Disney’s Expedition Everest Ride and the Secrets of the Hidden Legend

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If you love exploring Disney World secrets, then you’ve come to the right place as the Expedition Everest ride is chock of them. Themed around the mystery and secrets of the ever-illusive Yeti, the Yeti ride at Disney World gives you an experience that takes you deep inside a mountain as he stalks your train, even ripping up the track and sending you backwards for one wild ride.

But, just like the yeti has its secrets, so does the Yeti’s ride at Disney World.

The Mountain is not Mount Everest

Many people, myself included, assumed the snow-covered mountain in Animal Kingdom is modeled after Mount Everest. But in fact, the mountain that hosts the Expedition Everest ride is actually the Forbidden Mountain, and the full name of the ride is “Expedition Everest legend of the Forbidden Mountain.”

The Yeti ride at Disney World in the background with water in Animal Kingdom in the foreground
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The story goes that the yeti closely guards the Forbidden Mountain. When you board the trains at the base of the mountain, you are joining an excursion from the Himalayan Escapes – Tours and Expeditions Company.

This company specializes in taking adventurers through the Forbidden Mountain to the bottom of Mount Everest. Since the Forbidden Mountain is an entry point to Mount Everest, the yeti closely guards the sacred spot. As a rider, you are traveling through the Forbidden Mountain to Everest, which is one of the peaks you see to the right, slightly far off, when you climb the lift hill.

Authentic Décor on the Expedition Everest Ride

We aim to not spend much time in queue lines while at Walt Disney World, but the queue for the Expedition Everest ride is one of the most creative in Animal Kingdom, maybe even the whole of Walt Disney World.

The queue for the Expedition Everest ride is full of artifacts from Asia
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The fictional town that surrounds the yeti ride at Disney World entrance, as well as the outbuildings in the queue are made with handmade bricks constructed of dirt, water and straw. Many of the buildings in the area are also painted with patches of red, which is believed by the Nepalese people to ward off evil spirits. Expedition Everest’s queue is also imaginatively themed, lined with handmade objects and artifacts from Asia.

The murals of the yeti, as well as the yeti animatronic and artwork were created with the assistance of Nepalese artisans for accuracy.

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Coca Cola Easter Eggs

There is an interesting Easter egg inside the queue for the yeti ride at Disney world: glass Coke bottles that seem to be full. These bottles are in fact full of Coke. The bottles were bought in Nepal during one of the many trips the Imagineers took while researching for the ride.

If you are looking for some Coke to enjoy yourself, there is a soda and snack stand just outside the entrance to the Expedition Everest ride. But you will have to use some of Animal Kingdom’s infamous paper straws to enjoy your beverage.

The Cost to Build a Nepalese Mountain

The mountain inside Animal Kingdom has a reputation of being one of the most expensive rides ever built by Walt Disney World. But, how much did it cost to build Expedition Everest?

The cost to build the Expedition Everest ride came in at a whopping $100 million price tag. This makes it the most expensive roller coaster ever constructed. With its breathtaking façade, 80-foot drop height, and top speed of 50 miles per hour, we think the money was well spent!

Model of the Expedition Everest ride. Yeti ride at Disney World
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The Expedition Everest Ride: Another Case of Disney’s Strategic Heights

By now, we are all aware that Disney Imagineers use forced perspective to make buildings appear taller inside the many Disney World theme parks. They are also recognized for using strategic maximum heights for buildings.

For example, Cinderella’s Castle is exactly 189-feet tall. This is because at the time the castle was built, any building taller than that was required to have a red light on top to warn away air traffic. A bright red light would ruin the beauty of the castle, so imagineers stopped the tallest spire just short of the 190-foot limit.

The Yeti ride at Disney World as seen  from the nearby town
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The yeti ride at Disney World is another story of strategic planning. The tallest peak comes in at exactly 199-feet tall (as is Tower of Terror.) By the time the mountain was built, the red-light requirement had changed to apply only to buildings over 200 feet tall. Disney took advantage of the increase in height to make the Expedition Everest ride  the tallest Mountain on the Walt Disney World property and tied for tallest ride.

the Expedition Everest ride layout is designed so the track comes down a large section of the height. This means Expedition Everest has a tall and thrilling drop.

How the 199 Feet of Expedition Everest was Constructed

The 100 million dollars put towards the Expedition Everest ride were used on 5,000 tons of steel for the ride’s frame, and 10,000 tons of concrete for the base and structural elements. A total of 38 miles of rebar were interlaced through the concrete pieces of the Forbidden Mountain.

2,000 gallons of paint were used to paint the mountain and the buildings that make up the queue and town surrounding the yeti ride at Disney World.

