Cliffside Mountain Coaster Review: A Thrilling & Historic Ride — But Worth It?

The Cliffside Mountain Coaster in Lake Placid offers a thrilling adventure on North America’s longest coaster, featuring a unique path along historic Olympic bobsled tracks.

This coaster combines excitement with Olympic history, and it is not to be missed when you are in the Lake Placid area.

Below, I’ll tell you everything you need to know before booking and riding the Cliffside Mountain Coaster.

What is the Cliffside Mountain Coaster?

The Cliffside Mountain Coaster is a standout attraction known for its distinction as North America’s longest coaster, stretching over a remarkable 1.4-mile track.

What sets it apart is its unique path, which closely follows the historic alignment of the 1932 and 1980 Olympic Bobsled tracks as it descends the mountain. Another cool feature of this coaster is that riders have the ability to control the speed of their car throughout the thrilling journey.

The experience is undeniably captivating, allowing visitors to zoom down the very path where Olympians once raced decades ago.

For many, like myself, who have never before laid eyes on a bobsled track, the novelty of the experience adds an extra layer of magic to what is already is a pretty fun adventure.

Cliffside Mountain Coaster

Where is the Cliffside Mountain Coaster?

The Cliffside Mountain Coaster is located at 220 Bobsled Run Lane, Lake Placid.

While technically in Lake Placid, it’s actually found at Mt Van Hoevenberg, which is a little bit outside of the downtown Lake Placid area. From the Olympic Museum, it’s about a 13-minute drive.

When following directions to get there, be aware that the parking situation can be a bit tricky. We found ourselves at a parking lot that happened to be closed and there are some other parking lots in the vicinity that grant access to the trails.

To ensure you’re in the right spot, keep an eye out for the unmistakable electric vehicle parking options – a clear indicator that you’ve found the correct parking area. It also will likely be the parking lot with the most amount of vehicles.

From the parking lot, you can walk up to the main visitor center where you can find a restaurant or you can head directly to the coaster (just look for the signs point to you in the right direction).

The Cliffside Mountain Coaster is just one of the many thrilling activities available in this area, so it’s advisable to explore all the options before planning your visit. Among the other popular attractions to consider is the bobsled experience, which promises its own unique and exhilarating adventure.

Booking the Cliffside Mountain Coaster

One crucial detail to keep in mind when considering booking a ride on the Cliffside Mountain Coaster is that while it does operate throughout the year, it doesn’t always operate every day of the week. To ensure your visit aligns with its availability, it’s wise to plan accordingly.

During our trip, we discovered that it was not operational on Wednesdays and Thursdays but you can find the latest updates here.

Booking your tickets online is highly recommended for a seamless experience.

This not only allows you to confirm the coaster’s availability, which can sometimes be limited, but also lets you handle all the necessary waivers in advance. This proactive approach ensures a speedy and efficient process when you arrive.

You can book a single adult ticket for $55 but if you want to add a child that will be sitting with the adult it’s only $10 extra. That’s a pretty expensive ticket for a single ride attraction but I will talk more about if it’s worth it further down in the article.

Be sure to keep in mind the ride requirements for the Cliffside Mountain Coaster, which are as follows:

  • Drivers must be at least 9 years old and 52 inches tall.
  • Passengers must be at least 3 years old and 36 inches tall.
  • To ride with a passenger, you must be 18 years old.
  • The maximum weight per cart is 300 lbs.

When booking, you’ll select a designated time slot for your ride and are advised to arrive at least 15 minutes prior to that scheduled time.

An interesting tidbit we learned is that if you happen to arrive a bit earlier than your allotted slot, you can inquire about the possibility of boarding earlier.

During our visit, we were fortunate to hop on board a full 20 minutes ahead of our scheduled time, and with no lines in sight, it made for a wonderfully swift start to our adventure.

Cliffside Mountain Coaster

Our experience on the Cliffside Mountain Coaster

As we stepped through the entrance gates and presented our tickets, we were promptly ushered towards the coaster cars. These individual coaster cars were designed with a resemblance to bobsleds, adding a delightful touch to the experience.

