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All 14 Exciting Carowinds Roller Coasters Ranked

Carowinds is home to a sizeable 14 roller coasters, from family oriented classic wooden coasters to roller coaster enthusiast adrenaline icons. (read: Woodstock Express to Copperhead Strike)

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Carowinds Fury 325 Roller Coaster | Preset: Apple Grove

In similar fashion to my rankings of the coasters at Kings Dominion and Busch Gardens, I’ll be dissecting the best roller coasters at Carowinds as objectively as possible.

The front runners, or best, of the Carowinds roller coasters ranked are Copperhead Strike, Fury 325, and Intimidator. Nighthawk and Afterburn tie on fourth place. The criteria for these rankings are noted down below.

There are a lot of great coasters at Carowinds–coming from a theme park junkie, coaster enthusiast, and North Carolina native. So if you’re considering a trip, it’s definitely worth a visit! You’ll have tons of fun.

If you’re a fellow coaster enthusiast with a pitchfork at the ready, the comment section is open below. Numerous perspectives are always beneficial in creating a nonbiased ranking!

Without further ado, here are the rankings of the Carowinds roller coasters.

Related Reading: How To Visit Carowinds On A Budget

Carowinds Roller Coasters Ranked

I’m basing these rankings on the ride’s comfortability, thrill, uniqueness, smoothness, capacity, reliability, and popularity.

  • Comfortability: enjoyable forces and re-rideability (10 = comfortable)
  • Thrills: speed, height, and inversions (10 = most thrilling)
  • Uniqueness: noteworthy features (10 = most unique)
  • Smoothness: …smooth versus rough (10 = smoothest)
  • Capacity: riders per hour (10 = quicker line)
  • Reliability: will it be open likelihood (10 = often open)
  • Popularity: by what park guests flock to (10 = popular)

Let’s get to it!

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Carowinds Afterburn Roller Coaster | Preset: Grimm’s Tales

Afterburn

An absolute pretzel of a roller coaster, Afterburn is a fighter jet themed inverted roller coaster built in 1999 by B&M. Along nearly 3,000 feet of track, the coaster completes 6 inversions at 62 mph after a 113 foot drop.

Comfortability: 7/10
Thrills: 
9/10
Uniqueness: 
7/10
Smoothness: 
8/10
Capacity: 
7/10
Reliability:
 8/10
Popularity: 5/10

Notes: “Clear for takeoff!”

Also, Afterburn’s popularity score isn’t for a lack of quality regarding the ride. People who ride it, love it. But, it doesn’t typically have much of a line–which means the more you can ride it!

TOTAL RANKING: 7/10

Carolina Cyclone

Carolina Cyclone is a traditional Arrow Dynamics looping coaster that first opened in 1980. At the time, it was the first roller coaster to have 4 inversions, two corkscrews and two loops. It stands at 95 feet tall, runs 2,100 feet longs, goes 40 mph, and features 4 inversions.

Comfortability: 7/10
Thrills: 
6/10
Uniqueness: 
5/10
Smoothness: 
6/10
Capacity: 
8/10
Reliability:
 6/10
Popularity: 5/10

Notes: Name me another roller coaster with as many different paint jobs over the years.

Like Afterburn, lines tend to be low for Cyclone too.

TOTAL RANKING: 6/10

Carolina Goldrusher

An oldie but a goodie, Carolina Goldrusher is the oldest Carowinds roller coaster, having opened with the park in 1973. It’s a 43 foot wooden and steel coaster themed to the first gold rush in the US. The Goldrusher is about 2,400 feet long and races along at 30 mph.

Comfortability: 8/10
Thrills: 
6/10
Uniqueness: 
6/10
Smoothness: 
7/10
Capacity: 
10/10
Reliability:
 7/10
Popularity: 6/10

Notes: Happy 50th Carolina!

Before Afterburn fans scream at me about the total rankings, Goldrusher’s score was boosted by its high capacity. Afterburn is still a more thrilling ride even though their score summary is the same.

TOTAL RANKING: 7/10

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Carowinds Roller Coasters Copperhead Strike

Copperhead Strike

A wild one (and my favorite), Copperhead Strike is one of the newest coasters at Carowinds. Opened in 2019, Copperhead is a double launched coaster with a max height of 82 feet, length of 3,200 feet, speed of 50 mph, and features 5 inversions.

