The Astoria River Trail stretches the entire length of the city's waterfront, connecting restaurants and breweries, museums, and dozens of other attractions. It passes under the Astoria-Megler Bridge, the largest truss bridge in the world, arcing out across the Columbia River toward the hazy hillsides of Washington State.
The trail follows the route of the Astoria and Columbia River Railroad that was completed in 1898 and subsequently acquired by the Spokane, Portland and Seattle Railway. It became popular with weekend tourists heading to the coast; later it fed the area's booming timber industry. By the early 1990s, though, the corridor had ended service and become overgrown or crowded out by industrial buildings. In most places, you couldn't even walk to the water. But the city focused a revitalization effort around the trail, opening the first short section in 1995, then adding to it block by block.
Today, plenty of attractions await all along the trail. Heading east from the far western tip, you'll pass large store yards of the Port of Astoria, arrayed with hundreds of ships of every age, type and size. Shortly up the path, you'll reach the Maritime Memorial, which sits under the hulking Astoria-Megler Bridge and pays tribute to the area's seafaring history and locals lost at sea.
A few blocks farther east is a loading point for the city's famous bar and river pilots. Because of shifting sandbars in the Columbia River, incoming ships would hire a bar pilot to hop on board and navigate them through the river's treacherous waters. The area was known as the "Graveyard of the Pacific," and you can visit a number of nearby shipwrecks that testify to its dangers. (That far western tip of the trail gives you a sense of what those ships might have experienced. Standing at the edge of the water, wind buffeting your face, you can feel the raw power of the sea as today's freighters bulldoze into the river's mouth.)
At 17th Street the trail takes you right up to the Columbia River Maritime Museum. It's well worth a visit. From there, follow the barking another mile to 36th Street, where the city's sea lions bask on the docks. They can make quite a racket, but they're fun to watch as they nearly submerge some of the docks under their heft and numbers.
Parking can be found at the Maritime Memorial (200 West Marine Drive) adjacent to the Astoria-Megler Bridge.