Travel

The 13 Scariest Roller Coasters in America

Published On 04/17/2015 Published On 04/17/2015
cedar point top thrill dragster
Courtesy of Cedar Point, Sandusky, OH

"Pfft. Roller coasters are for kids, right?" is what you're probably thinking. Well, some are, but unless they're some kind of freakishly tall mutant children, they most likely wouldn't be allowed on the following ĂĽber-exhilarating (and often terrifying) coasters, for whom the words "DOOM," "FURY," and "CANNIBAL" are commonplace descriptors (for some reason).

Without further ado, here are the 13 scariest roller coasters in America -- hold onto your hats, thrill-seekers. Or just leave them with your buddy who was too afraid to go.

YouTube/Utah Coaster Riders

Cannibal

Lagoon Amusement Park
Farmington, UT
Scariest feature: A 116-degree drop. Yup.
Height/max speed: 208ft/70mph
Cannibal isn’t even open yet, and it’s already scaring the bejesus out of us (seriously, can we borrow some of your bejesus?). Its 116-degree drop is one of the world’s steepest, and it careens passengers directly through a tunnel that dives headlong into a 208ft tower.

Flickr/Jeffrey Kontur

El Toro

Six Flags Great Adventure
Jackson, NJ
Scariest feature: Multiple instances of what's called the "headchopper" effect
Height/max speed: 181ft/70mph
You’ll be seeing red after riding wooden powerhouse El Toro (and possibly nothing at all during it; your eyes might close due to sheer exhilaration), and there’s no denying that its 70mph speeds are impressive, especially since you’ll feel weightless for so much of the ride (wooden roller coasters are good at this sort of thing).

YouTube/Carowinds Park

Fury 325

Carowinds
Charlotte, NC
Scariest feature: Tallest traditional chain-lift roller coaster in the world at 325ft
Height/max speed: 325ft/95mph
Fury 325 is so-named because it’s 325ft tall (and not, in fact, because it tried to get the AIM screen name “Fury” and was told it had already been taken), and the first ascent feels like an eternity, partially owing to the fact that the older chain-lift technology really amps up the feeling of anticipation. Once you’re barreling down the first 81-degree drop at 95mph, though, you’ll become immediately aware of how much precious time you have left on this thing.

Flickr/CliffMuller

GateKeeper

Cedar Point
Sandusky, OH
Scariest feature: Tallest and fastest wing coaster, with six inversions
Height/max speed: 170ft/67mph
The wing seats of GateKeeper at Cedar Point (the Mecca of roller coasters in America) flare out on either side of the vehicle, so you’re basically flying already as you navigate the myriad twists and turns of this coaster. You’ll also pass through two extremely narrow keyholes, so if you’re Shawn Bradley, maybe sit this one out.

YouTube/Theme Park Review

Goliath

Six Flags Great America
Gurnee, IL
Scariest feature: At 180ft and 85 degrees, the longest and steepest drop of any wooden roller coaster
Height/max speed: 165ft/72mph
Goliath, in addition to the stats we listed above, is the fastest wooden roller coaster out there, has two zero-gravity stalling areas, is quieter than most drape runners, and has much better branding than any of the rides at Six Flags "Pretty Good" America could even dream of.

Flickr/vmpyr_david

Intimidator 305

Kings Dominion
Doswell, VA
Scariest feature: Multiple low-to-the-ground hairpin turns
Height/max speed: 305ft/90mph
Fortunately for all of us, the Dale Earnhardt-themed Intimidator 305’s design is pretty dissimilar to a NASCAR track. Its longest drop is 300ft at an 85-degree angle, but its real fear factor lies in its banking ability, which is on full display when it stops just short of the ground to veer off in any number of directions.

