What is the Disney Mountain Range?

Jessica Ellis
Jessica Ellis

The Disney mountain range is a term used to refer to the four tallest structures at Disneyland in Anaheim, California. Each mountain is unique in construction, and each provides the setting for one of Disney’s most popular attractions. Space Mountain, Big Thunder Mountain, and the Matterhorn each house high speed roller-coaster rides, while Splash Mountain contains a log-flume ride with a tremendous plunging drop.

The real Matterhorn, inspiration for the Disney ride.
The real Matterhorn, inspiration for the Disney ride.

The first of the Disney mountain range was the Matterhorn, completed in 1959. After a visit to Switzerland, Walt Disney was determined to build a replica of the real Matterhorn, a Swiss mountain of about 14691 ft (4478 m.) The added roller coaster, called the Matterhorn Bobsleds, was the first tubular steel coaster in the world, and featured waterfalls and a terrifying Yeti. Originally, the gondolas for the Skyway passed through the mountain as well, allowing a leisurely look at the alpine features. For many years, an employee-added basketball court resided near the top of the structure, used by cast members who had to climb the mountain for shows; sadly, the court no longer exists.

The second Disney mountain took riders far above the height of the Matterhorn, all the way into outer space. Space Mountain, an imposing, futuristic, flat-topped pyramid that dominates the Tomorrowland skyline, became one of the world’s first indoor roller coasters when it opened in 1977. Riders plummet through a pitch-dark environment, filled with star-fields, supernovas, and meteors that at times strangely resemble chocolate-chip cookies. The dark environment adds to disorientation, making the ride seem much faster and more intense than its modest actual proportions indicate.

Big Thunder Mountain, the third member of the Disney mountain range, had evolved through a variety of different settings in the Old West Frontierland. When the roller coaster was added in 1979, the mountain was updated to its current look, a desert butte based on the thin, weathered rock formations of Utah and the Southwest United States. Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, the speeding mine train ride, was a high-speed adaptation of the earlier leisurely mine train rides.

The latest addition to the Disney mountain range is Splash Mountain, a slow-moving mountain log-flume that packs an enormous ending punch. Based on the fables of the Disney movie Song of the South, the ride incorporates characters from southern stories, including Br’er Rabbit and Br’er Bear. Log-ensconced visitors to this Disney mountain tour through spectacular animatronic scenes featuring dancing and singing animals, before taking an enormous 52 ft (15.8 m) drop into a very, very cold pool. If you dare to ride Splash Mountain, be amply prepared to get completely soaking wet.

The striking features of the Disney mountain range give the park some of its best landmarks and best rides. With mountains that can take you far into space, high in the snows of Switzerland, pioneering in the Old West, and even get you singing and soaked, the big rides of Disneyland are some of the best loved attractions in the park. None of them should be missed by any fan of Disneyland.

Jessica Ellis
Jessica Ellis

With a B.A. in theater from UCLA and a graduate degree in screenwriting from the American Film Institute, Jessica is passionate about drama and film. She has many other interests, and enjoys learning and writing about a wide range of topics in her role as a wiseGEEK writer.

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Discussion Comments


@croydon - I just hope that people are sensible about that kind of thing though. I'm glad they don't have cameras in all the places they could have them because it does encourage people to be stupid.

One of the few deaths that has ever happened in Disneyland was on the Matterhorn, when a teenage boy was horsing around and he stood up in his car during one of the fast parts and cracked his head.

If people would just stick to the rules they wouldn't have to worry about a ride that is supposed to be completely safe. But pushing the boundaries can be dangerous.


@irontoenail - There are actually some really classic Splash Mountain photographs out there, where people have planned and set up elaborate stunts. I don't think any of the other mountains have a huge final drop like that, so they don't have an iconic place for a camera to go off.

But with Splash Mountain there isn't any mistaking when you get to the final drop. So people have time to prepare.

My favorite is a picture I've seen where friends were riding together with a couple and the guy got the friends to hold up cards with him, asking his girlfriend to marry him. They were all sitting behind her, so she didn't see them do it. She only saw it when they got to the photo booth. That's just so adorable, they must have had such an amazing day.


I absolutely love Splash Mountain. Whenever we went to Disneyland when I was a kid, we would wait in line to go on it over and over again. I liked the other Disney Mountain rides as well, but they seemed pretty boring in comparison. I'd rather ride something with a storyline, even if it isn't as fast.

The music and the animals make it more scary somehow, at least when you're a kid. And it's fun to pose for the picture they take before the big fall as well.

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