Even the most driven and committed flight student takes at least one day off from pilot classes every week, and that student will have to resist the temptation to take more days off once they discover all the things to do in our region of the Pacific Northwest. Whether you're flying airplanes out of our Hillsboro campus or helicopters from our Troutdale campus, you'll find yourself flying over spectacular places that you'll long to explore on foot. Luckily those places don't require a plane ride to visit on a day trip; when you're ready to take a break from pilot classes, be sure to check out these visitor favorites within a 1-2 hour drive of either campus. (I'll cover day trips from our Redmond campus next week.)
Mount Hood is such an important part of our identity at HAA, we put it in our logo! But it's not just a handsome peak dominating the skyline -- it's a year-round playground for hikers, bikers, skiers, rafters, and anglers. The main recreational part of the mountain, around Government Camp, is replete with dozens of hikeable lakes, two ski areas, and the must-see Timberline Lodge, made famous by the movie The Shining. On broiling summer days, treat yourself to the surreal sight of skiers swooshing down a glacier on North America's only year-round ski slope.
The Fruit Loop
If you're up for a longer day trip, head north from Government Camp on Hwy 35 and explore the Fruit Loop on the north slope of Mount Hood, a pastoral scene of rolling hills dotted with family-run orchards and farms. Besides the lush scenery, the big attraction here is the roadside fruit stands, which get you up close and personal with Oregon's famous natural food bounty. Fall brings opportunities for apple picking, pumpkins, hay rides, and other harvest festival activities.
Columbia River Gorge
My colleague Amy has given a better description of this jaw-dropping scenic wonder than I could muster, but let me just add one highlight that's accessible just 10 minutes from our Troutdale campus: the "King of Roads," aka the Historic Columbia River Highway. The section of this 70-mile road near Troutdale is truly the best part, as it takes you past five postcard-worthy waterfalls. Sections of the road are bike-only, including the thrilling Mosier Tunnels, so combine the drive with some road biking to make the most of the day.
Silver Falls State Park
One of the oft-overlooked outdoor attractions in Oregon, Silver Falls is just over an hour south of Troutdale, Portland, or Hillsboro. It was once considered as a candidate to become a National Park because of its unique array of waterfalls. The aptly named Trail of the Ten Falls delivers one photo op after another, but none more spectacular than the 93-foot South Fall. Combine this trip with a stop at nearby Silverton, a quaint town with great restaurants along a babbling creek.
So many pictures of the rugged Oregon coast feature the iconic Haystack Rock that you're likely to have an ah-ha moment as you swing off the highway and this massive monolith comes into view. It's really just one of countless near-shore rocky outcroppings that dot this part of the coast, but its size makes it particularly magnificent. At low tide, it serves up wonderful tide pools teaming with sea life. Or you can simply gaze at it from one of many beach-facing patio restaurants in the charming town of Cannon Beach.
Yamhill Valley Wine Country
Wineries abound throughout northwest Oregon, but the region that really put us on the map is Yamhill County, about an hour south of Hillsboro. Students of legal age with an interest in wine should consider a day trip to take in the hillsides wreathed in grapevines, the charming towns, and the friendly tasting rooms where local vintners are only too happy to educate visitors on what makes this area, home of the famous Oregon Pinot Noir grape, one of the best wine regions in North America.
Mount St Helens
That other volcanic mountain on our skyline, the one that looks like it's had its top lopped off? It actually did have its top lopped off -- when it erupted in 1980. A trip north on I-5 will take you to the Spirit Lake Highway, which provides dramatic views of the blast zone from the explosion. Visitor centers along the way recount that fateful day and educate the public on the remarkable return of the forest from utter destruction.
With so much to do in our beloved region, it's a good thing pilot classes are so much fun in their own right -- the temptation to explore is hard to resist!