Trekking In Morocco


Trekking Mount Toubkal & The Atlas Mountains

An expert guide to trekking Mount Toubkal & the Atlas

Mandy Sinclair Stephen Lioy
By Mandy Sinclair & Stephen Lioy

Home to a majority Amazigh population, life in Morocco's Atlas Mountains seems to have stood still.

This is rural Morocco at its most evocative. Children run freely through valleys. Farmers, both men and women, tend to their plots of land. Donkeys provide a mode of transport for both young and old. Stony pathways wind through the mountains to villages not visible from main roads. Standing atop of it all is the mighty Jebel (Mount) Toubkal which, at 4,167m, is North Africa's highest peak.

It's little wonder that Toubkal and the Atlas Mountains are the country’s top trekking and hiking location.

The Atlas (from which the Atlantic Ocean was named) is actually three ranges in one; the Middle Atlas in the country’s north, the High Atlas in central Morocco and the Anti-Atlas in the south. Each is drastically different and provides varied trekking options – even the colourful carpets produced by the many tribes are as diverse as the landscapes.

Agriculturally rich, the trees (apple, cherry, apricot, and even almond and walnut trees) begin to bloom in February throughout the Atlas, creating a riot of colours and smells. The region is popular year-round with locals, but the summer months see many Moroccans escape the heat of nearby Marrakech by heading to the mountains of Toubkal National Park.

By far the most popular trekking location in the Atlas is Toubkal National Park, an hour’s drive from Marrakech. People flock here to climb Jebel Toubkal, but there are many more trekking routes available across the Atlas Mountain ranges.

Ready to go? Here's my expert guide to trekking Mount Toubkal and the Atlas Mountains.

Where to trek Toubkal & the Atlas Mountains

Our experts' top picks

The best Toubkal & Atlas Mountains treks

Some popular – and lesser known – hikes

Mandy Sinclair
By Mandy Sinclair

In my opinion there's no beating the Aït Bougmez Valley, in particular the M'goun Circuit. Aït Bougmez draws a fraction of the visitors that come to the Toubkal region, but has some of the best hiking in the country. That said, all the following are well worth your consideration.

Toubkal National Park

Mount (Jebel) Toubkal Circuit trek

Stephen Lioy
By Stephen Lioy
  • Best hike for: Toubkal the quiet way
  • Difficulty: Strenuous
  • Trek duration: Six days
  • Max. elevation: 4,167m
  • Accommodation: Trekking refuges & homestay
  • Start / end point: Imlil

The basic Jebel (Mount) Toubkal trek is typically marketed as a two day itinerary from Imil (or three days if departing from & returning to Marrakech). You’ll do two days of heavy hiking to reach Toubkal Base Camp. On the second morning you’ll make a pre-dawn push to catch sunrise from the summit, then turn around and descend 2,500 metres all the way back down. It’s rushed, gruelling and busy. A far more relaxed trek is the Toubkal Circuit, which is typically done in six days with the final ascent saved for last. If you’ve got the time I’d strongly recommend doing it the slow way.

Atlas Mountains

M'goun Circuit trek

Mandy Sinclair
By Mandy Sinclair
  • Trek duration: Five days
  • Max. elevation: 4,071m
  • Accommodation: Trekking refuges & homestay
  • Start / end point: Agouti
  • Difficulty: Moderate to strenuous

Few visitors journey to Aït Bougmez, a valley running along the M’goun Massif in Morocco's Central High Atlas mountains. Those who do are rewarded with lush pastures, picturesque views across the valley and hospitable locals who don’t let language barriers get in the way—and some of the best hiking in Morocco.

The M'goun Circuit trek follows the general routes of the nomadic Ait Atta tribes who circle around Mt M'goun to reach green pastures and a glacial lake where they reside for the summer months.

