Opening Day to Today: Mule Pack Becomes Big Thunder Mountain Railroad at Disneyland Park

Erin Glover

by , Director, Publicity, Walt Disney Animation Studios

As we celebrate 61 years of magic at Disneyland park, we’ve been looking back at original, opening-year attractions. Some have changed through the years and some have stayed the same … but still others are not here at all anymore, like the Mule Pack.

Mule Pack Original Attraction at Disneyland Park

Mule Pack was an opening-day attraction on July 17, 1955, and continued until it became Rainbow Ridge Pack Mules in 1959.

Rainbow Ridge Pack Mules Original Attraction at Disneyland Park

In 1960, the mules moseyed up to the mine train and became Pack Mules Through Nature’s Wonderland until 1973.

Big Thunder Mountain Railroad at Disneyland Park

Then, on September 2, 1979, the wildest ride in the wilderness opened at Disneyland park, and where there was once a tranquil journey through nature became the soon-to-be legendary Big Thunder Mountain Railroad. The original town of Rainbow Ridge remained as a reminder of the former attractions that once roamed this area of Frontierland, and the runaway mine train raced right into guests’ imaginations for all the years that followed.

Can you name the other attractions that have roamed Rainbow Ridge and Nature’s Wonderland?


  • Much as I love Thunder Mountain, I wish I was old enough to have experienced Nature’s Wonderland. Do you guys have any color photos and video footage of the Rainbow Caverns? Any way to incorporate them into the rerouted Disneyland Railroad? It would be really cool to ride the train through a recreation of the Caverns. Tomorrowland has Primeval World, so why not?

  • I love these posts about Disney History and am so glad that parts of Rainbow Ridge survived the Big Thunder Mountain transformation! It is so important to have pieces of the past (even if they have to be small pieces) interlaced throughout the refurbishment/expansion processes. To answer your question, The Rainbow Caverns Mine Train which later became the Mine Train Through Nature’s Wonderland was the main attraction in the area to go along with the Pack Mules, Stagecoach, and Conestoga Wagons. (And, as stated earlier, the Disneyland/Santa Fe Railroad bordered along the outside of the area).

    I’m not sure if you are able to answer this question, but there is an interesting sign hanging on the construction wall on the way into Critter Country which looks to be a throwback sign. It reads: “Nature’s Wonderland Via the Disneyland Railroad.” Is this a hint of things to come with the re-routing of the train tracks due to Star Wars Land or just a re-print of a poster from the past? I, for one, would love to see a tribute to the former Nature’s Wonderland attraction!


  • The Santa Fe & Disneyland Railroad would pass through the area.

  • loved this as a kid in the late 60s, early 70s. Thanks for the memories.

  • Great pictures! Didn’t the stagecoach and Conestoga wagons used to share the area?

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