Review of the Wooden Coaster at Knott's Berry Farm

Ghost Rider coaster picture Knott's
••• The lift hill looms behind GhostRider's loading station. 2004, Arthur Levine, licensed to

October 2015 update: Knott's Berry Farm closed the ride earlier in the year for an extensive makeover. It is re-tracking most of the ride, and has plans to replace the coaster trains. When it reopens in 2016, ity should be considerably smoother than it has been the past few yearts.

Special note: I last rode GhostRider in 2004 (it has been closed on subsequent visits). This review represents the ride I took at that time.

Many fans say that the ride has become particularly rough in recent years.

Coaster Review

When the Cedar Fair folks (the coaster-crazy crew that runs Ohio's Cedar Point) bought Knott's Berry Farm in the late 1990s, one of the first things they did was what they know best: They built a kick-ass coaster. GhostRider combines the traditional charm of a woodie with the sensibility of a modern-day thrill machine, and it offers a wonderfully smooth, airtime-filled, exhilarating ride.

GhostRider Up-Front Info

  • Thrill Scale (0=Wimpy!, 10=Yikes!): 6.5
    Typical wood coaster thrills, lots of out-of-your-seat airtime.
  • Coaster type: Wood, double out-and-back
  • Top speed: 56 mph
  • Height restriction: 48 inches
  • Height: 118 feet
  • Longest Drop: 108 feet
  • Ride time: 2 minutes

With its rustic yellow-pine track, "mine car" trains, and Old-West adorned loading station, GhostRider fits right into Knott's Berry Farm's Ghost Town area.

Heck, it even has the word, "Ghost" in its name.

A meandering queue eventually deposits riders in a switchback rat-maze on the ground level of the "GhostRider Mining Company" boarding station. After inching back and forth, passengers climb a set of stairs up to the loading area for some more rat-maze line fun.

Because GhostRdier is such a (deservedly) popular coaster, be prepared for a long wait in the queue.

And then, be prepared for a great ride. The train leaves the station, coasts into a ravine that passes the loading queue, and heads up the lift hill. The highlight of the ride is the initial, note-perfect, 108-foot banked drop. To appease neighbors and reduce noise, Knott's covered the drop with a metal canopy. While it limits riders' views a bit, the canopy adds to GhostRider's unique mystique and actually seems to amplify the intensity of the clanking train and the passengers' screams--at least to my ears. I'm not sure what the park's neighbors make of it.

Ghostly Airtime

An abrupt left-hand turn at the bottom of the drop produces a twinge of airtime. The camelback hill that follows unleashes a torrent of airtime. GhostRider then meanders through a delightful series of twists and turns that produce some wonderful out-of-your-seat moments. The banked portions of the track generate lateral Gs that offer plenty of oomph, but make a relatively smooth transition (unlike other coasters where intense lateral Gs can border on sadism). This is what great woodies are all about.

Built at the very edge of Knott's Berry Farm, GhostRider serves as a great calling card for the park.

The ride follows a traditional double out-and-back layout. One of its turnarounds takes riders over Grand Avenue and into what used to be a parking lot. The trains also zoom behind Mrs. Knott's Chicken Dinner Restaurant on Beach Avenue.

Knott's says that the ride lasts two minutes. It felt longer to me, and I don't mean that in a negative way; GhostRider is a hoot from beginning to end. Built by the gone-but-not-forgotten coaster mavens at Custom Coasters International (the manufacturer closed its shop in 2002), the ride maintains wild speed and energy until the final brake run back into the station. Known for their physics-defying voodoo, CCI coasters seem to actually pick up speed rather than limp through the final elements, like many thrill machines. GhostRider is a prime example of the CCI magic.