atlas mountains trek

Beginner’s Guide To The Atlas Mountain Trek

If you’re heading to Morocco and are considering going to the best Atlas mountain trek spots while you’re there, we’re here to tell you that you probably should!

The Moroccan Atlas mountains promise stunning views, memorable experiences, and a thrilling adventure all wrapped in one.

If you’re a keen hiker and adventure enthusiast, this is the perfect activity for you! 

The Atlas Mountains start at the shores of the Moroccan Atlantic Ocean and stretch for around 2500 kilometers before ending at Tunisia’s Mediterranean Coast. The High Atlas Mountains, however, are exclusively located in central Morocco. 

The dramatic and unique High Atlas mountains are home to Berber villages and because there is more rainfall, lush valleys of greens help the locals sustain their way of living on the hills. 

If you’re an avid trekker, the Atlas Mountains is a great location if you want to explore different views and adventures with nature. Unique valley formations, stunning canyons, and jaw-dropping views of the mighty mighty mountain peaks all await you at the mountains. 

Atlas Mountain Trek Best Trails

  • Mount Toubkal 
  • Berber Villages 
  • Three Valleys Trek
  • The Circle of Toubkal

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What Is Special About The Atlas Mountains In Morocco? 

atlas mountains trek

Located in northwest Africa, the Atlas Mountains is a mountain range that separates the Sahara desert from the Mediterranean sea and the Atlantic coastlines and was formed over 80 million years ago when the African and Eurasian plates collided. 

These mountains are home to certain flora and fauna that are endangered and some species like the Atlas Bear, North African elephant, and the Barbary lion have gone extinct in Africa and most of Europe. 

Other animals that still occupy the Atlas Mountains include the endangered Barbary leopard as well as Barbary Macaque, Barbary Stag, Barbary Sheep, Cuvier’s gazelle, and the Atlas Mountain Badger. 

Generally, the mountain range can be divided into four regions: 

  • The Middle Atlas, High Atlas, and Anti-Atlas (Morocco)
  • Tell Atlas (Algeria and Tunisia) 
  • Saharan Atlas (Algeria) 
  • Aures Mountains (Algeria and Tunisia) 

The highest peak in the Atlas Mountains is Toubkal in North Africa at 4,167 meters followed by Timzguida at 4,089 meters and Ras Ouanoukrim at 4,083 meters which are both located on mountain Ouanoukrim in Morocco. 

How Long Is A Typical Atlas Mountain Tour?

Depending on your level of fitness, an average Atlas Mountain trek can last from one to 16 days. Every day you will walk roughly about 5 to 7 hours and depending on which trail you’ll be taking, you may need to spend a night or more in local guest houses or hotels on the way. 

In winter, the days are shorter and winds can get rough and cold, so your trip might take a day or two longer but in the summer, you can camp outdoors when you stay overnight on your trek. 

Most trekkers prefer doing a one to three-day trek so that they can check out the other places in Morocco. Some may choose up to 4 days. If you’re short for time, most travelers will aim for a quick trek up the Toubkal. 

All The Best Atlas Mountain Trek Trails

  • Mount Toubkal 
  • Berber Villages 
  • Three Valleys Trek
  • The Circle of Toubkal

Mount Toubkal 2- Days Trek

2-day trek of Mount Toubkal

If you have a limited amount of time traveling in Morocco but still want to squeeze a quick atlas mountain trek trip into your itinerary, Mount Toubkal is the place for you. 

The main attraction of this location is the Toubkal National Park, a favorite all-year-round destination in winter for skiing and hiking in the summer. This 2-day trek of Mount Toubkal is perfect if you have a packed timeline but still want to explore the region. 

This trek can be challenging but it’s quite short and would be best catered to those who are seasoned or intermediate trekkers, because you will be walking for at least 10 to 12 hours on average on the trails. 

