Mount Toubkal in Morocco’s Atlas Mountains is certainly a hike not to be taken lightly. At 4,167m/13,671ft the high altitude make this a challenging adventure. Not only is Mount Toubkal the highest mountain in Morocco but it is also the highest mountain in North Africa.
Situated in Toubkal National Park and just a short drive from Marrakech, it’s a great way to explore the beautiful Atlas Mountains and local Berber villages. Many people opt for a one day trip, I chose a 4 day multi hike with a group via GAdventures. The trek doesn’t need any technical ability, just a good level of fitness. It also makes a great hike for anyone who has not done high altitude before. Atlas Mountain tours take place between May and October each year.
4 days trekking in the atlas mountains
Day 1 – Marrakech – Imi Oughlad – Tizi Oussem
Hiking time – 6-7 hours
Leaving Marrakech we jump in a mini bus. I distinctly remember it was a twisty journey as my travel sickness creeps up on me. Never a good start to a mountain hike! After an hour and 40 minutes, we arrive at the start point Imi Oughlad.
I booked my hike in the gorgeous summer month of July. Thinking that it wouldn’t be as cold at the top of the mountain. But this lead to another issue. Starting a hike uphill in the Atlas Mountains in 40 degrees plus temperature is pretty tough. Especially considering I had felt sick from the bus journey!
Thank goodness for the walnut trees, we can stop under for some shade and drink water. I think we have only been walking 30 minutes. Wow this heat really makes it tough. Alongside the path there are small shrubs and thistles growing but luckily the track is well trodden so makes things easy for trekking.
As you hike in the Atlas Mountains you’ll meet several characters on the way up. The huge herds of goats bleat and give you added support on the hike. Honestly some of them sound so real, it’s very amusing and takes your mind off the challenge. The first herd of goats had some seriously over-protective dogs with them. Really snarling at us as we walked by, I guess just doing their job. Deep breaths and keep walking. Phew I made it!
Most of the hard work is completed by lunch time. Our reward is an amazing Moroccan salad, with pasta and sauce prepared by our team. We have plenty of time relaxing under yet another walnut tree. I am beginning to like walnut trees!
Arriving at our gite is a fantastic feeling, it’s basic but there’s a hot shower and the food is amazing. Which is all you want after a day’s hike.
Shortly after we arrived there was a crazy downpour, wow good timing! But a few hours later the sky clears and darkness creeps in. One of my favourite things about being in the mountains is being away from natural light. The sky looks amazing so many stars. The beauty is more you stare the more you see. So we all dragged our mattresses outside and spent the night under the stars. With the rule if anyone woke up and felt rain they had to wake everyone else up too!
- Drink lots and lots of water, you don’t want to get dehydrated before you have even done day 1.
- And secondly, don’t get too close to the goats, you never know who is watching you!
- And a special sleeping bag tip, dedicated to one of our group. When buying a sleeping bag, check it is for adults not children!!!
Day 2 – tizi oussem to ArmEd
HIKING TIME – 6-7 HOURS
It’s a beautiful day, lovely and warm. Not quite as hot as Day 1! The hike today starts straight uphill, which is always a great way to wake yourself up. Now one of my favourite stops. Fresh orange juice seems to be available everywhere in the Atlas Mountains. One of the guys from the gite has set up a little orange juice stall and it’s freshly squeezed right in front of us. Out mules stop for a break too and they are treated to the left over oranges which is lovely to see.
After the amazing orange juice break, we then have the steepest path to climb. It’s a switch back path, perfect because you can’t see how far you have to go! And more importantly lots of mini breaks to breath and drink more water.
Lunch stop is 4 hours into the hike, at a dizzy height of 2,930m/9,613ft. The high altitude is making the air is so much thinner than before. There’s a great chance to chill and enjoy the view. More importantly you can see where you are going next and it’s all downhill. It’s a good hour break for lunch again which is fantastic, chance to recharge your energy and catch your breath.
Starting the trek again after lunch you can see in the distance the village Armed where we were staying. You will be pleased to know that this is back at a normal height 1,900m/6,234ft. This is all part of helping you to acclimatise for the big climb ahead. Arriving about 4pm, it’s the normal queue for the shower, then you have time to explore the local Berber village in the Atlas Mountains. There is also a walk right to the top of the village with a 360 degrees view.