Atlas Mountains

M’Goun Traverse

By HorizonGuides
  • Distance: Approx. 50 km
  • Duration: Five days
  • Start: Aït Bougmez Valley
  • End: Boutghrar
  • Difficulty: Strenuous

Also centred around the serene Aït Bougmez Valley, the M'Goun Traverse is a more challenging version of the M'Goun Circuit. At around 50 km, it’s one of the more challenging treks in the High Atlas.

The pinnacle of the trek is the ascent to the M'Goun summit, the fourth-highest peak in Morocco. From its height of 4,071 metres, you’re treated to a panoramic view of the High Atlas range, a reward for the challenging climb. Descending from the summit, the trek continues through the fascinating Arous Valley, reaching its final point in the village of Boutghrar. Accommodation options are varied, including camping under the stars, mountain huts, and guesthouses.

Atlas Mountains

Aït Bougmez Valley

Mandy Sinclair
By Mandy Sinclair
  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • Trek duration: Six to eight days
  • Max. elevation: 2,600m
  • Accommodation: Trekking refuges & homestay
  • Start / end point: Agouti / Ouzoud

In addition to the M'goun Circuit there are a variety of other treks and day hikes in the Aït Bougmez Valley. Marketed as the “Happy Valley” thanks to its tranquil beauty and serene vibes, it’s dotted by Berber villages and towns that make the cultural immersion as fascinating as the landscapes.

The gentle slopes and walnut forests of the valley floor make for easy day hikes, whereas the surrounding peaks and ridges can offer more challenging treks. There’s a six day route from Agouti to the traditional village of Tabant, and an eight day route in the opposite direction from the Ouzoud waterfalls to Timit. Different operators offer their own specific routes, typically staying in simple gites or homestays.

Atlas Mountains

Jebel Saghro Circuit

By HorizonGuides
  • Distance: Approx. 90 km
  • Duration: Four to five days
  • Start: N'kob or Tagdilt
  • End: Igli
  • Difficulty: Moderate

The Jebel Saghro is a mountain range located in the Anti-Atlas region of Morocco, between the High Atlas and the Sahara Desert. Vast barren plains, rocky peaks and deep gorges create a dramatic landscape that is great for exploring by foot.

The Jebel Saghro Circuit is usually completed in about four to five days and can be done solo, or with a guide.

The trek’s challenges are mainly the variable terrain and the lack of water sources along the route but with a lower altitude it’s generally less strenuous than some of the treks in the High Atlas region.

Some highlights of the Jebel Saghro Circuit include the Bab n'Ali rock formations, the Afourer gorges, and the views from the top of Kouaouch. The trek also offers a chance to experience local Amazigh (Berber) culture, as the Jebel Saghro region is home to the Aït Atta tribe, one of the last nomadic tribes in Morocco.


Ouzoud waterfalls day hike

Mandy Sinclair
By Mandy Sinclair
  • Best hike for: Easy-going day trip
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Trek duration: Half a day
  • Start / end point: Marrakech or Tanaghmeilt

An easy (and very popular) day hike in the Aït Bougmez area is to the Ouzoud waterfalls, or Cascade Ouzoud as they're known locally.

This hike makes for a pleasant day trip from Marrakech any time of the year. Located 2 ½ hours drive from Marrakech, these stunning 110m waterfalls tumble down red rock cliffs. Start this easy hike at the top where the flowing river cascades into the basin 600m below. Follow the pathway down to the base of the waterfall, encountering cheeky Barbary macaques that will happily accept a peanut or two along the way.

The trek takes about an hour, but sitting at the base and admiring the waterfalls from below and enjoying the cooling mist is satisfying.

Travel agents organise both private and group excursions daily. The area is not accessible by public transport, but the local guest houses in Tanaghmeilt can arrange private transport for travellers wishing to extend their visit beyond one day.


AmeIn Valley day hikes

Mandy Sinclair
By Mandy Sinclair
  • Difficulty: Easy to moderate
  • Trek duration: Day hikes or multi-day treks
  • Start / end point: Tafraoute

The Berber heartland of Tafraoute, surrounded by the majestic rocky Anti-Atlas Mountains, provides a starting point for multi-day treks or day hikes through the beautiful AmeIn Valley.

