The 11 Scariest Roller Coasters in North America

  • 01 of 10

    The Most Scream-tastic Rides

    Millennium Force coaster at Cedar Point
    ••• Cedar Fair Parks

    Coasters are supposed to be scary. That's their raison d'être. But not all coasters are created equal. Let's run down the 11 scariest roller coasters in North America.

    Unlike other ride compilations, such as the 10 longest coasters, this list is somewhat subjective. What some consider to be thrilling may make you say, "Pffft. You call that scary?" Then again, hurtling along at 90+ mph and pulling 5Gs—all while hanging upside down—is pretty much the definition of scary, isn't it?

    Some of the coasters are exceptionally fast; others are crazy tall; a few include wacky features created by what must be slightly mad ride engineers. Many combine a number of fear factors. All of them generate screams and incite fear.

    Let's run down the scariest coasters in reverse order. We'll start our terrifying tour at "America's Roller Coast."

    Number 11: Millennium Force
    Cedar Point, Sandusky, Ohio

    At 310 feet, it's so tall that ride designers came up with a...MORE new category for Millennium Force: the "Giga-Coaster." To get to the top of its extra-long lift hill, it was among the first coasters to use a zippy elevator cable instead of the more traditional (and pokier) chain lift. And capitalizing on its 310 feet of pent-up energy, it reaches a blistering 93 mph, making it one of the world's fastest coasters. In other words, Millennium Force is plenty scary. Other Cedar Point rides include the wonderful launch coaster, Maverick, and the groundbreaking Magnum XL-200.

    Continue to 2 of 10 below.
  • 02 of 10

    Number 11: Leviathan

    Leviathan coaster at Canada's Wonderland
    ••• Cedar Fair Parks

    Canada's Wonderland, Maple, Ontario

    The only Canadian entry on the list, Leviathan is essentially similar to Millennium Force. It's a few feet shorter and 1 mph slower. But it includes more weightless airtime and is smoother than the Cedar point ride.

    Continue to 3 of 10 below.
  • 03 of 10

    Number 10: Fury 325

    Fury 325 coaster Carowinds
    ••• Cedar Fair Parks

    Carowinds, Charlotte, North Carolina

    Made by Bolliger & Mabillard, the same Swiss coaster geniuses behind Leviathan, Fury 325 rises higher (would you believe 325 feet?), goes faster (95 mph), and is steeper (81 degrees) than its Canadian counterpart. The exceptionally long ride snakes throughout Carowinds and includes a harrowing dive into a tunnel beneath the park's entrance path.

    Continue to 4 of 10 below.
  • 04 of 10

    Number 9: El Toro

    ••• Six Flags. Used with permission.

    Six Flags Great Adventure, Jackson, New Jersey

    It's not nearly as tall or fast as the first three coasters on the list (although at 70 mph, it is among the 10 fastest wooden roller coasters), but El Toro has something those rides lack: scads of airtime. In fact, it delivers more extreme out-of-your-seat airtime than any coaster I've ever ridden. And that makes it both wonderful and incredibly scary. In addition to being among the most thrilling thrill machines, the New Jersey ride is also one of the best wooden roller coasters.

    Continue to 5 of 10 below.
  • 05 of 10

    Numbers 8, 7, an 6 (tie): Griffon, Sheikra, and Valravn

    Griffon-at-Busch-Gardens.jpg
    ••• © Arthur Levine.

    Griffon is at Busch Gardens Williamsburg, Virginia
    SheiKra is at Busch Gardens Tampa, Florida
    Valravn is at Cedar Point.

    You want wacky elements? The three similar rides are "dive coasters." Their floorless, extra-wide, single-car coaster trains tackle huge lift hills and come to a halt just over the edge of their precipices. It's only a few seconds, but it feels like an eternity as passengers dangle at the top of the hill until they are mercifully released into 90-degree (as in straight down) dive drops. In case you had any doubts that these rides are scary, read my reviews of Griffon and SheiKra. In 2016, Cedar Point upped the ante for dive coasters when it opened the taller and faster Valravn.

    Continue to 6 of 10 below.
  • 06 of 10

    Number 5: Intimidator 305

    ••• © Arthur Levine.

    Kings Dominion, Doswell, Virginia

    The Giga-Coaster is in the same league as the huge steel rides at the beginning of this list, but Intimidator 305 (named after NASCAR legend, Dale "the Intimidator" Earnhardt) is, well, more intimidating than its sister coasters. At 85 degrees (just a few degrees short of a straight shot), its first drop is a doozy. The crushing positive G-Forces at the bottom of the drop will probably rattle you. And wild elements such as abrupt changes in overbanking turns goose the thrills.

    Continue to 7 of 10 below.
  • 07 of 10

    Number 4: Superman: Escape from Krypton

    Superman: Escape from Krypton coaster at Six Flags Magic Mountain.
    ••• Six Flags. Used with permission.

    Six Flags Magic Mountain, Valencia, California

    What's more scary than launching at 100 mph up a 415-foot tower? Launching at 100 mph up a 415-foot tower while facing backwards. The first coaster to hit a triple-digit speed, Superman requires nerves of steel. Read my five-star review of Twisted Colossus, another Magic Mountain ride.

    Continue to 8 of 10 below.
  • 08 of 10

    Number 3: X2

    X2 coaster at Six Flags Magic Mountain
    ••• Six Flags. Used with permission.

    Six Flags Magic Mountain, Valencia, California

    It's shorter and slower than most of the rides on the list, but holy moly, X2 is Scary with a capital "S." The world's first "4th dimension" coaster, its seats independently rotate to and fro on either side of the track. The effect is unnerving to the point of nervous breakdown-causing. The most hardened ride warrior would find it difficult to refrain from screaming when X2 unloads its arsenal of thrills.

    Continue to 9 of 10 below.
  • 09 of 10

    Numbers 2 and 1 (tie): Kingda Ka and Top Thrill Dragster

    Kingda-Ka-Sign.jpg
    ••• © Arthur Levine.

    Kinda Ka is at Six Flags Great Adventure
    Top Thrill Dragster is at Cedar Point

    If tall and fast equates to scary, it's no wonder these two top the list. At 456 feet and 128 mph for Kingda Ka and 420 feet and 120 mph for Top Thrill Dragster, they've got the stats to scare anyone silly. The similar rides use hydraulic launch systems to rocket their startled passengers up and over 90-degree tophat towers. In a word: yikes.

    Continue to 10 of 10 below.
  • 10 of 10

    Not Rated: Skyscraper

    The Skyscraper at Skyplex, world's tallest coaster.
    ••• Skyplex at I-Drive

    Skyplex, Orlando, Florida

    ​It's not scheduled to open until 2019 or later, but when it does, Skyscraper will likely take the top spot on the scariest roller coasters hit parade. At 550 feet, the "polercoaster" will handily beat Kingda Ka as the world's tallest coaster. It will use a 90-degree lift hill in the center of its tower to quickly bring its single-car trains to the nosebleed level. It'll be crazy enough to be accelerating, twisting, and turning as the cars make their way down the outside of the tower, but Skyscraper will include inversions. That's right: Intrepid riders will be flipped head over heels more than 500 feet in the air.