The best introduction to Astoria  and environs is undoubtedly the 360-degree panorama from atop the 125-foot-tall Astoria Column on Coxcomb Hill (2199 Coxcomb Dr., 503/325-2963, www.astoriacolumn.org , dawn–dusk daily, $1 requested for parking), the highest point in town.
Patterned after the Trajan Column in Rome, the reinforced-concrete tower was built in 1926 as a joint project of the Great Northern Railroad and the descendants of John Jacob Astor to commemorate the westward sweep of discovery and migration. The graffito frieze spiraling up the exterior illustrates Robert Gray’s 1792 discovery of the Columbia River, the establishment of American claims to the Northwest Territory, the arrival of the Great Northern Railway, and other scenes of the history of the Northwest.
The vista from the surrounding hilltop park is impressive enough, but for the ultimate experience, the climb up 164 steps to the tower’s top is worth the effort.
Before ascending, get oriented with the annotated bronze relief map in front of the column, which notes the distances and directions to landmarks near and far. From this vantage point you can see across the rooftops of the town, the Astoria Bridge, giant freighters gliding up and down the Columbia, and a long sweep of the Washington  shore.
To the northwest are the Columbia Bar and Cape Disappointment . On clear days, look northeast to Mount St. Helens  and to Mount Hood  on the far eastern horizon. Looking over Young’s Bay south and west of Astoria , the Clatsop Plains extend to Tillamook Head  and Saddle Mountain .
Get to the Astoria Column from downtown by following 16th Street south (uphill) to Jerome Avenue. Turn west (right) one block and continue up 15th Street to the park entrance on Coxcomb Drive.