Trek Ait Bougmez in Morocco
Trek into the Mgoun Massive, an Untouched Wonder
This route is fully customizable and tailored to your preferences and travel style. Please see the full itinerary below.
Ait Bougmez Trekking Introduction
The Ait Bougmez Valley in Morocco is home to the country’s second tallest peak known as Jbel Mgoun, which runs along the Mgoun Massif in Morocco’s Central High Atlas Mountains. While the region has all these nomenclatures, most trekkers and guides alike simply call it Ait Bougmez (dubbed by the French as “Happy Valley”). While Jbel Mgoun stands at 4,068 meters (exactly 100 meters lower than Mount Toubkal), it receives about 25% (or less) of the hikers that the Toubkal region receives.
A Truly Removed Destination
The Ait Bougmez region is slightly more removed than it’s counterpart of Toubkal south of Marrakesh. While Toubkal is a comfortable two hours from the city, the Mgoun region takes about five to six hours to reach. Trekkers heading to the region should head towards Beni Mellal, but before reaching it, cut up towards Azilal and the beauteous plateau town of Tabant (labeled as Tanant on some maps). It’s best to reach this region early in the day as navigating at dark can be quite difficult with various backroads and precipitous paths leading travelers off in the wrong direction. It’s one reason we recommend arranging your trek in Ait Bougmez with a legit on-the-ground tour operator. Tabant could be considered the prettier sister of Imlil as both are doorways into their respective parks – Mgoun National Park and Toubkal National Park.
While one can do a simple day hike in Toubkal, Ait Bougmez trekking is another story. Since it’s so removed from major centers, when one ventures here, one must (or at least should) stay awhile. Hikes in the region aren’t designed for day walking (really, unless one is staying in a local guesthouse and arranging walks this way, which isn’t ideal). Walks in Ait Bougmez require a minimum five to six days walking, and possibly more if you wish to climb to the summit of Mgoun. In any case, simply getting to the region necessitates a day and getting back to Marrakesh another – hence the need for various days trekking.
Time of Year to Visit
Due to it’s location in the Central High Atlas (and bordering the Western High Atlas National Park), the region gets its fair shake of changeable weather. Since the High Atlas region south of Marrakesh is farther south, is closer to the coastal regions, and borders the Sahara regions, the weather tends to be more predictable, if not at least warm. It’s the Ait Bougmez and Central Atlas region that’s located farther inland, is hit by (and holds onto) colder fronts moving through, and the fact that rescue here would be much more difficult that it’s best to trek in the area from May (or better yet, June) until October (up until the 15th or so tends to be OK). Our group departures for the Ait Bougmez region occur in June, July, and from late August into early September. It’s the best time to be here and a great time to experience this removed and unique corner of North Africa.
How Trekking is Done in Ait Bougmez
The Mgoun Massif is arguably a little less rocky than Toubkal National Park. The rain and snow the region receives makes is slightly more lush than the Toubkal area. While all walking paths in Morocco are plagued by stones and ankle-twisting hazards, this area might be less so (according to some accounts!). With that said, the terrain is not easy and the scree-ridden descent from those who make the summit isn’t easy either. A steady pace, solid footwear, walking poles, and a positive outlook on life itself can help when dealing with some of the obstacles one encounters.
Our overnights on treks are a combination of camping and local guesthouse lodging. We prefer to camp since we have a bit more control of the variables, are skilled at it, and have solid equipment that makes camping not too rough (and some argue quite comfortable). Overnights in lodges are few and far between, but you’ll still enjoy the various village visits and walk throughs that occur on most day’s walks. Please download our brochure for more information about supplies we bring and a recommended packing list.
Mgoun is a removed area of the country that should only be visited and trekked by those who are fit enough, who have some experience, and those without medical conditions that would inhibit themselves or group members from enjoying their time. While our guides are trained in outdoor medical response and while we have satellite phones for outings, it’s imperative that trekkers are honest with their chosen trekking company, their families, fellow trekkers, and themselves about their true ability. Ait Bougmez trekking is challenging, but rewarding, rustic, some might say difficult, and removed. Safety is a priority and it starts with accessing your ability and willingness to get off the beaten path for some daily challenges that can test fitness and astuteness.
Getting Here and Away
As mentioned, treks in Mgoun and the Central High Atlas are removed and require long transport from either Fez, or more likely, from Marrakesh (or even Casablanca/Rabat). Our team at Journey Beyond Travel arranges top-notch treks with a focus on safety and quality. Our various treks in Morocco are not budget oriented and we provide superb guides, food, equipment, and a deluxe experience that is unmatched by others. If you’d like to travel with a company that has been on the ground for over a decade, whose founder was a Peace Corps Volunteer (and now a trekking guidebook author), and who truly cares about your experience, look no further. Feel free to contact our team to join a group trek or to arrange a private outing for you, your family, and friends.
