On the trail of the real Twin Peaks in the USA

Kris Griffiths

written by
Kris Griffiths

updated 10.03.2020

It’s been 25 years since we first saw the famous Twin Peaks waterfall disgorging through the show’s opening credits, and the town’s kooky characters speaking enigmatically over their cherry pies in the local diner.

David Lynch’s masterwork was so effective in evoking this small-town atmosphere because he used actual localities of Washington State in the Pacific Northwest to depict his fictional world. From the region’s vast national park to downtown Seattle, these places make for a memorable trip far away from America’s more obvious destinations, whether or not you’re a fan of the soon-to-return show.

Be awestruck at Snoqualmie Falls

This arresting 270ft-high river feature in the foothills of the Cascade Mountains is central to the spirituality of the native Indian tribe who have lived for centuries in this valley, and it’s perhaps this aura of mysticism that attracted Lynch while constructing his surreal otherworld.

The incessant sound similar to thunder and mist clouds rising from the bottom are a wonder to witness even in the drier months when its water volume is as its lowest, let alone in the wetter season when it becomes an epic flood.

For visitors there is ample free parking and a free viewing area offering a full panorama from dawn ‘til dusk, with lights attractively illuminating the setting after dark.


Salish Lodge, immortalised as The Great Northern Hotel in the series © Kenneth Sponsler/Shutterstock

Relax at Salish Lodge and Spa

Perched just above and behind the falls, the iconic Salish complex doubled as the Great Northern Hotel owned by Twin Peaks’ nefarious tycoon Ben Horne, where FBI Agent Dale Cooper lodges during the murder investigation (also where a spectral giant materialises and someone’s soul gets sucked into a drawer-knob).

In real life, however, it’s one of the grandest hotels in the state, each of its 84 rooms boasting a fireplace and jacuzzi, and many with views of the river before it crashes over the falls. Accordingly, the tariff isn’t cheap but on location alone it’s worth the splurge (Agent Cooper must’ve wrangled a favourable rate).

Salish Lodge dining room (1)

The view from the dining room at Salish Lodge © Salish Lodge

Walk the Snoqualmie Valley Trail

One of the region’s more majestic hiking trails, the Snoqualmie Valley Trail follows a long-disused railway route snaking for thirty miles through the valley’s forests and farmland towards the Cascade Mountains. Perennially popular with walkers, cyclists and equestrians, the route also holds significance for Twin Peaks fans as it embraces not only the falls and hotel but also the steel trestle bridge along which Laura Palmer’s friend Ronette was found wandering the morning after Laura died.

Now called ‘Ronette’s Bridge’ in her honour, it has long been divested of its original lumber carriage purpose and is used only by hikers. The trail also passes near the venerable old mill which doubled as the Packard Sawmill, its grounds nowadays a rally track whose office fans will recognise as Twin Peaks’ Sheriff Department.

Dine in North Bend

For a real taste of the show’s small-town charm, as well as the cherry pie and coffee beloved of its characters, head to North Bend, the sleepy Seattle commuter town that's home to the original ‘Double R’ Diner. Named Twede’s Café in real life, the restaurant was recently re-renovated by Lynch’s production team to resurrect the erstwhile rustic vibe of 1990 (destroyed by fire in 2000).

As well as purveying sizeable breakfasts and burgers to many a passing rambler, Twede’s also flaunts its heritage with a wall of Twin Peaks photos and memorabilia.

And looming over the town is the mountain made famous in its opening credits – Mount Si – whose 4000ft-high ascent occupies a sweet spot for both experienced and rookie trekkers: challenging enough for the former while not too arduous for the latter.

Twede's Cafe in North Bend (KG)

Twede's Café, featured in the show as the Double R Diner © Kris Griffiths

Explore Downtown Seattle

This commercial heart of one of America’s coolest cities housed Horne's Department Store in Twin Peaks, where Laura and Audrey worked behind the perfume counter.

The bustling district contrasts small-town life in every way though, being a hub for commuters and tourists where you can stroll among skyscrapers with a view of the expansive Puget Sound harbour and surrounding mountains – something not many cities can offer.

World-class attractions abound here, like Seattle Art Museum and the iconic Pike Place Market: a huge century-old bazaar where retail becomes theatre and the first Starbucks outlet still stands.

If you fancy a step up from diner food then some of Seattle’s best restaurants are also here, including stand-out seafood institution, Taylor Oyster Bar, that procures its entire menu from nearby Pacific waters.

If you do want to go ‘diner’ though, Lost Lake Café offers the full Twin Peaks-style experience in neighbouring Capitol Hill, and it’s open 24 hours.

Seattle skyline (1)

The Seattle skyline with the instantly recognisable Space Needle © Kris Griffiths

Mount Rainier National Park

The crowning glory of this truly underrated region, Rainier (pictured at the top) is one of earth's most enormous volcanoes and at almost 15,000ft, it’s the tallest peak in Washington State – an epic backdrop to Seattle’s cityscape.

Part of the Pacific’s ‘Ring of Fire’, its dormant-active status adds an edge to life within its dominion. On certain days the mountain takes on a distinctly otherworldly aura when lenticular clouds halo its summit – was this the meteorological twin-peak phenomenon that originally inspired Lynch?

Well the millions of Douglas Fir trees cloaking Rainier’s lower slopes and the rest of its 240,000-acre national park certainly inspired Agent Cooper when he first drove past them on his way to the town. Today’s visitors can still wander through these ancient forests, some parts more than a thousand years old, and feel the same sense of wonder.

You certainly don’t have to be a fan of the show to appreciate the experience, and all else this region has to offer (but it helps!).

Kris travelled with British Airways and stayed at the Mayflower Park Hotel, Seattle. Explore more of the Pacific Northwest with the Rough Guides Snapshot.

Top image: Seattle skyline with Mount Rainier in the background © Shutterstock

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