Cliffside Mountain Coaster

Our attentive attendant provided us with an overview of what lay ahead and explained the lever system.

This mechanism allowed us to exercise control over our speed: pulling the levers back applied the brakes, while pushing them down unleashed the thrill of full-speed adventure.

The need for braking seemed largely unnecessary for most of our exhilarating journey (until the end when we had to disembark).

However, having the option to slow down could be a reassuring feature for those who might find the ride’s top speed, reaching up to 25 mph, a tad intimidating or uncomfortable.

Another crucial purpose of utilizing the brakes was to maintain a safe distance from the other coaster cars on the track. The park’s guidelines stipulated a specific separation requirement between vehicles, which needed to be even more generous during rainy and wet conditions to ensure safety.

It’s worth noting that our attendant skillfully managed our ride, expertly maintaining the necessary spacing between our coaster car and the others. Consequently, adhering to these safety measures never posed a concern during our thrilling journey.

Cliffside Mountain Coaster

Our adventure kicked off with a rather long uphill ascent. As you made your ascent, you’ll have the opportunity to immerse yourself in an engaging audio tour that provides insights into various facilities and the past Winter Olympic Games along the way.

The journey to the summit spanned approximately five and a half minutes, affording you more than ample time to unwind, soak in the breathtaking scenery, and prepare for the thrilling downhill escapade that lay ahead!

Cliffside Mountain Coaster

Upon reaching the summit, you’ll encounter a helpful attendant who will guide you to push down on your levers, signaling the start of your thrilling journey downhill!

As you embark on your descent along the tracks, the audio tour becomes an engaging companion, offering intriguing insights into the course by John Morgan, the sportscaster who made an appearance in the 1993 Disney film Cool Runnings.

The audio tour introduces you to the names of some of the turns and provides fascinating details about their design, adding an extra layer of appreciation for the ride’s intricacies. Expect it to take you about three minutes to make your way down assuming you don’t overdo it on the brakes.

While capturing the excitement with your cellphone camera is possible, I wouldn’t necessarily recommend it for the descent.

I attempted to take a few snapshots and video myself, but I quickly realized the intensity of the ride made it challenging to maintain a steady grip with one hand.

Consequently, I opted to secure my phone by just sitting on it since I didn’t have much time to put back in my pocket.

However, this strategy had its own set of challenges as the ride’s bouncy nature caused my phone to shift and slip around, almost falling off the coaster! This meant a portion of my descent in the latter part of the ride was spent ensuring my phone stayed in place.

In hindsight, it would have been a wiser decision to simply keep my phone securely stowed in my pocket to fully embrace the adrenaline-pumping experience.

One choice that truly paid off was our decision to bring GoPros to document the entire adventure.

Upon reviewing the footage, it’s surprising how the speed of the ride didn’t appear as rapid as it felt in the heat of the moment. To clarify, this isn’t a high-speed roller coaster designed to leave you breathless, but it’s not without its moments of excitement.

In fact, there were a couple of turns and unexpected twists where the experience took an unexpectedly spicy turn, injecting a few shots of adrenaline into the ride. But again, nothing overwhelming.

I found the timing of our ride in late September to be particularly delightful, as it coincided with the onset of the vibrant fall foliage. The spectacle of the changing colors added a wonderful layer of charm and ambiance to the entire experience, enhancing its overall appeal.

Final word: Was it worth it?

At $55 per person, the Cliffside Mountain Coaster is undeniably one of the more expensive single-ride attractions I’ve encountered.

However, for someone like me who has always been captivated by the Olympics, harbors a deep appreciation for history, and revels in the beauty of fall foliage, this experience was an absolute treasure. The added charm of witnessing the color change during our visit made the price tag even more justified.

That being said, it’s important to manage your expectations. If you aren’t particularly enthralled by Olympic history and are seeking a pure adrenaline rush, the coaster may not meet your thrill-seeking desires to the fullest. So just set your expectations accordingly.