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The Secrets of a 20-Foot Yeti

The Expedition Everest ride would be nothing without the large, looming yeti animatronic that reaches for you as you careen through the mountain. The yeti, which stands just over 20 feet tall, is the largest animatronic Disney has created, but it has a secret of its own.

Upon the opening of the ride, and for the first couple years of operation, the Yeti would jolt towards the Expedition Everest ride vehicles while swinging his arm at the passengers. Today, and for the past twelve years, the yeti has remained still.

The Yeti has had two operating modes. “A” mode comes with the swinging of the arm and movement of the entire body closer to the train. B mode is no movement with an intensified strobe effect.

So, what happened to the Yeti? The creature’s massive height and even more massive weight, paired with its large movements, began to damage the concrete structure that held it in place.

The Yeti animatronic is quite literally a part of the mountain. To fix it, requires a complete overhaul of the Mountain’s structure. Due to its intensive construction, (see above,) large renovations to the mountain are difficult. So, the Yeti remains in B mode indefinitely.

To those that have never seen the Yeti move, the strobe-light effect is fine and almost unnoticeable. But to the trained eye, the flashing light is a disappointment.

How to Avoid Everest’s Lines

Nowadays the lines for the Expedition Everest ride are much shorter than they used to be due to Pandora, but the mountain still draws in many riders. The best way to avoid lines without using a FastPass is to board the steam train up the Mountain first thing upon opening of Animal Kingdom.

cutting through Dinoland USA is an alternative route to the Yeti ride at Disney World  that offers less crowds.
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The ideal way to do so is to arrive prior to opening. This means you will be let into the park before it opens and can wait at one of the many ropedrop areas. Most people will head straight to Pandora, or through Asia to go to Expedition Everest.

To avoid the crowds and get in line faster, head through Dinoland USA to the Mountain. You won’t regret it.

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Front or Back of the Expedition Everest Ride Train?

This is a much-debated subject when it comes to the Expedition Everest rollercoaster. With a ride that travels both forwards and backwards, you are subject to high speeds in both the front and the back of the train.

In the back of the train, you can miss some of the views the mountain has to offer. For example, at the broken tracks, the front of the train offers views across the entire Disney property that you cannot see from the back. In the front, you also get the visual thrill of seeing the steepness of the 80-foot drop height.

Track going up the lift hill on the Yeti ride at Disney World.
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SPOILER ALERT! If you have never ridden the Expedition Everest ride, you may want to skip this next paragraph as it gives away a key ride detail. However, if you like to gather all the information you can before experiencing Disney attractions, keep reading.

By sitting in the front of the Expedition Everest Ride train, you get a prime view of one of the key pieces of the ride. As you descend from the lift hill, the train quickly moves uphill again, stopping suddenly at a section of obviously ripped-up track. The yeti has been at it again, guarding the secrets of the Forbidden Mountain and sending you on a backwards journey through an abandoned section of track.

That being said, the initial lift hill does lead to only a minor drop. Those in the front of the train really don’t feel the downward thrill as they wait for the rear of the train to catch up. However, those in the back will feel some of the downward rush before being caught up short by the broken track.

Deciding whether to ride in the front or back is a personal preference based on the experience you want to have.

Hair Ties (Yes, Hair Ties) and the Mountain

At the top of the Forbidden Mountain, the train will stop at a broken set of train tracks. While you take a pause there, look on both sides of the tracks and you will see hundreds, maybe thousands of discarded hair ties.

Ever since the ride opened, people have been speculating as to why the hair ties litter the area, and just how they got there. For some, it is as simple as someone accidentally dropping one and then others copying.

Others speculate that upon opening of the ride, a few hair ties were left as theming, possibly to make it seem like a hiker left them or met an uncertain fate. But this theory seems unlikely.

Whatever the reason for the hair ties, they are a nuisance and a drain on cast member time. Posts on reddit from old cast members explain the problem in greater detail. The hair times accumulate so quickly, sometimes hundreds per day, that cast members need to remove them weekly.

These hair ties also mysteriously accumulate on an artificial snow platform underneath the ski lift at Blizzard Beach.

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Mother daughter travel bloggers exploring the U.S.

We're Kat and Ali, a pair of mother-daughter travel bloggers exploring the U.S. We're sharing our experiences, tips and insights to help you more easily get out and explore the beautiful landscapes and places of this nation.


Ali Patton

Ali is a travel blogger for Seconds to Go, where she shares her experiences traveling the U.S. with her co-blogger Mom, Kathleen. She is also an avid Disney travel enthusiast, and with multiple Disney World trips under her belt, is a knoweldgeable resource for all things related to Disney vacations. Ali can be found managing the Seconds to Go social media accounts as well as the famed Double Z Farm pages on Instagram, Facebook and TikTok.

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