Comfortability: 7/10
Thrills: 
9/10
Uniqueness: 
9/10
Smoothness: 
7/10
Capacity: 
7/10
Reliability:
 8/10
Popularity: 7/10

Notes: Copperhead Strike has one of the quirkiest themes of the Carowinds roller coasters, being that it’s themed to a secret moonshine shed riddled with snakes and an angry granny (the moonshiner).

TOTAL RANKING: 8/10

Fury 325

Fury 325 is, arguably, the most popular of Carowinds roller coasters. Although, at the time of writing this, it’s closed for structural issues… Casual. Fury 325 is aptly 325 feet tall (5th tallest in the world), runs 6,600 feet long, and flies at 95 mph. Its high speeds are inspired by the coaster’s hornet theme.

Comfortability: 8/10
Thrills: 
10/10
Uniqueness: 
7/10
Smoothness: 
8/10
Capacity: 
7/10
Reliability:
 5/10
Popularity: 9/10

Notes: K.O.

And, y’all know reliability got docked because support columns cracking and severing from itself is not a minor or common issue… especially for a steel coaster. Now, I know Carowinds will likely (hopefully) be more proactive is its maintenance. But, the coaster’s proneness to this issue is… not reliable.

However, its uniqueness lies in its blurring the line between hyper (in make) and giga (in height).

TOTAL RANKING: 8/10

Hurler

Kings Dominion fans will have déjà vu seeing this Wayne’s World themed woodie. Hurler is one of two cloned wooden coasters with a paperclip-esque layout. It’s also the only surviving one of the two. Hurler’s 83 feet tall, 3,150 feet long, hits 4 Gs, and clocks in at 50 mph.

Comfortability: 5/10
Thrills: 
6/10
Uniqueness: 
6/10
Smoothness: 
4/10
Capacity: 
5/10
Reliability:
 6/10
Popularity: 6/10

Notes: Kentucky Kingdom’s Thunder Run is a mirror image of Hurler.

Also, like the plight of the Kings Dominion Hurler, the Carowinds Hurler is rough. I know some enthusiasts are hopeful that it gets an RMC treatment like KD’s did.

TOTAL RANKING: 5/10

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Carowinds Intimidator Roller Coaster

Intimidator

The hyper coaster edition of I305, Intimidator is a NASCAR themed roller coaster dedicated to Dale Earnhardt and endorsed by the Earnhardt family. The ride’s stats include a height of 232 feet, drop of 211 feet, speed of 80 mph, length of 5,300 feet, and G force of 4.

Comfortability: 7/10
Thrills: 
8/10
Uniqueness: 
7/10
Smoothness: 
7/10
Capacity: 
8/10
Reliability:
 8/10
Popularity: 7/10

Notes: Yes, this too plays the iconic, “Gentlemen, start your engines!” spiel before the lift.

TOTAL RANKING: 7/10

Kiddy Hawk

Formerly the Rugrats Runaway Reptar, Kiddy Hawk is an inverted coaster intended to bridge the gap between kiddie rides and the adult attractions like Fury 325 and Nighthawk. It’s roughly 48 feet tall, 1,100 feet long, and goes 26 mph.

Comfortability: 6/10
Thrills: 
5/10
Uniqueness: 
6/10
Smoothness: 
5/10
Capacity: 
2/10
Reliability:
 7/10
Popularity: 6/10

Notes: It’s parallel to Nighthawk is the most adorable thing ever. Kiddy Hawk’s paint scheme is even the inverted (no pun intended) version of Nighthawk’s. Kiddy’s being blue track, gold supports while Nighthawk’s is gold track, blue supports.

But concerning scoring, its ridership per hour (600) killed its capacity ranking.

TOTAL RANKING: 5/10

Nighthawk

Nighthawk is a flying coaster and one of the last two Vekoma Flying Dutchman models in operation. The coaster is 115 feet tall, 2,800 feet long, runs 50 mph, tackles 5 inversions, and hits 4 Gs. Before its current theming Nighthawk was the first Star Trek themed roller coaster.

Comfortability: 6/10
Thrills: 
8/10
Uniqueness: 
10/10
Smoothness: 
6/10
Capacity: 
5/10
Reliability:
 7/10
Popularity: 9/10

Notes: Flying coasters are underrated.

