The 10 Best Wooden Roller Coasters in America

Aerial of the Coney Island Cyclone Roller Coaster

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Steel coasters far outnumber wooden ones, but purists and more casual park fans alike still love wooden coasters. Dating back to the late 1800s, even modern-day "woodies" have a retro feel, but ride designers have outfitted some of them with new technologies that make them safer.

The United States is full of fantastic wooden coasters guaranteed to give you a thrill, and these are the best in America. Just because they're a little older is no reason to miss out on the fun you could have on one of these rides.

  • 01 of 10

    El Toro at Six Flags Great Adventure (Jackson Township, NJ)

    El Toro Wooden Roller Coaster at Great Adventure Six Flags Theme Park
     John Greim/LOOP IMAGES/Getty Images

    El Toro just may be the finest ride, period, among all wooden and steel thrill machines, and it tops our list as the number one best wooden coaster in America. Smooth-as-silk and just about as fast as any of the other top-speed coasters on this list, El Toro is a force to be reckoned with. Although the ride only takes just under two minutes to complete, this New Jersey attraction is sure to keep you coming back for more high-flying fun.

  • 02 of 10

    Lightning Rod at Dollywood (Pigeon Forge, TN)

    Lightning Rod coaster at Dollywood

    The world's first launched wooden coaster, Lightning Rod grabs passengers' attention right away and ranks second on our list of America's best wooden coaster. Located in Tennessee's Smokey Mountains inside the Dollywood amusement park, Lightning Rod hits speeds of up to 73 miles per hour, heights of up to 206 feet, and a 165-foot drop down a 73-degree angle. You can also ride the Lightning Rod well into the night at Dollywood if you choose to stick around for some of the park's famous nighttime performances and concerts.

  • 03 of 10

    The Voyage at Holiday World (Santa Claus, IN)

    The Voyage at Hollywood World

    Theme Park Review 

    The second ride at Holiday World in Indiana to make the list, The Voyage regularly gets the nod from coaster fans as being among the best (if not the best) thrill machines and ranks third on our list. It has all the makings of a great ride with plenty of height, speed, acceleration, and loads of airtime; plus, it features a number of underground dives, too. According to TIME magazine, you'll experience 24.3 seconds of zero-G, one of the steepest drops around, and darting around huge curves at fast speeds.

  • 04 of 10

    Boulder Dash at Lake Compounce (Bristol, CT)

    Boulder Dash at Lake Compounce

     Martin Lewison/Flickr/CC BY-SA 2.0

    Awarded the "World's Best Wooden Coaster" in 2013 by Amusement Today, Lake Compounce's Boulder Dash is ranked fourth on our list of America's best wooden coasters. Located anywhere else, this wonderful roller coaster would still be a top favorite offering great airtime, a smooth ride, and relentless speed from start to finish. The fact that it is built into the side of a mountain at ​Lake Compounce and careens around trees and boulders, however, pushes it near the top of the list.

    Continue to 5 of 10 below.
  • 05 of 10

    The Comet at Six Flags Great Escape (Queensbury, NY)

    Comet rollercoaster

    Zotdragon/Wikimedia Commons/CC BY-SA 3.0

    Another coaster that survived a move from its original location, the Comet at the Great Escape, is fifth on our list of America's best wooden coasters. This great old woodie found a new home and a new lease on life and now delivers its still-potent thrills to new generations of riders at Six Flags Great Escape in Lake George, New York. This 4,200-foot wooden coaster was built in 1927 but redesigned in 1947 before relocating to the Great Escape park in the late 1990s.

  • 06 of 10

    Phoenix at Knoebels (Elysburg, PA)

    Phoenix at Knoebels

    Jeremy Thompson/Flickr/CC BY 2.0

    Originally known as Rocket, the classic (circa-1948) Phoenix roller coaster at Knoebels ranks sixth on the list. It could have ended up in a Texas landfill when the small amusement park that owned it closed in 1980, but instead, ​​Dick Knoebel purchased it, moved it to Pennsylvania, restored it to its original glory (and then some), and maintains it with the fervor of a true coaster lover. With top speeds of 45 miles per hour and the ​highest point at 78 feet tall, this may not be the biggest coaster on the list, but it's certainly one of the most classic wooden coasters in America.​


  • 07 of 10

    Lightning Racer at Hersheypark (Hershey, PA)

    Lightning Racer coaster at Hersheypark

    With their bursts of airtime and wild lateral G-forces, each side of Lightning Racer at Hersheypark would probably be a top-ranked coaster on its own, but as a racing and dueling coaster, it ranks seventh on our list. The first of its kind in America, Lightning Racer has two tracks that each offer a unique ride experience, adding a sense of competition to the general excitement. It also offers the thrill of near-misses, as the Millennium Flyer trains seem hellbent on demolishing each other.

  • 08 of 10

    Goliath at Six Flags Great America (Chicago, IL)

    Goliath at Six Flags Great America

     Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images

    Goliath is a new-age wooden coaster and the eighth best wooden coaster in America. Located at Six Flags Great America in Chicago, Goliath features an innovative "Topper" track that enables it to include inversions, and at the time it debuted, it was the world's tallest and steepest wooden coaster. It was also among ​the top ten fastest wooden roller coasters in the world at 72 miles per hour, making for quite a thrill. The Goliath climbs 180 feet at its tallest point before dropping 85-degrees down and whipping around a 180-degree curve.

    Continue to 9 of 10 below.
  • 09 of 10

    Raven at Holiday World (Santa Claus, IN)

    The Raven roller coaster at Holiday World
    Holiday World

    The Raven may be relatively small, but it packs plenty of punch into its small package, making it the ninth best wooden coaster in America. Raven is part of a trio of fabulous wooden coasters at the Holiday World Park in Indiana, and its sister coaster, the much-larger Voyage, also has a prominent place on the best coaster list. Originally opened in 1995, The Raven ​features a 120-foot tunnel, multiple drops, a double-banked "S" curve, and a sharp turn directly over Lake Rudolph.

  • 10 of 10

    The Cyclone at Coney Island (Brooklyn, NY)

    The Cyclone Roller Coaster in Coney Island, NYC

    Busà Photography/Getty Images

    The Cyclone at Coney Island in Brooklyn, New York is a true antique and America's 10th best wooden coaster. Although it might not be the biggest or the faster coaster around, it's a tourist favorite that's been featured in a number of Hollywood movies. The Cyclone is nostalgic yet surprisingly vital after all these years, and you can enjoy a free day at the Coney Island beach just a few feet away after you're done riding it.

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