You don’t have to wander far from Tafraoute’s town centre to spot millennia-old rock carvings of animals that remain throughout the region. Longer day hikes through the argan trees, which only grow in southwestern Morocco, and almond trees dot the landscape as trekkers wander between the more than 20 villages that make up the valley.

More experienced trekkers may opt for a multi-day trek that includes summiting Jebel Kest, the region’s highest peak, before returning to Tafraoute. Don’t miss the light over the rockscape as the sun sets and the range radiates magical hues of red.

The craggy rock and huge boulders around Tafraoute make the region very popular with rock climbers, who descend on the region between September and April. Combine some climbing with hiking in Morocco.

Todra Gorge

Todgha Gorge day hikes

Mandy Sinclair
By Mandy Sinclair

Located in the eastern part of the Atlas Mountains and carved between the Todra and Dadès rivers, Todgha Gorge is a 300m deep fault that offers several excellent hiking routes.

Guides in Todgha Gorge are familiar with a day hike that leads to a nomadic family’s settlement, far from the village of Tinghir, which is often overrun with tour buses.

Leave the mudbrick village and lush farmland behind, wander through the limestone gorge and river that runs alongside, and begin the ascent to the rocky mountains that wind their way up along unexpected trails.

Views from the top provide stunning vistas of the surrounding landscape. With only minimal scrub bush, start the hike early to avoid the heat of the midday sun. A guide is a must as are sturdy hiking boots and plenty of water.

Dadès Valley

Dadès Valley day hikes

Mandy Sinclair
By Mandy Sinclair

The backdrop to the picturesque Dadès Valley leading to the Dadès Gorge is one of mesmerising rock formations, known locally as the ‘monkey fingers’.

Often a short stopover en route to the Sahara Desert, it’s worth scheduling at least a half-day trek climbing through the rocks, lush valleys and little bridges with the river running beneath.

A local guide is a must as the paths are unmarked. Bus agencies drop passengers in the nearby town of Boulemane and comfortable hostels are available throughout the valley and closer to the gorge.

Atlas Mountains

Tichka Plateau Traverse

By HorizonGuides
  • Distance: Approx. 40 km
  • Duration: Two days
  • Start: Tizi-n-Tichka
  • End: Telouet
  • Difficulty: Moderate

The Tichka Plateau Traverse is a two-day trek covering around 40 km and set in the dramatic Atlas Mountains of Morocco. A moderate hike, it offers breathtaking panoramas and a unique insight into Berber life.

The route begins at Tizi-n-Tichka, the highest major mountain pass in North Africa, ending in Telouet, a small village with a historic Kasbah. The trail unveils an otherworldly landscape of stark, sun-baked mountains dotted with green valleys, winding rivers, and small Berber villages.

The traverse explores the wide-open expanse of the Tichka Plateau, noted for its sparse vegetation and lunar-like vistas. If you like solitude, this hike is perfect, as the high plateau is one of the most remote areas in the Atlas Mountains. The trek finishes with a visit to the Kasbah of Telouet, a palace once owned by a powerful feudal lord. Accommodation ranges from camping under the stars to local gîtes.


View from a hiking trail in Imlil, High Atlas

Planning a trek in the Atlas Mountains

Everything you wish you'd known before you booked

Look beyond Toubkal

As is often the case with the tourism industry, most operators chase the demand for Mount Toubkal, at the unfortunate expense of other equally impressive locations and experiences.

Few visitors journey to Ait Bougmez, a valley running along the Mgoun Massif in Morocco's Central High Atlas mountains. Those who do are rewarded with lush pastures, picturesque views across the valley and hospitable locals who don’t let language barriers get in the way—and some of the best hiking in Morocco.

In the spring, nomadic Ait Atta tribes from the south hike across Mount Mgoun (the second highest mountain in the Atlas region) to reach green pastures and a glacial lake where they reside for the summer months. Mount Mgoun is exactly 100 m lower than Mount Toubkal but receives 25% fewer visitors.