Flickr/Inferno Insane

Kingda Ka

Six Flags Great Adventure
Jackson, NJ
Scariest feature: Flat-out the tallest roller coaster in the world, with a staggering 418ft drop
Height/max speed: 456ft/128mph
Even the ascent of the legendary Kingda Ka, the world’s tallest roller coaster, will make you feel weightless, as you’re accelerated out of the gate at speeds of 128mph to the pinnacle of the Zumanjaro Drop of Doom (a separate drop tower ride attached to Kingda Ka), which was named pretty accurately. Pro tip: try and snag the front seat, as that’s where you’ll feel the most weightlessness.

Flickr/Jeremy Thompson

Leap-the-Dips

Lakemont Park
Altoona, PA
Scariest feature: The world’s oldest operating roller coaster, built in 1902
Height/max speed: 41ft/18mph
Leap-the-Dips might only have a maximum drop height of 9ft. It might only go 18mph. But dammit, as the only side-friction wooden roller coaster left in America (meaning that it’s held on the track by the friction generated by its wheels), it deserves a place on this list. Plus, the sensation of jumping up during the ride’s “dips” is probably how your great-grandfather got his kicks.

Flickr/Patrick McGarvey

Millennium Force

Cedar Point
Sandusky, OH
Scariest feature: Multiple rapid hills allow it to give the sensation of zero gravity
Height/max speed: 310ft/93mph
Millennium Force is like the Matt Damon to Intimidator 305’s Ben Affleck; they’re kinda similar, with 300ft drops and speeds of around 90mph, except while Intimidator 305 impetuously keeps you guessing with a series of rapid directional reversals, Millennium Force establishes itself as a forward-churning dramatic powerhouse that’ll sweep you off your feet just like Matty did with Minnie Driver.

Flickr/Patrick McGarvey

Skyrush

Hersheypark
Hershey, PA
Scariest feature: Reaches five Gs at the base of the first drop alone
Height/max speed: 213ft/75mph
Hershey is undoubtedly a family park, but Skyrush represents its gonzo attempt to shed that image in a heartbeat -- this gravity-defying coaster focuses on huge, sweeping arcs and feels as though it’s actually trying to throw you off, kinda like the coaster equivalent of a mechanical bull.

Flickr/Beaster725

Superman: Escape from Krypton

Six Flags Magic Mountain
Valencia, CA
Scariest feature: Vehicles are launched backwards at 100mph right out of the gate
Height/max speed: 415ft/100mph
Superman is unique among the coasters on this list for its format -- it’s a reverse freefall coaster, meaning it propels passengers backwards and up a steep slope at a staggering speed until they’re perched, weightless, at the top, and then rockets them back down. It’s also probably Jerry Seinfeld’s favorite ride ever.

Flickr/Patrick McGarvey

The Voyage

Holiday World & Splashin’ Safari
Santa Claus, IN
Scariest feature: Three 90-degree horizontal bank turns… oh, and it's made out of wood
Height/max speed: 163ft/67mph
Forget, if just for a second, the fact that this ride is located in a place called Santa Claus. Boasting the most air-time of any coaster in the world at 24.3 seconds, the Voyage is just that -- it’s over a mile in length, and impeccably designed to weave into and out of a series of underground tunnels, where you may or may not see Kimmy Schmidt (hey, it is Indiana, after all).

Flickr/august mami

Top Thrill Dragster

Cedar Point
Sandusky, OH
Scariest feature: Reaches 120mph about four seconds into the ride as it LEADS INTO a 400ft drop
Height/max speed: 420ft/120mph
Top Thrill Dragster is a companion strata coaster to Kingda Ka (meaning it’s over 400ft tall), and it’ll actually feel as though you’re launching into the stratosphere as you’re propelled up the hill at 120mph. And while Kingda Ka slightly outclasses it in speed and height, it’s pretty safe to say that Top Thrill is still sufficiently scary for most… unless you’re Bone Crusher.


Adam Lapetina is the partnerships editor at Thrillist, and thinks it's about time he took a field trip. Read his musings at @adamlapetina.

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