It takes about five minutes to drive across the wide mouth of the Columbia River, crossing over into Astoria, Oregon. The city’s down-home downtown district is just a few blocks away on US 30.
But before stopping for lunch, there’s another stop you should make, which will help you get the lay of the land: the Astoria Column.
There are plenty of signs to direct you from US 30 to the city’s landmark, which is perched at the highest point in town.
The Astoria Column is 125 feet high, and to reach the top, you’ll have to climb 164 steps. The column was built in 1926, but recently refurbished. In fact, each step has a benefactor, and you can read their names as you spiral to the top.
Access to the Astoria Column is free, although signs do urge you to pay a reasonable $1 parking fee inside the gift shop.
A visual history of the Pacific Northwest adorns the outside of the column. Circling around the base of the column will provide you with a history lesson, dizziness, and a stiff neck.
Note: This trip was first published in 2004.