Ait Bougmez and Mgoun Massif Circuit
Day 1 – Pick up in Marrakesh / Tabant
Private Transport (5 hrs), Dinner
Gain 400m,Walk 2-3 hrs
You’ll head from Marrakesh via private transport towards Beni Mellal and up into the mountains from Azilal where you’ll eventually arrive to the pretty plateau of Tabant. It’s here where you’ll convene with the team and prepare for the first day’s walk. No time to waste! Today’s jaunt is only two to three hours, which takes us to our first night’s encampment tucked in a green valley. The walk begins along the Assif n’ Arous Valley (1825 meters) and is a steady climb that takes you through a canyon of golden rock walls that align both sides. The canyon then opens up to reveal a green valley where fields of summer grass are collected for winter use and barley fields that feed much of the region. This evening’s camp is at Ighil n’ Ikkis where an old shepherd’s lodge, known as Azib Ikkis (2234 meters) offers the perfect mini plateau for camping and gives impressive views of the Igoudame peak (3519 meters) that lights up at sunset.
Day 2 – Azib Tarkeddid Refuge
Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
Gain 1200m; Loss 500m; Walk 5-7 hrs
This morning, you won’t have to set off too early, but after a hardy breakfast you’ll be ready for the day’s Ait Bougmez trekking. You’ll start out heading southwest to the base of the Aghouri Peak where switchback paths bring you steadily to just under 3000 meters. As the air cools, the wind may pick up, so it’s good to have packed various layers in your day pack. As you approach the Aghouri summit (3565 meters), the panorama makes the walk well worth it as the roundish peak of Jbel Mgoun (Oumsoud) looms in the distance and often has spots of snow along its spine year round. From Aghouri, you’ll head steadily toward the Tessaout river valley that will often have flocks of sheep on its greenery. And, finally, you’ll arrive at the refuge and lodge of Tarkeddid (known as Tilibit n’ Tarkeddid that sits at 2900 meters) for the evening where indoor lodging is recommended due to cold temps and strong winds – a nice respite from the elements!
Day 3 – Summit Jbel Mgoun / Oulilimt
Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
Gain 1168m; Loss 1468m; Walk 9-12 hrs
All the focus today is on conquering Morocco’s second-highest peak, Jbel Mgoun (4068 meters). It’s a long and tiring day, but a rewarding one as you make your way along the top ridge which affords you amazing panoramic vistas as far as the eye can see. You’ll have an early start today since getting to the top of Mgoun is both long and tiresome, and then there’s a long descent as you return to lower altitudes. The first part of the walk takes you from the refuge through some thorny scrubland until you arrive to the Tessaout plateau, which is the start of a long zigzag trail commencing at 3,000 meters. After some steep and steady walking, you’ll pass through the area’s moon-like terrain made up of rocks, scree, and snow that is trademark of Mgoun’s higher landscape. Eventually, the mountain’s round peak comes into sight and the last part of the trek brings more zigzags until you reach the top. This is a good place to grab some photos and perhaps a quick bite to eat before making the descent down the other side of the mountain – a mix of scree and even snow that will have your knees begging for mercy. The descent takes you into a caldera of sorts where you’ll then head east along a riverbed and up along a ridge giving impressive views of the Tinoughrin range as you make your way to the Oulilimt river valley to camp at 2600 meters.
Day 4 – Oulilimt to Ain Aflafal
Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
Loss 370m; Walk 5-7 hrs
A more leisurely morning than yesterday will mean some easier walking as you make your way steadily along the Oulilimt river valley, which may have a flowing stream up until July if the previous year brought enough snow. You’ll make your way along the valley, crisscrossing and zigzagging with the river. The area offers some stunning photographs as you rise and fall, seemingly 100 meters at a time as the day begins to warm. The day’s end brings you to an abandoned refuge that is now a nomadic hut that once housed an impressive well used by the nomadic shepherds and their families. You’ll walk pass this around a bend that opens up to a grassy embankment where you’ll camp for the night.
Day 5 – Tighremt n’Ait Ahmed / Tabant
Gain 670m; Loss 1055m; Walk 5 hrs
Today’s walk is fairly leisurely and takes you through some nice Berber villages. You’ll make your way from Ain Aflafal to Tighremt n’Ait Ahmed where you’ll cross the Oulilimt River and head to the Assif Amour Sain and back into the Oulilimt Valley where the col of Tizi n’Ait Imi (2906m) can be seen to the north. You’ll continue passing through Azib Tifratine and make an approach up the Tizi n’Ait Imi, which proffers stunning views of the entire Mgoun region and into the Ait Bougmez Valley. You’ll descend from here to Tabant where you’ll have tonight to relax in a local guesthouse before heading back to Marrakesh tomorrow.
Day 6 – Drop Off in Marrakesh
After a scrumptious breakfast, you’ll return to Marrakesh where you’ll be dropped off and our services end. We hope you enjoyed this adventure with our team!
Extensions available to include Marrakesh, the laid-back coastal town of Essaouira, and/or a Sahara Desert excursion.
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