With this being said, you don’t specifically need to be very fit but a good fitness level will come in handy as this involves a lot of walking with a backpack for long hours. However, you can usually hire a porter before you start to help carry your things if you need to

Day 1: 

Starting in Marrakech, you will be making your way to Imlil, a small village located on the High Atlas Mountains that is a common starting point for those trekking Mount Toubkal. This will take roughly about 5 and a half hours. 

You can start by exploring the local village of Aroumd, a picturesque village with the mountains set in the background followed by the Berber villages that lie east to a small local settlement of Sidi Chamarouch, a small and mystical village. 

Take some time to explore the village and the local food for a quick bite before continuing your journey up to basecamp in either Refuge du Toubkal or at the Neltner Refuge. Here you can choose to stay in the Refuge itself or in a tent where you will spend the night before heading to Toubkal the next day.

Day 2: 

Early morning and a quick breakfast will mark the continuation of your journey towards the highest peak in North Africa at 4,167 meters elevation. 

Upon arrival at the peak, you will notice the impeccable beauty that lies before you – the Sahara desert, Atlas Mountain Range, and the natural beauty that has lived throughout centuries all splayed out before your eyes. 

As you trek up the mountains, you will notice that the altitude drops the higher you go and in winter, you can find ice fields and snow covering the mountain. During this time, some travelers may opt to ski halfway down but best to ensure that it’s safe before doing so. 

After spending approximately 30 minutes at the summit, you will descend back to basecamp just in time for lunch before heading back to Imlil. 

What we like about this trail: 

  • Easy to access from Marrakech 
  • Perfect for travelers who are on a tight schedule
  • Porters available up to basecamp

What we didn’t like so much: 

  • The hike can be quite challenging for beginners 
  • When hiking in winter, you must be prepared for a more technical climb as it can get quite slippery

More information: 

Difficulty: Intermediate-Advanced

Best time to go: 

  • May – October 
  • November – April (technical winter hiking)

Elevation: 4,167 metres (13, 665 feet) 

Time required: 2 Days (10 -12 hours per day) 

Accommodation: Refuge or tents at the base

Special Tip: You can do this hike in one day for a super challenging hike or trail running for advanced hikers 

Berber Villages On The Atlas Mountains 5-Day Trek 

Atlas Mountains 5-Day Trek

If you’re looking for a more laid-back atlas mountain trek experience in the Atlas Mountains, you should try this itinerary especially if you’re hoping to see more of the local culture and learn about life in the mountains. 

The Berber people have predated the arrival of Islam and Arabs from way before and have lived in the Toubkal National Park for centuries. They are also known as Amazigh and many Amazigh tribes live on the Atlas Mountains. 

With this trek in the Atlas Mountains, you will get to explore the local traditions, food, and culture as well as the people native to the mountains. Enjoy a local meal in the guesthouses that have quaint little terraces where you can enjoy the view of the valleys.

Day 1: Make Your Way To Imi Oughlad

Starting in Marrakech, you will make your way to Imi Oughlad for 6 hours where you can meet your guide, cook, and a mule that will help you with your things. You will pass large forests of pine, juniper, and oak trees as you head towards Tinzert. 

You will also get to pass by diverse slopes rich in minerals and terraced wheat fields as well as a stunning view of the Ouirgane Valley that surrounds you before arriving in Tinzert, a local tribal village in the mountains where you will be spending your first night. 

Day 2: Make Your Way To Imi Oughlad

After a night at the village, head towards the Azzaden Valley, a smaller and quieter village similar to Imlil and Ourika Valley, but still as spectacular and beautiful as the rest for its quaint villages and beautiful gorges. 

This would be a more chilled-out day as you head to the Tizian villages where you will be spending another night and relaxing before you continue your journey the next day. This trip will take approximately 5 hours. 

Day 3: Travel To The Tizgui Village

Be prepared to explore walnut forests on your way to the Dkent Valley where you’ll make a small pitstop at Tizi Taghrhourt to check out the amazing view of the Azzaden Valley from a height of 1,990 meters (6528 feet).

As you explore the red, yellow and grey exposed rocks and soils, you will also find that terrains here can be more challenging when compared to the valley below before making your way to Dkent Valley. 

