North Carolina's First Alpine Coaster Opens in Banner Elk

Do you dare?

Wilderness Run Alpine Coaster
Photo: Ashley Brown / Wilderness Run Alpine Coaster

Attention, thrill seekers: Last month, North Carolina got its first alpine coaster, located on the outskirts of Banner Elk. Geared towards adrenaline junkies of all ages, the Wilderness Run Alpine Coaster consists of three circular loops along with plenty of waves and twists. The mountain coaster has two hand brakes per car (similar to bike handles) for riders to control the speed of their adventure, and you can cruise through lush Tar Heel State's mountainside at speeds of up to 27 miles per hour. Each car accommodates up to two people.

The 3,160-foot attraction starts on a note not ideal for the heights-averse—a cable-pulled climb of 770 feet. From there, the alpine coaster leaves it up to gravity to do its thing as you twist and turn along the course, modeled after coasters in Europe. In fact, the ride was built by Germany's top alpine coaster company, Wiegand Sports.

"You're looping, dipping or turning. There is no point where you are just riding," says Eric Bechard, who co-owns the coaster with his wife, Tara, in a press release. "It's very fast and a whole lot of fun." The Bechards met while working for the military in Europe in the early 2000s and they loved riding alpine coasters during that time. Tara vowed her future would include building a coaster somewhere near her native state of Tennessee and some years later, that dream has become a reality. The couple is planning to add lights to the track and carts for nighttime rides. In addition to the coaster, there's also a clubhouse, observation deck, and gift shop on the premises.

"We're right across from Sugar Mountain, just a few miles from Beech Mountain and Grandfather Mountain, and we have all the restaurants and things to do in Banner Elk," comments Tara in the same media statement. These days, too, amidst the coronavirus pandemic, the prospect of fresh air and nature is certainly a big draw when it comes to contemplating our future travel arrangements.

Wilderness Run is open 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. seven days a week, year-round. Advance reservations are required for Friday, Saturday, and Sunday until July 12th. Reservations are not required on Monday through Thursday. Check social media on Facebook and Instagram regarding the evolving situation with the coronavirus crisis for the most up-to-date information.

Tickets for ages 14 and older cost $16 for a single ride or $35 for three rides. Youth tickets, for ages seven-to-13, are $13 for one ride or $29 for three rides. Child tickets, for ages three-to-six, are $5 for one ride or $12 for three. For more information, visit or call 828-898-7866.

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Even just seeing these photos certainly has us longing for invigorating mountain air, that stomach-dropping feeling, and a new adventure in beautiful Banner Elk. Share with us: Have you rode an alpine coaster before?

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