NCL Free At Sea

Gold Striker Lift Hill Walk At California’s Great America

By on 06/22/2014

I spent the entire last week attending CoasterCon XXXVII, the annual roller coaster convention of the American Coaster Enthusiasts (ACE) club. This was my first CoasterCon and I wasn’t sure what to expect, but it far exceeded all of my expectations! The event is typically hosted by multiple theme parks, with each providing as unique of an experience as possible. This year’s primary host was California’s Great America, and they pulled out all the stops to ensure that we had a great time!

In addition to the special events that everyone gets to attend, like private viewings of their current show line-up, there are also more exclusive events that only a limited number of people are chosen to attend due to space limitations and/or safety concerns. I was fortunate enough to have been selected for one of these events, a very rare treat for any roller coaster enthusiast – a lift hill walk to the top of Gold Striker! This is common for ride employees, especially the maintenance workers, but not for someone like me. In fact, this was my very first lift hill walk, and I was very excited.

As I’m sure you can imagine, the roller coaster cannot be operational when climbing up the lift hill, so it has to be done early in the morning before the park opens to the public. I was pretty early to the park, arriving around 5:30 am, long before the first guest showed up. As you can see, parking was not an issue:


By the way, that’s Levi’s Stadium in the background, the brand new home of the San Francisco 49ers starting in 2015. They will be sharing the parking lot with CA Great America.

I met the park escort at the front gate, and since nobody else had arrived yet, we made our way over to the Gold Striker station. There was nobody in the station that early other than us, so it was a prime time to get some great photos.


Just before starting the climb, a few of my roller coaster buddies for the week had joined us, so we all went out as a group. We had to follow the track to the lift hill, just as you do when you’re riding it, so we had a bit of a loop to get to it:


Looking up into the bright morning sun, it looks like there’s a black hole in the sky that the track just disappears into:


By the time you get to the base of the lift hill, it suddenly seems a lot taller and steeper than you initially thought:


As long as we’re here, we might as well check the bottom lift hill gear. Looks good to me:


About halfway up, you start to huff and puff, and your legs start to burn. Well, at least mine did:


It’s not everyday that you get to look down the lift hill of a roller coaster:


Once to the top, the views were amazing. Here’s the enclosed first drop as it wraps around the Star Tower plaza:


Just a slightly different view of the reflecting pool and carousel than you get from the Star Tower:


Once we were at the top, we actually went into the enclosure and just past the apex. This is looking backwards, out towards where the lift hill comes up:


Something else not many people see – the top lift hill gear. Again, looks good to me:


As much as I begged, they wouldn’t let us slide down the first drop:


A slightly different view of the station as seen from the top of the lift hill:


This is the gift shop, exit path, and the track as it comes off the first drop and does the station fly-by:


We couldn’t leave the top of the lift hill without a group photo. Just past me are my fellow roller coaster junkies Kris Rowberry, Taylor Evans, Robert Ingle, and Nicholas Laschkewitsch:


Kris decided to take a selfie on the way back down the hill. That’s Roger, our fearless CA Great America host behind me, who graciously led our tour. Look how happy we are:


Photo: Kris Rowberry

A view looking into the station from the lift hill:


Once our lift hill inspection was done and everything checked out, I took over the controls and started dispatching trains:


(I’m totally joking…everything was completely locked out and I didn’t touch anything!)

This was a very unique experience for me and I had an absolute blast! I’d like to thank CA Great America for providing us with this opportunity. It was very memorable.

If you’d like to learn more about the Gold Striker roller Coaster, be sure to read my full Gold Striker overview.

If you like what you see here, be sure to use the social media buttons below to share with your friends. I’m going to be posting a lot of photos on Instagram going forward, so be sure to also follow me there.


  1. Eric

    06/22/2014 at 11:42 pm

    Very cool. Definitely something I’d like to do sometime. The closest I’ve come to something like this was taking a tour of the Giant Dipper at Santa Cruz and getting to go into the maintenance shop. Did you know that there is (or was as of 1999 when I went) a huge leather belt that connects the lift motor to the chain sprocket? That was really something to learn.

    Glad you had fun at the convention. I hope to attend one someday.

    • The Coaster Guy

      06/23/2014 at 10:55 am

      We were in that motor room as part of our behind the scenes tour at the boardwalk. You’ll see it as part of my CoasterCon update for that day.

  2. Henry

    06/23/2014 at 10:21 am

    Where is next year’s Coaster Con? I live outside Detroit, so this year’s Coaster Con was a bit too far for me.

    • The Coaster Guy

      06/23/2014 at 10:53 am

      It’s going to be at Six Flags Great Adventure and Morey’s Piers.

  3. M. Smith

    07/02/2014 at 3:30 pm

    Are you going to write us up a trip report for all the parks you visited during CoasterCon XXXVII? Please do if you can!

    • The Coaster Guy

      07/02/2014 at 3:53 pm

      Absolutely! I came back with 3,000 pics and about 100 video clips, so it’s a little overwhelming trying to decide where to start. 🙁

      • Scott C.

        07/02/2014 at 4:13 pm

        3000! Wow, I thought I took a lot with 100. I will be looking forward to re-living the experience through your write up.

  4. Pingback: Medusa Lift Hill Walk At Six Flags Discovery Kingdom

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