Hello Wanderers! Can I still call you that? We’re lucky enough to have a new writer joining the team (the team meaning me) here on the site. Hopefully in a future podcast we’ll get the chance to do a more formal introduction but, for now, it’s my pleasure to introduce my friend and fellow theme park lover, Michaela!
Disneyland is well known for a number of reasons. Immersive theming, high quality entertainment, and timeless rides that you can go on again and again and never get tired of. A group of rides that Disneyland is perhaps most well known for are its mountains. There are four distinct mountains in Disneyland Park, all in different lands.
If you read any attractions rankings concerning Disneyland I guarantee one of these mountains are going to be near the top of every list. Some of these mountains are so iconic they have been recreated in Disney theme parks all around the world. I have decided to pit these four behemoths against one another to decide which mountain is champion. That does not mean that the mountain at the bottom of the list is in anyway a bad ride. My personal top 10 list concerning Disneyland attractions would have each of these rides listed. They are some of the most thrilling and exciting attractions in the park and they are all worth a ride (or a couple of rides in a row, whatever suits your fancy).
A couple of things to note before we get started. First, this ranking is purely my opinion. I’m sure many will disagree with me but this is how I see it. I also retain the right to change my mind as rides are refurbished and changed! Also, as you may have noticed I am not Andrew, your usual writer on this site and I know for a fact that he disagrees with me (but I don’t care). So without further ado, here are the Disneyland mountains, ranked:
Number 4: Splash Mountain
It nearly kills me to put Splash Mountain in last place, but it had to be done. There are of course many great aspects to this ride that make it one of the most popular in the park, but sometimes its popularity can be a downside.
First, the positives. Splash Mountain is in my opinion one of the most elaborately themed rides in the park. It’s located in Critter Country, a perfect fit for a ride staring a rabbit, and rests along the bank of the Rivers of America. This makes for a splendid view as you crest the biggest hill on the ride. Another aspect of this ride that I adore is the soundtrack. It flows perfectly from scene to scene and the banjo melodies you hear in the queue line help you get amped up for what is to come.
What made me place Splash Mountain at the bottom of my list is a mixture of two things: water and wait. One of the peak times to visit Disneyland Resort is in the summertime. And, Splash Mountain is the only real water ride at Disneyland. You will not get soaked on It’s A Small World or the StoryBook Land Canal Boats, my apologies. So, if you and your family are hot and don’t feel like trekking over to Grizzly River Rapids in DCA, Splash Mountain is the go-to.
This makes Splash one of the most popular rides in the park anytime the weather is over 70 degrees. Ride times can easily escalate over 90 minutes on a particularly hot day. If I am at Disney during warm weather periods Splash becomes a Fastpass must for me, or a rope-drop attraction.
The other side of this comes during colder periods of time. As the weather cools Splash Mountain wait times lower, but the tagline ‘it’s actual, it’s factual, you’re going to get wet’ remains. Many of the crowds stay away from Splash because they don’t want to walk around the theme park with soaking clothes in cold weather, and these people are smart. I have personally ridden Splash on a cold day and regretted the bone-chilling walk to the bus I dealt with afterwards.
The bottom line is that Splash Mountain is either crazy busy, or requires you to bring an extra set of clothes to the park to keep from freezing. Its discrepancies are why it is at the bottom of my list.
Number 3: Thunder Mountain (Big Thunder Mountain Railroad)
The wildest ride in the wilderness takes the bronze on this list. I enjoy Thunder Mountain for a number of reasons, one being the overall theme of the attraction. It fits perfectly into Frontierland and also gives good views of the Rivers of America from its higher hills. I also enjoy looking at the scenery as the trains whip through the track, I always seem to see a new prop or animal animatronic every time I ride.
One thing that I think is missing from this attraction is a story. All of the other mountains in Disneyland have a semblance of story that us as riders partake in, but the myriad of scenes and set pieces that come together to make Thunder Mountain leave me a tad confused. There is a cavern with bats, a goat with a stick of dynamite, an imploding mine tunnel, a dinosaur skeleton, and a small western town at the end. Maybe I’m just not savvy enough but I fail to see the story take shape.
This is not to say that I don’t enjoy all of those aspects of the ride, I think Big Thunder’s wackiness is part of the reason why many park guests like it so much, I just wish the story could be more easily digested. Thunder Mountain beat Splash Mountain in this ranking because I have found Thunder to almost always have a steady wait time. The wait time very rarely rises above 30 or 35 minutes in my experience, making it an attraction that could easily fit into your day. There is also never a threat of hypothermia post-ride.
Also, aside from Splash Mountain’s big drop and (even more terrifying) smaller drop into the Laughing Place, Splash Mountain is more of a water dark ride. Thunder Mountain is action packed pretty much all the way through.
