the same, the overall attraction space at the Magic Kingdom was larger and featured a design inspired by Monument Valley in Arizona.

What You Need to Know About the Queue for Big Thunder Mountain Railroad

In 2013, Big Thunder Mountain Railroad received an interactive queue and seemingly as many details as the ride itself to help tell its story. As guests move through the exterior portion and into the interior queue, guests learn about the Big Thunder Mining Company which seems to have ignored warnings about the strange, supernatural happenings on the mountain. Keep an eye out for a portrait of the company’s president Barnabas T. Bullion. He looks a lot like Imagineer Tony Baxter…

What is the Ride Experience Like for Big Thunder Mountain Railroad?

Big Thunder Mountain Railroad falls somewhere in the middle when it comes to the level of thrills. There are no inversions or large drops; however, it does move quickly, has a number of small dips and tight turns, and several surprises. This coaster also boasts an incredible level of detail requiring multiple rides to see it all. If possible, ride at night for additional details, a whole new feel, and possibly unique views of the Happily Ever After fireworks.

© Sarah Graffam

Overall, Big Thunder Mountain Railroad whisks guests on a runaway ride that can be a little rough for some. However, it’s still more about story and the Disney details than loops and plunges making it a great ride for most members of the family.

What You Need to Know About the Ride Vehicles for Big Thunder Mountain Railroad

Each Big Thunder Mountain Railroad train accommodates about 30 guests with 2 adults per row or possibly 2 adults and a small child. Larger adults can be seated in their own row if needed.

Guests need to take a small step over a small wall into the train car and sit on a lightly padded bench with a back and single pull-down lap bar for all riders. Each row has a small netted bag directly in front of the seat for holding small belongings.

Note: For single adults traveling with several children, know that the movement of the coaster may result in riders sliding or bumping into one another. Parents of children who may be uncomfortable touching a stranger can ask that the child be placed in his or her own row.

What You Need to Know About Accessibility for Big Thunder Mountain Railroad

Guests must transfer from a wheelchair/ECV in order to ride. Also, service animals are not permitted on this attraction.

What You Need to Know About Health and Safety Warnings for Big Thunder Mountain Railroad

For safety, guests should be in good health and free from high blood pressure, heart, back or neck problems, motion sickness, or other conditions that could be aggravated by this adventure. Expectant mothers should not ride.

What are the Height Restrictions for Big Thunder Mountain Railroad?

Guests must be at least 40 inches tall to experience Big Thunder Mountain Railroad. Rider Swap is offered at this attraction.

Does Big Thunder Mountain Railroad Offer FastPass+?

Big Thunder Mountain Railroad offers FastPass+; and if it’s a priority for you and your family, a FastPass+ reservation is suggested. However, other Magic Kingdom attractions often have longer lines and may be a better use of FastPass+ reservation, such as Seven Dwarfs Mine Train, Space Mountain, and Peter Pan’s Flight.

Does Weather Affect Big Thunder Mountain Railroad?

A June storm pops over World Drive as a rainy afternoon gets started.

Since Big Thunder Mountain Railroad is an outdoor attraction, it may close down in the event of extreme weather. Also, part of the queue is outdoors and exposed to the elements.

What’s the Best Time of Day to Experience Big Thunder Mountain Railroad?

The shortest waits for Big Thunder Mountain Railroad are typically first thing in the morning, right before the park closes, and during the fireworks.

This chart shows you roughly how long you’ll wait for Big Thunder Mountain Railroad when you visit on a day with a given Magic Kingdom Crowd Level. The blue bars represent the average “peak” wait time (that is, how long the line will be at its busiest). The bottom and top black lines represent the range of peak wait times to expect (for you fellow nerds out there: it’s the 5th percentile and 95th percentile of peak wait times). Please note that these are estimates, and for a better forecast for your travel dates, see Big Thunder Mountain Railroad Wait Times.

Did I answer all of your questions about Big Thunder Mountain Railroad? Is this attraction at the top of your family’s vacation to-do list? Let us know in the comments.

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Savannah Sanders

Savannah has been visiting Disney World since she was a year old and has gone back almost every year since. In the real world, she teaches high school history and government and enjoys writing about all things Disney. Savannah can be reached on Twitter @DisneyParkSavvy.

4 thoughts on “Everything You Need to Know About Big Thunder Mountain Railroad

  • January 12, 2020 at 5:19 pm

    I don’t normally do roller coasters, but I think I would have been alright on this one except for the fact that there are no head rests. When I tried Big Thunder Mountain, the force of the ride pushing my head back was really uncomfortable, to the point that I won’t ride again.

  • January 13, 2020 at 1:07 pm

    Mine Train Through Nature’s Wonderland was my favorite ride at Disneyland! Love Big Thunder, too.

  • January 13, 2020 at 11:29 pm

    And it is good for your health! It has been scientifically proven that this ride helps break up kidney stones. I am fully embracing a quick trip to WDW as a medical treatment.

  • November 9, 2021 at 9:14 am

    I looked at other sites for information about Big Thunder Mountain Railroad and yours was the most informative. Thank you.


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