While many travelers are most familiar with Morocco’s imperial cities, the country’s majestic mountain ranges warrant a visit from anyone who appreciates a scenic landscape. From short, easy hikes to multi-day treks, the mountain ranges offer something for almost every type of traveler.
Located in the northernmost part of Morocco, the Rif Mountain range runs parallel to the Mediterranean coast. Though it tends to receive fewer visitors than the country’s other ranges, the area’s peaks delight trekkers with views of limestone cliffs, gorges, valleys and flowing streams.
The city of Chefchaouen in Morocco is a popular gateway for travelers who plan to explore the Rif Mountains. For serious trekkers, Chefchaouen often serves as the starting point for a multi-day adventure through the mountains, with nights spent camping or staying in the small Berber villages located throughout the forests. These communities can be difficult to stumble upon independently, so contact a Morocco tour operator if you’d like to spend some time with the area’s Berbers. Those who prefer to sleep in a hotel bed can opt to spend their nights in Chefchaouen and still get a taste of the mountain ranges via day trips to the nearby Talassemtane National Park, a goldmine of quiet hiking trails through oak, fir and cedar forests with serene views of hills and streams.
The highest peak of the range is Tidirhine, at 8,058 feet. If traveling near this peak, you may encounter fields of kip (hashish). If you wish to avoid them, consult with a tour operator about where along the trails the fields are located, or travel with a guide.
High Atlas Mountains
With more than 400 summits approaching 10,000 feet in elevation, and several over 13,000 feet, the Atlas Mountains offer a seemingly endless array of scenic views. Despite its many tall peaks, the range has trails suitable for the average hiker as well as for those seeking greater challenges. Even those who opt to summit Mount Toubkal, the highest mountain in northern Africa at 13,665 feet, can do so without technical rock climbing or mountain climbing expertise. However, hikers who lack trekking experience should hire a guide for this multi-day adventure.
The High Atlas Mountains are also home to Mgoun National Park, which is known as the Central High Atlas. This area is famous for its scenic rivers, deep gorges and gorgeous mountain scenery. One of the highlights of a visit to Mgoun National Park is a trip to the Ait Bougmez Valley, which pays a tribute to the more traditional ways of living in Morocco.
Visits to the High Atlas Mountains can range from a day trip from Marrakesh to a multi-week trek across the range. As with the Rif Mountains, travelers can spend their nights camping under the stars or enjoying the hospitality available in the scattered Berber villages. Even those who prefer the comforts of hotels can venture into the mountains and encounter these accommodations in certain areas. The village of Imlil, a popular base near Mount Toubkal, offers plenty of resources for mountain tourists, including a large population of guides. If stopping by Imlil, set aside some time to meander through the nearby groves of apple, cherry, peach and walnut trees.
Middle Atlas Mountains
North of the High Atlas range and south of the Rif Mountains lie the Middle Atlas Mountains. The highest peak in this range is Jbel Bou Naceur at just over 10,000 feet. Decorated with limestone cliffs, cedar forests and deep valleys, these mountains also offer satisfying treks for hikers of varying abilities.
Those coming from Fes or Meknes may opt to day trip to or start a longer trek in Tazzeka National Park. The park is known for its natural wonders like deep canyons, hidden cave systems, babbling streams and gushing waterfalls. While admiring the open valleys of colorful wildflowers, careful observers will also spot a variety of birds and reptiles.
Ifrane National Park is another popular destination within the Middle Atlas Mountains. Here, you can catch your lunch by fishing for trout or pike in the park’s rivers and lakes. If you prefer to simply take in the sights, a day of hiking should take you to volcanic plateaus, green pastures and cedar forests.
Anti Atlas Mountains
Also known as the Little Atlas Mountains, this range dips down into southern Morocco, running close to the Atlantic coast and bordering the Sahara Desert. Like the Sahara, the climate among these mountains is dry, the land is barren and the heat in the summer months can reach sweltering temperatures. The area once experienced intense volcanic activity; one of the popular destinations in the Anti Atlas Mountains is Jebel Siroua, an ancient volcano.
Tafraoute is a popular starting point for Anti Atlas treks. There are fewer developed villages in the Anti Atlas Mountains compared to Morocco’s other mountain ranges, so trekkers should plan well and arrive prepared. Less experienced hikers should consider hiring guides, especially for multi-day treks.
Written by Shelley A. Gable, instructional designer and freelance writer.
Photo by Alexbip.