Here you will travel to the Tizgui Village where you will be staying for the night in a local guesthouse. Your journey will take around 7 hours to complete. 

Day 4:  Head Towards The Azzaden Valley

Try a day in the life of the Berber people as you start your day bright and early.

Enjoy a wholesome meal for breakfast and watch the locals go about their day before heading to the next leg of your journey. 

This journey will take around 7 hours but we think you will quite enjoy it when we get to the end of the day. 

You will start at Oussoul and head towards the Azzaden Valley and stop at Tizi Oussem, where you will get to enjoy a little R&R at the local steam bath otherwise known as a hammam, and stay the night in the local village. 

Day 5: Head To The Ait Mizan Valley

Saving one of the best attractions for last, your fifth day will take you to the largest waterfalls in the Toubkal National Park before heading to the Ait Mizan Valley across the Tizi Mzik pass at 2,500 meters (8,202 feet). 

This route gives you a chance to enjoy the picturesque view of the full Atlas Mountain Range and the Imlil villages where you will then continue to meet your driver and head back to Marrakech. 

What we like about this trail: 

  • Slow-paced and immersive cultural experience
  • Available all-year-round
  • Perfect for families 
  • Stunning views of different landscapes across the mountains 

What we didn’t like so much: 

  • No particular summits to be explored (but great views still!) 

More information: 

Difficulty: Beginner-Intermediate

Best time to go: 

  • Any time of the year 

Elevation: 2,500 metres (8,202 feet) 

Time required: 5 Days (5 -7 hours per day) 

Accommodation: Local guest houses or gites 

Special Tip: This route lets you explore more of the natural flora and fauna if you choose and more time to spend with the locals native to the mountains  

The Three Valleys 3-Day Trek

3-day trek of the Atlas Mountains

This atlas mountain trek itinerary promises a wide array of scenic views and it’s not as intense either! 

As you start in the Inman Valley, you will get to explore the beautiful Azzaden Valley and the Tazaghart plateau in the High Atlas famous for its gorgeous waterfalls. You will also get to trod the rough path where apples, cherry, and walnut trees line the way.

This 3-day trek on the Atlas Mountains will be a thrill to explore as you pass by local Berber houses built on cliff sides and terraced fields of corn, barley, and vegetables. 

Day 1: Start At Imlil

This first leg of the journey will take around 5 to 6 hours and will start at Imlil, the base village to Tizi n Tamatert, a mountain pass that sits at 2,300 meters (7,736 feet) above sea level.

You’ll find a Berber village here as well as views of the amazing Inman Valley below. You’ll stop for lunch at the local village before heading to the last village to spend the night, either in Tachdirt or Tinghourine.

Day 2: Hike To Ikkis, Aguersiwal & The Matat villages

The second day will take across various villages with views to kill for and the Audit Pass at 2,200-meter elevation and will take approximately 6 to 7 hours on the trails.

Depending on where you will be staying the night before (Tinghourine or Tachdirt), you’ll hike to Ikkis, Aguersiwal, and the Matat villages before arriving at Ait Aissa where you can treat yourself to a hammam bath for some muscle-soothing relaxation. 

Day 3: Walk Over The Mzik Pass

Your last day on this 3-day trek of the Atlas Mountains will start with a trip to the largest waterfalls in the Toubkal National Park and continue with a walk over the Mzik Pass with excellent views of the Ait Mizan valley. 

Here, you can have lunch at the local Mzzik village before trekking down towards Imlil where your transportation back to Marrakech will be arranged accordingly. 

What we like about this trail: 

  • Shorter days to travel and at a lower altitude
  • More scenic views
  • Perfect for families and anyone looking for a light atlas mountain trek experience

What we didn’t like so much: 

  • Not particularly challenging for anyone looking for more intense hikes 

More information: 

Difficulty: Beginner-Intermediate

Best time to go: 

  • Any time of the year 

Elevation: 2,500 metres (8,202 feet) 

Time required: 3 Days (5 7 hours per day) 

Accommodation: Local guest houses or gites, refuge or tents

Special Tip: Try a traditional hammam to relax halfway through the trip!

