Walking in the High Atlas
Separating the Mediterranean and Atlantic side of Morocco from the vast Sahara Desert, the High Atlas Mountains stretch in a diagonal across the country for almost 1,000km. To the north lies the Middle Atlas, easily reached on day hikes from Fez and Meknes, while to the south is the Anti-Atlas, but the High Atlas forms Morocco’s magnificent spine – which is why the Berbers refer to them as Idraren Draren, Mountains of Mountains.
This is a wild, harsh landscape, with a dozen peaks over 4,000m and numerous rivers, flowing north towards Marrakech and creating a network of fertile valleys. Despite the remote and tough conditions here – the elevated slopes and passes of the High Atlas can see snow from November into late March – the region has long been inhabited by Berber people, whose flat-roofed, earthen homes blend into the mountainsides, fringed by terraced gardens and orchards of almond, walnut and apricot trees. In fact, it’s the presence of the warm and friendly Berber that makes walking in Morocco so special. Your walking guide will help translate, but sign language and simple French are often enough for a chat, while a night in a lodge or home is a wonderful way to experience Berber hospitality, food and traditional life.
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The Western High Atlas
The Western High Atlas
The western segment of the High Atlas range is the oldest, and home to mighty Jebel Toubkal which, at 4,167m, can be seen from Marrakech. It lies within Toubkal National Park, which soaks up many visitors to the High Atlas. The Ourika Valley is popular with day visitors from Marrakech. The neighbouring Imlil Valley is much used by trekkers heading for the summit of Toubkal, while the Azzaden is a quieter but equally beautiful counterpart. There are so many trails in this region, from the strenuous trek up to Toubkal to easy, short walks in the foothills, that you can easily match walks to your fitness and experience.
Head just a little way west of Mount Toubkal and you’re into the western fringes of the High Atlas Mountains, an area that’s well worth exploring. Further off the tourist trail than the Toubkal region, this section is quieter and typically warmer, too. The landscape is beautifully green and fertile, with valleys full of date, almond, walnut and olive trees and wildflowers everywhere in spring. Trekking here is more gentle than in the Toubkal area, but no less magical. In the Tichka plateau, for instance, you’ll find highland meadows ringed with peaks where Berber shepherds graze their flocks in summer. The highest summits are Imaradene (3,351m) in the west and Amendach (3,382m) in the east, both excellent viewpoints over the plateau.
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Central High Atlas
Central High Atlas
The Central High Atlas is more remote than the Toubkal region and features dramatic rock formations, ridges and deep gorges of red and orange stone, carved out by erosion. There are secluded valleys here, including Aït Bougomez, Aït Bououli and Aït Blel and remote Berber villages, some with architecture in a style found only here, in Yemen and Afghanistan.
Here, the M’Goun Massif towers over the landscape, the second highest peak in North Africa after Toubkal. It sits between the Sahara and the central plains and, while most people aim to summit Toubkal, getting to the top of M’Goun Massif is arguably more demanding, with longer trekking distances and variable Sahara weather patterns. Trekking here takes you deep into untouched regions of the Atlas Mountains, for a real glimpse of mountain community culture. You’ll walk well beyond the reach of vehicles, so you’ll need a guide and the help of mules and muleteers, too.
More about Morocco walking
Morocco is a year round walking destination, with the Anti-Atlas mild and welcoming in the winter, and the High Atlas glorious in spring and autumn...
In the Atlas Mountains, traditional villages, valleys full of almond groves, craggy canyons, towering peaks and unfailingly friendly Berber people await...
Morocco walking vacations tend to focus on the Atlas Mountains, a spine of peaks running diagonally across the country, separating Sahara from sea...
The Anti-Atlas sees far fewer visitors than the High Atlas. It offers a great range of trekking trails, plus deserted trails and snow-free winter trekking...
Climb Jebel Toubkal in a long weekend, or take your time on the approach, drinking in the views and acclimatising slowly. The views never disappoint...
Looking to take your first steps in mountaineering? Elevate your climbing skills with a winter Toubkal trek.
We offer tons of helpful tips, from fellow trekkers who have laced up their boots and strode out, and from our vacation specialists and local friends...
Travel right on a Morocco walking vacation by understanding waste management, muleteers' rights, how to behave respectfully with the Berber people...