Alpine Coaster Provides Thrills In Banner Elk

Wilderness Run Alpine Coaster has opened in the North Carolina mountains, providing a thrilling experience for visitors to the town of Banner Elk. 

It is North Carolina’s first alpine roller coaster, with rides lasting about five minutes. Each run includes three circular loops, a series of waves and several twists and turns. The top speed is 27 miles per hour.

“You’re looping, dipping or turning. There is no point in the five minutes where you are just riding,” says Eric Bechard, who co-owns the coaster with his wife, Tara. “It’s very fast and a whole lot of fun.”

Wilderness Run is modeled after coasters in Europe and was built by Germany’s top alpine coaster company. Riders navigate the track in individual carts designed to accommodate up to two people.

Each ride begins with a cable-pulled ascent of 770 feet. At that point, the alpine coaster differs from a roller coaster because the remainder of the ride is gravity-fed with the rider in control of two braking handles. Riders can use as little or as much braking as they like.

The six-acre attraction also includes a clubhouse, observation deck and gift shop.

Tara Bechard, who grew up in the Tennessee mountains, fell in love with alpine coasters while working in Europe for the Department of Defense in the early 2000s. It took her more than 15 years, but she has now fulfilled her dream of opening a coaster in the U.S. 

The Bechards are excited about the long-term potential with Banner Elk being such a popular destination for visitors. They have plans to add lights to the carts and track for night rides.

“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,” says Eric Bechard. “It’s the perfect location.”

Wilderness Run is not currently accepting walk-up customers. All guests must book a reservation online to spread out ridership and limit the amount of people on property at any given time.

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