The Circle Of Toubkal

trek the Atlas Mountains

This 3-day trek of The Circle of Toubkal will take you through the Atlas Mountains while ascending the highest peak in North Africa, Mount Toubkal, and exploring the magnificent views of the Sahara Desert and many others along the way. 

This trek on the Atlas Mountains will be more intense and you will need to use crampons, a traction device used on snow and ice to improve mobility especially in winter as most of the parts are covered in snow.  

Day 1: Hike From Imlil to Tizi M’zzik Pass

The first day will take around 6 hours to complete as you start with a challenging hike from Imlil to Tizi M’zzik pass at 2,450 meters (8,038 feet) elevation with a stunning view of the Jebel Oukaimeden range. 

This is followed by a visit to the beautiful Ighouldien and Azib Tamsoult waterfalls and then to Lipeney refuge where you will be staying the night. 

Day 2: Hike Towards The Neltner Refuge

Start at Lipeney refuge and hike towards the Neltner Refuge that sits at 3,207 meters (10,521 feet) where you will have to go up a zig-zag path with 82 steps before reaching the Aguelzim Pass at 3,650 meters (11,679 feet) to enjoy the impressive views. 

This hike will take around 5 hours to complete.

You will then head back to the Neltner Refuge where you will lay your head to rest for the night before your big trip the next day. 

Day 3:  Get to the top of Mount Toubkal!

The last day will take you to the top of Mount Toubkal at 4,167 meters (13,665 feet) at the summit. The views here will blow your mind as you look out to the High Atlas mountain range and the Sahara desert as you stand at the highest point in North Africa. 

This trip will take you up to 12 hours to trek and finish at Imlil before hedging back to Marrakech. 

What we like about this trail: 

  • Covers more landscape and scenic views 
  • Interesting passes and a gorgeous waterfall are part of the trek
  • You’ll get to spend more time on Mount Toubkal

What we didn’t like so much: 

  • Technical hiking is necessary during winter

More information: 

Difficulty: Beginner-Intermediate

Best time to go: 

  • May – October 
  • November – April (technical winter hiking)

Elevation: 4,167 metres (13,665 feet) 

Time required: 3 Days (up to 12 hours per day) 

Accommodation: Refuge or tents

Special Tip: This route gives you a more extensive view of the scenic sites and waterfalls on the way

Where Can I Book A Trekking Tour In Morocco? 

atlas mountains trek

1. Atlas Mountain 5-Days Tour From Marrakech

Price: From MAD 625 (USD 69)

Operated by: Attractive Tours

What’s Included: 

  • Pickup and dropoff at your hotel
  • Air-conditioned transportation (inclusive of fuel)
  • Trekking tour in the mountains
  • Lunch with a local Berber family
  • Professional mountain trekking guide
  • All taxes and fees are included
  • Bottled water

2. Private Full-Day Tour of the Atlas Mountains 

Price: From MAD 190 (USD 21)

Operated by: Targa Travel & Trekking 

What’s Included: 

  • Pickup and dropoff at your hotel
  • Air-conditioned transportation (inclusive of fuel)
  • Trekking tour in the mountains
  • Lunch 
  • Camel ride
  • Professional mountain trekking guide

3. All-Inclusive Agafay Desert and Atlas Mountains Trek

Price: From MAD 689 (USD 76)

Operated by: Astara Tours  

What’s Included: 

  • Pickup and dropoff at your hotel
  • Air-conditioned transportation (inclusive of fuel)
  • Guided trek in the mountains
  • Lunch and Moroccan mint tea
  • Camel ride
  • Professional guide

4. 3-Days Trek in the Atlas Mountains and Berber Villages 

Price: From MAD 1569 (USD 173)

Operated by: Targa Travel & Trekking 

What’s Included: 

  • Pickup and dropoff at your hotel
  • Air-conditioned transportation (inclusive of fuel)
  • Guided trek in the mountains
  • Meals for 3 days (breakfast and dinner)
  • Accommodation
  • Mule to carry your luggage
  • Professional guide

Tips To Prepare For Your Atlas Mountain Trek

trek in the Atlas Mountains

When exploring the Atlas Mountains, it can get rough and challenging even if the trail you chose seems pretty easy and simple. It’s important to always keep your safety in mind at all times to avoid getting lost or getting injured in the mountains. 