And, it doesn’t get any more unique than being one of the last two of its kind on the planet.

TOTAL RANKING: 7/10

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Carowinds Ricochet Roller Coaster

Ricochet

Fortunately not having been renamed to something bizarre like KD’s Ricochet, the Carowinds Ricochet is a wild mouse roller coaster that opened in 2002. The ride stands at 46 feet tall, is 1,200 feet long, and puts around at 28 mph.

Comfortability: 7/10
Thrills: 
6/10
Uniqueness: 
5/10
Smoothness: 
6/10
Capacity: 
5/10
Reliability:
 8/10
Popularity: 6/10

Notes: Don’t underestimate the hairpin turns!

TOTAL RANKING: 6/10

The Flying Cobras

The Flying Cobras is a boomerang coaster saved from the defunct Geauga Lake Park in Ohio. It’s a compact but forceful coaster that’s 116 feet tall, 935 feet long, runs at 47 mph, features 3 inversions, and pulls 5 Gs.

Comfortability: 6/10
Thrills: 
6/10
Uniqueness: 
5/10
Smoothness: 
7/10
Capacity: 
3/10
Reliability:
 6/10
Popularity: 6/10

Notes: They should’ve kept the name Carolina Cobra. There’s no such thing as too many “Carolina” named Carowinds roller coasters.

Plus, it’s ride capacity (700 per hour) nuked its score.

TOTAL RANKING: 5/10

Vortex

A dying breed in the coaster industry, Vortex is a stand up roller coaster that opened in 1992. Ironically, it was meant to represent a new era of stand up coasters when it opened. Now, they’re dropping like flies. Vortex stands at 90 feet tall, is 2,040 feet long, goes 50 mph, and has 2 inversions.

Comfortability: 6/10
Thrills: 
7/10
Uniqueness: 
8/10
Smoothness: 
6/10
Capacity: 
5/10
Reliability:
 6/10
Popularity: 5/10

Notes: Vortex’s name is just to mess with old school KI fans. (just teasing)

Truly though, Vortex’s comfortability and smoothness depends on your height. I know some people get their head thrown around while others don’t have that problem.

TOTAL RANKING: 6/10

Woodstock Express

A Carowinds classic, Woodstock Express is a small scaled edition of a traditional wooden coaster. Opened in 1975, Woodstock is 40 feet tall, features a 35 foot drop, spans 1,350 feet in length, and runs at 36 mph.

Comfortability: 7/10
Thrills: 
5/10
Uniqueness: 
4/10
Smoothness: 
7/10
Capacity: 
6/10
Reliability:
 7/10
Popularity: 6/10

Notes: Do to modifications Carowinds made to the coaster, ACE revoked Woodstock’s “ACE Coaster Classic” status.

TOTAL RANKING: 6/10

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Carowinds Rides Zephyr Swings | Preset: Enjoy Your Ride

Summary

Wrapping up with a quick throwback: Thunder Road.

Thunder Road was Carowinds equivalent of The Racer at Kings Island and Racer 75 at Kings Dominion. For those who don’t know, it was a twin racing wooden coaster. It would’ve held high rankings for capacity and been solid on thrills, but smoothness would’ve been its achilles heel.

Carowinds also had a shuttle loop coaster once, but I’ve never ridden one (much less it, which closed a decade before I was born) and I seldom, if ever, see any chatter about that one amongst coaster folks. So, I’ll leave it to the comments for discourse.

However, for an abbreviated rundown of the Carowinds roller coasters rankings:

Tier One

  • Copperhead Strike
  • Fury 325

Tier Two

  • Intimidator
  • Nighthawk
  • Afterburn
  • Carolina Goldrusher

Tier Three

  • Carolina Cyclone
  • Ricochet
  • Vortex
  • Woodstock Express

Tier Four

  • The Flying Cobras
  • Hurler
  • Kiddy Hawk

If you have any thoughts about this ranking of the Carowinds roller coasters, let me know in the comments! I’m curious what other riders rate them by.

What’s your favorite roller coaster at Carowinds?

For more Carowinds content, you can also check out:

Best Hotels Near Carowinds

How To Visit Carowinds On A Budget

What To Bring To An Amusement Park

Thanks for reading!

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