Number 2: Space Mountain
When people think of Disneyland mountains the first one that pops into their heads most often is Space Mountain. It’s a classic Disneyland attraction, but was actually first built in Walt Disney World.
What makes Space Mountain so amazing is its simplicity, and yet it transports you to another world. Its soundtrack (especially during its lift hill) is so perfect for the theming that I get goosebumps even if I just listen to it in my car in broad daylight. I’m not someone who is obsessed with all things space, or wanted to be an astronaut as a child, but there is something about Space Mountain that brings out the need for the final frontier in everyone.
Disneyland’s version of Space Mountain recently got a queue refurbishment, but a lot of the rest of the attraction is still pretty outdated. The pre-show video that can be seen on many small T.V.s in line looks like it was filmed in the 90s, and honestly that may be true. This might bother guests that are anchored towards the newest technology, but I happen to love the retro-futuristic style that Space Mountain brings. As you might imagine, I am a giant fan of current Epcot and will miss the tacky futurism of that park.
So you may be asking, why isn’t Space Mountain at the top of my list? It isn’t for one very important reason. Space Mountain is only a great ride at night. I can hear the confusion in your mind, hear me out. Space Mountain is a very dark ride, its beauty to me comes in the amazing stars and galaxies seen during the ride. I have ridden this ride probably a few dozen times, and I can say for certain that you can see the stars and galaxies MUCH better if you go on the ride at night.
This is simply because your eyes become accustomed to a darker environment at night time, so they are able to pick up more of the light in the ride. If you walk straight out of the California sun and board your rocket, your eyes are not used to the utter darkness of space. That makes the experience much more dark and much less star-filled.
Considering that the spacial environment is my favorite part of Space Mountain, you can understand why riding it in the day can be a letdown for me. That is why my number one mountain beats it out.
Number 1: The Matterhorn
As you may have guessed since this is the only mountain remaining located in Disneyland, the beautiful Matterhorn mountain is at the top of my mountain ranking. Unlike the other mountains, who each (to me) have their faults, this towering Fantasyland attraction is complete perfection.
Cool theming? Check. Thrilling ride? Check. Terrifying yeti? Of course. This attraction has it all. First, lets talk about the mountain itself. I would argue that this mountain is more intimidating than the rest, because you can walk all the way around it, it’s not tucked into a corner like Space or Splash Mountain. It’s height is also staggering, at a whopping 147 ft tall.
The star of this show is Harold, a yeti who is not too pleased that you’re trespassing on his mountain. I thought Harold was amazing even before they created new animatronics in 2015. These new yetis lunge at the bobsleds as they go by, making for a very terrifying experience. They also upgraded the yeti animations on the Matterhorn lift hill.
One of the coolest aspects of this ride is the two track system. There are actually two separate tracks that run through the mountain, and they each have two yetis. That means there are actually four within the entire mountain!
What I love so much about this system is that throughout the ride the two tracks run parallel to one another. This means that while traversing down the mountain you will see other bobsleds weaving through the ice tunnels at the same time.
Fun fact: there can be up to ten trains on each track running at a time (thanks Wikipedia)! That means that in total there can be 20 trains running at once. If each train is at full capacity, 6 people per train, then that means that there can be 120 people on the Matterhorn at once! That’s amazing (I’m a nerd).
Another aspect of this ride that makes it the best mountain in the park is its history. This is the only mountain in Disneyland that Walt himself helped build. The mountain attraction was his idea after a trip to see the real Matterhorn in Switzerland, and it was opened in 1959.
Unlike some of the other mountains where it is not always the best time to ride, there is no bad time for the Matterhorn. Traversing down the mountain gives the opportunity to see amazing views of both Fantasyland and Tomorrowland. I would argue that night is the best time to ride because the lands lit up at night are a sight to behold from above, but day time still rocks.
I know for some people the roller coaster itself that carries the bobsleds through the Matterhorn may be a bit jarring because its technology dates back to the fifties, but I think the sore back is worth being able to ride the first tubular steal roller coaster ever built.
So there you have it, my take on the rankings of the Disneyland mountains. All of these rides are amazing and deserve the love they are given from millions of Disney fans. I am sure that there are some who will disagree with me, but I will continue to yodel the haters away in my Swiss mountain until the end of my life.
Where do you think I went wrong? Let us know, along with any other questions you might have, in the comments below. Planning a trip to Disneyland? Check out our Planning Guide here. If you enjoy what you are reading here on Wandering in Disney please share this post with your friends, as well as like our social media pages. You can also subscribe to the blog via WordPress or email. All of those links are on the right side of this page. Thank you for reading, we really appreciate it!