  1. Make sure to pick routes that suit you and your fitness levels.
  1. Do not attempt to hike on your own without a guide. Hire a licensed, experienced guide to go with you on your trek. 
  1. Stay hydrated at all times. Keep a bottle of water with you, and you can get it refilled at every stop you make at the villages.
  1. Consider peaks that are less crowded and smaller.
  1. Plan for extra time, more than you would require to reach the summit.
  1. Be sure to check weather reports before going on your trekking journey.
  1. If you plan to go during Ramadan, be sure to inquire first as it may be difficult to get a guide during the fasting month in Morocco.
  1. Try the traditional hammams if you have the chance!
  1. When offered Moroccan mint tea, do not refuse. It’s considered rude to refuse as it is a symbol of hospitality
  1. Altitude sickness is real and can be quite uncomfortable at high altitudes. Be sure to always inform your guide about how you’re feeling and take time to acclimatize. 

The Best Time To Trek The Atlas Mountains

It can be quite chilly in the mountains, especially at night and at high altitudes but the Atlas Mountains is usually warm, sunny, and dry which makes it the perfect destination all year round. 

During the summer from July to August, it can be nice to be in the mountains away from the scorching heat in Marrakech (around 40℃). The temperature in the Imlil valleys is usually around 30℃ where it’s not too hot while the lower altitudes tend to be much hotter. 

It gets pretty cold in winter (November to March) and the temperature during the day can be quite mild (around 10℃ -20℃) and cooler temperatures at night (almost 5℃ in Imlil and sometimes below zero at Toubkal).

The best time to trek the Atlas Mountains is undoubtedly during springtime, where the temperature is not too hot nor too cold and a special bonus of magnificent autumn colors all around you. 

What Are Some Other Attractions Near The Atlas Mountains?

Atlas mountain trekking

Where in Morocco, be sure to check out the other local attractions – some have been around for centuries and the local culture in the little villages that surround the mountains. 

Ait Benhaddou 

This UNESCO World Heritage site is a citadel with so much history. This location used to be an important part of a caravan route between Morocco and the Sahara desert and has been declared a heritage site since 1987. 

Location: Google Maps 

Dades Valley 

One of Morocco’s main walking and hiking destinations, the Dades Valley is known for its odd rock formations, tiny villages, picturesque mountain views, and historical kasbah ruins. It’s also famous for bearded vulture sightings in the valley.

Location: Google Maps

Ouzoud Waterfalls

One of Morocco’s top sightseeing destinations, Ouzoud Waterfalls should be on your list if you’re going on a trek to the Atlas Mountains. The water plunges from as high as 110 meters over three tiers of waterfalls. 

Location: Google Maps 

Todra Gorge

With stunning walls of pink and orange hues, this 300 meters deep and 14-kilometer long rock wall is one of Morocco’s best destinations for rock climbing. If you enjoy rock climbing, be sure to check out the Pillar du Couchant area for more rock climbing routes.

Location: Google Maps 

Telouet

The Kasbah in Telouet is a mighty fortress that was built in the 19th century by the then-ruling family of El-Glaoui. The kasbah still stands on its ground with few remnants of the original decor’ and rooms. Also, don’t miss the crumbling kasbah in Anmiter.

Location: Google Maps 

Conclusion

There you go! We hope this simple guide helps you plan accordingly for the best Atlas Mountain trek experience in Morocco! 

Be sure to check out these amazing trails and all the attractions that surround them when you’re in Morocco, and if you’re in doubt about whether to try this on your own or book a tour, be sure to consider your options thoroughly and do your research beforehand. 

All the best! 

Beginner’s Guide To The Atlas Mountain Trek

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