a hiker looks out from the top of amabilis mountain

Photo Gems from the Top of Amabilis Mountain in Washington

For some reason, I feel Snoqualmie Pass doesn’t get the love it deserves from casual hikers and tourists. Yes, the place is flooded in the winter with people hitting the nearby ski slopes. But in the summertime, people flock to Mt. Rainier (understandable), the North Cascades, and Highway 2 on their way to Leavenworth.

But the I-90 Coordidor has plenty of gems, though I would argue plenty of places are much harder to reach (Alpine Lake Wilderness gems such as Rampart Lakes, Tuck and Robin, Jade Lake, Mt. Daniel, and then all the Chikamin Peak region lakes).

When a buddy asked if I wanted to join him up to Amabilis Mountain, I said sure! It looked fun and would be a pretty solid hike—until I learned you could theoretically drive to the top. For us, in late May, the road still had snow above 4,000 feet, so that’s where we stopped.

Photo Credit: Alec Sills-Trausch
Photo Credit: Alec Sills-Trausch

Photographing the Washington Cascades from Amabilis Mountain

Amabilis Mountain rises to around 4,500 feet and offers pretty views of Kachess Lake and the towering peaks of the Alpine Lakes Wilderness to the north.

This spot is a favorite for snowshoeing as you mosey up the dirt road at a mild gain until you reach the top. But we hadn’t seen a lot of summer shots from here and wanted to see what gems we could uncover.

Once we reached the top (as you drive, stay left towards Amabilis Shelter on the map), we kept pushing north along the rocky spine. It required low-key bushwhacking through trees to reach an area where we could safely traverse the spine and have better views of the lake below.

Photo Credit: Alec Sills-Trausch
Photo Credit: Alec Sills-Trausch
Photo Credit: Alec Sills-Trausch

Stunning Views From Amabilis Mountain

When we drove up, the southern skies were totally socked in, meaning Mt. Rainier would be hiding. After disregarding that possibility, a buddy looked over and said, “Hey, Rainier is out!”

And she sure was.

I knew the drone shots would be epic looking south with someone standing on the ridgeline. And considering it’s a shot that’s only possible with a drone, it would be super unique, so I launched my Mavic 3 Pro.

What should you use to photograph?

This is a summit that can really use the entire arsenal. Here’s what I brought:

  • DJI Mavic 3 Pro
  • Canon r5 + 24-105 f/4
  • 70-200
  • A 100-400/500 could look cool: 1) for Rainier but also for the jagged peaks of the Alpine Lakes and Snoqualmie Pass peaks.

See the gear I recommend

Photo Credit: Alec Sills-Trausch
Photo Credit: Alec Sills-Trausch
Photo Credit: Alec Sills-Trausch
Photo Credit: Alec Sills-Trausch

Anything Else To Know About Amabilis Mountain?

Is this worth the adventure?

It’s totally worth it! Yes, it’s a bit on the easy side—or very easy side—but for an early summer sunset, this is perfect. I now want to do this in the winter and see what it’s like to snowshoe it. It’s a 10-mile day round trip, but winter views look pretty stunning from the top.

How far is it from Seattle?

This is a 75-90-minute drive, depending on the traffic and how quickly you would like to drive on a dirt road. One of the pros of the Snoqualmie Pass area is the ease with which you can get out and back.

You can camp up here

There’s a big car camping area on the top just feet from the Amabilis Mountain summit area that would be awesome for a group of 4-8 people. We also saw a second smaller site with majestic views of the lake and mountains looking north 200 yards before the summit turn-off.

What car could drive this?

Unless the road is in terrible condition under the snow at the top, I’m 99% sure every car can make it up here. I would 100% take my old Prius up here on a dry day during the summer and have no qualms.

The road was a little bumpy with potholes to start, but it was smooth sailing after that.

It was windy and cold

June in Seattle is still cold in the mountains. I won’t remember, though. I had a down jacket and a beanie, but it was still pretty chilly on top—especially for my fingers. If I had brought gloves, I’d have been okay!

Low snow levels + South Facing Road = Driveable

We’ve had a subpar snow year for 2024 in the PNW, which allowed us to drive much further up the mountain than we could have. Besides one snow patch that would have bottomed us out, the road was basically snow-free until 4,200 feet. That is CRAZY for late May.

I assume you’d be forced to hike a little further in other years. That said, it was an easy walk up to the Amabilis Mountain summit.

Milky Way Potential from Amabilis Mountain

I didn’t think much about the Milky Way, but if you find a clearing, you could have a cool spot with Rainier and I-90 in the foreground and the sky above. I suggest getting up there with plenty of daylight to scope things out.

  • Ready my Astrophotography guide
  • Make sure to have a wide-angle lens, a tripod, a Star Tracker if you want, snacks, water, and a headlamp

Until next time, adventurers, stay safe.

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Author: Alec Sills-Trausch

Title: Founder of Explore with Alec

Expertise: Hiking, Backpacking, Photography, and Road Trips

Alec Sills-Trausch is a hiker, backpacker, landscape photographer, and syndicated travel writer. He enjoys showing off the beauty of the world through his photos, videos, and written work on ExploreWithAlec.com. Alec is also a 2x cancer survivor and bone marrow transplant recipient, showing the world that there is a future from this terrible disease.

He lives in Washington, where he gets to enjoy the stunning PNW mountains in addition to all the other places he attempts to visit each year! You can see more work on IG at @AlecOutside