Experienced hikers can join the trek as donkeys and mules carry supplies and accompany the nomads along with their herds, spending between three to four days hiking in Ait Bougmez.

The region’s remoteness (it’s a six-hour drive from Marrakech or 3 ½ hours from Beni Mellal) means that most visitors choose to base themselves in Ait Bougmez’s main town of Tabant during their stay, which offers a number of gites and hotels.

Day hikes in Ait Bougmez can be organised from the nearby Touda EcoLodge. Head out for a pleasant wander along the dirt treks winding through villages, green farmland and crumbling kasbahs.

For a more moderate full-day option, you can trek through juniper forests and rugged terrain to reach the glacial Lake Izourar. The return across the rocky trail returns to the small village where the Touda EcoLodge is located. Trekking boots are strongly advised.

The roads leading to the valley can be difficult to traverse during winter months. So, come during the warmer months between April and November.

Trekking solo vs guided

Guides became mandatory in the Toubkal region from 2018 after a grisly incident involving the death of two Western tourists, but post-COVID this requirement appears to have been informally loosened.

Consider however that beyond the Toubkal trek very little of any foreign language is spoken in rural Morocco – often including at local guesthouses and refuges – so having a guide for cultural and linguistic interpretation will add to the experience beyond just basic navigational and safety considerations.

Given the unmarked paths, unfamiliar terrain and language barriers, I generally recommend hiring a guide or booking your trek through a tour operator. Good quality guides often hail from the local region and can navigate the diverse terrains, language barriers and unexpected weather changes. They also often have the contacts to provide access to encounters with locals one may not otherwise experience, such as visiting villages, finding amazing artisans or hiking alternative routes.

Whether venturing off on a full- or multi-day trek, don’t be surprised if your host prepares a piping hot pot of mint tea in the middle of a lush green valley, shares fruits from the region depending on the season, or presents fresh bread and hot tajine to enjoy. A donkey often accompanies trekkers carrying supplies for the journey along with trekkers’ luggage.

Local life

Weekly markets are held in busier towns across rural Morocco and provide an opportunity for locals from the surrounding villages to stock up on goods for the week – fresh produce and meats, dry goods and spices, and supplies for daily life. In the middle of the action, there is sure to be a tent supplying sfenj doughnuts and smoky grills preparing mouth-watering meats and vegetables to stuff into a fresh loaf of bread when hunger strikes.


View from the hiking trail to the top of Mount Toubkal

Atlas trekking FAQs


When is the best time to trek in the Atlas Mountains?


Overall, I recommend trekking in either spring (April to June) and autumn (September to November). In spring, the weather is generally mild, and the mountains are beautifully adorned with blooming wildflowers. The snow from winter has usually melted at lower altitudes, making the trails more accessible. In autumn, the weather is similarly mild and stable, making for comfortable trekking conditions. The autumn colours can also make the landscapes particularly scenic.

The summer months (July and August) can be very hot, especially in the lower valleys, but it's still a good time for high-altitude treks like Mount Toubkal, where temperatures are cooler.

Winter (December to February) brings snow and cold weather, which can make high-altitude treks more challenging due to the need for winter gear and experience in snowy conditions. However, for experienced winter trekkers, this can provide a different kind of adventure.

Stephen Lioy
Answered by Stephen Lioy

About the authors

Trekking Mount Toubkal & The Atlas Mountains

Mandy Sinclair

Mandy Sinclair is a writer and travel PR consultant based in Marrakech, Morocco. She runs the blog and hosts the bi-weekly podcast Why Morocco.

Trekking Mount Toubkal & The Atlas Mountains

Stephen Lioy

Stephen is a travel photographer and writer who specialises in trekking and hiking in Kyrgyzstan, Morocco and destinations beyond in Central Asia, the Middle East and North Africa. He writes for Lonely Planet, BBC Travel, Slate, amongst many others.

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