Hiking in Morocco’s Middle and Anti Atlas Mountains
While many people think of the High Atlas Mountains, with its soaring beauties such as Jbel Toubkal and M’Goun, when deciding where to go hiking in Morocco, the Middle and Anti Atlas Mountains also offer plenty of adventures and diversity.
A major benefit of choosing the lower range for hiking trips in Morocco is that you don’t need to spend so much time acclimitising to the higher elevations, there is less chance of suffering from altitude sickness, and there will be fewer challenges caused by snow in the winter months.
Here are some of the top hiking and trekking destinations in the Atlas range outside of the High Atlas region:
The forest-covered slopes of the Middle Atlas Mountains are the least-visited parts of Morocco’s Atlas Mountains. The Middle Atlas Mountains are the most northern mountains of the Atlas Range, spreading across the provinces of Ifrane, Khenifra, Sefrou, Boulmane, Khemisset, and El Hajeb, as well as parts of Beni Mellal and Taza. Indeed Beni Mellal is referred to as the “Doorway to the Middle Atlas”. The entire Middle Atlas region is sometimes also referred to as the Mongolia of Morocco.
The endangered Barbary macaque may be spotted in the cedar forests. Other local wildlife includes polecats, wild boars, and various bird species. Spring is the ideal time to see a riot of colours from blooming wildflowers.
Ifrane National Park
The charming town of Ifrane is often called the Switzerland of Morocco because of its wooden chalet-like buildings and its alpine surroundings. It’s a popular area for inter skiing. The town is a great base from which to enjoy adventures in Ifrane National Park, one of the most beautiful places in the Middle Atlas area. There are various trails to choose between, with those suitable for people of different fitness and experience levels.
There are plenty of hiking and walking routes close to the town centre and in nearby areas too. Head off the beaten track for a gentle hike to the 50-metre-deep volcanic crater known as Fox Bowl. It is possible to walk down to the bottom of the crater, and a rocky outcrop at the top provides amazing views. There’s an even deeper sinkhole nearby, with reddish walls and home to various birds. The Panorama Trail won’t disappoint, with its incredible vistas, lush forests, and air of tranquility.
Tazekka National Park
Close to Taza and at the edge of the Middle Atlas Range, Tazekka National Park includes the 1,980-tall Jbel Tazekka, which is topped with a beautiful cedar grove. The national park also has several canyons and caverns, waterfalls, and forests of oak, holm oak, and cork. The rare Barbary stags have been reintroduced to the area in the hopes that the wild population will grow.
The city of Sefrou is known for its Jewish heritage, Berber community, and yearly cherry festival (held each June). It’s a great starting point for walks in the nearby forests and across volcanic landscapes. There are several small lakes to admire too, many of which are teeming with fish.
Aguelma Azigza National Park
Located in Khenifra, Aguelma Azigza National Park is a relatively under-visited gem. A highlight is the stunning cascades at the source of the long Oum Er-Rbia River. There are around 40 springs that feed the river.
You can also follow trails past a number of picturesque lakes, including Lac Ouiouane and Lac Azigza. There are verdant valleys, sweeping plains, and prettyforests, and the chances of seeing Barbary macaques scampering through the trees are high.
Ouzoud sits close to the point where the High Atlas and Middle Atlas ranges meet. It is easy to access on a day trip from Marrakech, with many visitors drawn by the large and beautiful cascades. Hike to the bottom of the thundering waterfall and you’ll see Barbary apes swinging from the trees.
There are diverse hiking routes in the area, including around the scenic town of Zaouiat Ahansal, Seeing the large rock known as La Cathedrale is a popular activity with hiking enthusiasts.
Of course, you could also attempt to conquer some of the tallest peaks in the Middle Atlas Mountains, namely Jbel Bou Naceur, Jbel Mouasker, and Jbel Bou Iblane. Each is more than 3,100 metres high.
The lowest of the Atlas Mountains, the Anti Atlas Mountains are located in the southern part of Morocco. The range is sometimes referred to as the Lesser or Little Atlas. Not many people inhabit the area, and those who do are traditionally Berbers. The main town in the Anti Atlas region is Tafraoute, a place that is sometimes said to be the Berber Heartland of Morocco. The mountains are some of the driest in the country.
Lunar-like terrains and barren stretches are common in the Anti Atlas Mountains. Herbs such as thyme and rosemary grow in the areas that have a bit more rainfall, and you’ll also find argan plants, which are unique to Morocco and used to create the famous argan oil. Lookout for goats grazing in the trees.
A picturesque destination within easy reach of Agadir, Paradise Valley is a haven for hikers who like to break up their walks with swims. There are several pretty waterfalls tumbling over the rocks, with inviting pools where you can take a dip. Spend a day exploring the valley, or take a longer multi-day trek to visit Berber villages and discover more of the landscapes.
The driest area in the already-dry Anti Atlas range, Jebel Saghro offers diverse trails. Tackle the highest peak of Amalou n’Mansour, which stands at 2,712 metres tall, visit remote Berber villages, and be in awe of the sparse landscapes. There are interesting cave paintings in the area too.
Climb Jbel Aklim for terrific views of castle-like Kasbahs dotting the wild landscapes, as well as attractive terraced valleys. You can also see across to the snow-capped peaks of the soaring High Atlas Mountains.
Eagles soar in the skies, wild boars snuffle in the shrubbery, sheep graze in the pastures, and goats clamber in the argan trees throughout the scenic Ameln Valley. Within easy reach of Tafraoute, there are more than 25 charming villages to explore as you hike through the area. Visit the painted rocks and see traditional homes and mosques dotted across the landscapes.
The villages lie on the lower slopes of Jbel el Kest, which you can climb if you’re feeling active. Highlights of hiking in the area include seeing the rock formation known as Lion’s Face at Asgaour, the twin peaks of Adrar M’Korn, the Jewish cemetery of Tazoulte, and the natural spring water pool at Anameur.
Whether you choose the High, Middle, or Anti Atlas Mountains for your hiking adventures in Morocco, you’re sure to have a memorable experience.