Dinner at the gite tonight is another amazing Moroccan stew with beef and loads of vegetables. I can really get used to this food, it’s so lovely and perfect hiking food.
- Have a good breakfast and drink lots of water too.
- Take your time on the steep uphill hike, there’s no hurry. Slow and steady helps you acclimatise better
- Orange juice stops are a must – supporting the locals too 🙂
Day 3 – ArmEd – Mount Toubkal Base Camp
hiking time 4-5 hours
An early wake up call today as the 5am call to prayer wakes me up! We leave the gite around 8.30am and make a slow steady hike out of the village. Soon we can see what we are here for, Morocco’s Atlas Mountains amazing Mount Toubkal.
We have another orange juice stop. There are only 5 glasses so it’s a drink up, quick wash so everyone can have a glass. It is like some super juice, gives you just enough energy to keep going!
This part of the trek is a lot busier, we walk at a lot slower pace and regularly have to stop to let mules pass. You really don’t want to get in their way. But that’s great, just an opportunity to take more photos.
Arriving into Mount Toubkal base camp just before 1pm, it’s such an amazing sight. The mountain weather is starting to creep in, thunder is rumbling away and very soon the rain comes. It’s a mad dash to quickly put all the tents up before everyone gets wet!
When it rains in Morocco’s Atlas Mountains it really rains. We all hang out in the big tent until it stops. I am so glad we are not out hiking. Then its chance to adjust our tents we hurried to put up. The ground is hard difficult to put tent pegs in but there are plenty of big boulders you can use to secure it.
Base camp is a well established and pretty busy place. There are a lot of people preparing for the early morning hike the next day. This is where the mules hang out to rest too. The main block has proper toilets and showers. Plus a tuck shop so chance to treat yourself!
Dinner is an amazing banquet, laid out for us in the tent. The food just keep coming and it’s amazing. We have a tough hike ahead so it’s a good excuse to eat lots! Bedtime doesn’t come soon enough at 10pm, ready for the early start the next day.
- Make sure your tent is well put up otherwise a big downpour might cause a few leaks!
- A pack of cards is a great way to pass the time in the rain.
- I love my Thermarest mattress – lightweight and ensures a good night’s sleep. Seriously, the ground is just rock so this really is a must!
Day 4 – Mount Toubkal Base Camp – Mount Toubkal SuMmit – ArmEd
hiking time – 3-4 hours up and 5-6 hours down
Our guide shines a torch in our tents to wake us up around 5.30am. It’s still dark outside. Breakfast is porridge with cinnamon, it’s difficult to eat so early in the morning but I know I need the energy to get me to the top.
Finally, we are all ready to leave at 6.30am. The path starts steep straight away so it’s slow and steady, trying to keep my breathing as normal as possible! Our guide is fantastic, “we are nearly half way” he tells us, that’s good for keeping us motivated. Then 40 minutes later “we are nearly half way”, hmm something strange is going on! I actually have no idea where half way was but the important thing is to keep walking and making progress. The path starts to get quite rocky so you need to pay attention where to put your feet. There’s no way I want to twist my ankle.
Now the path changes again. The next section is great fun, huge boulders so a mini challenge. The best way is to scramble and use your hands to help steady you. Much better than falling over!
Keep focused and slowly trekking further to our summit. There’s a scree section next, I love how there are so many mini challenges on the hike up. Our guide groups us all together at a great viewing spot. Chance for some nuts and photos before the final push to the summit.
So apparently, we have another 15 minutes to go from here, ha ha well I am not sure if I believed my guide or not! But yes he’s right, another 15 minutes and there I was standing at the top of Mount Toubkal in the Atlas Mountains. Wow, what a feeling! There are 360 degree views and it’s a spectacular sight.
So we have done the hard uphill, the fun part is now to come. The scree path that we struggled to climb an hour earlier now becomes a huge slide. I absolutely love the downhill, I used to cautiously make my way down but now I do a half run/slide kind of thing. For me, this has less imact on my knees but just do whatever you are comfortable with. I don’t want anyone sueing me for telling them to run down a mountain ha ha!
We all make our way back down to base camp and arrive between 12-1pm. There is an amazing lunch laid out for us and I am so hungry! There’s plenty of time to rest before we set off on our final hike back to Armed. The path is the same route we walked up just a day before so we know exactly how far it is to go. Finally, the little village is in sight and we arrive back at 5.30pm. Tired but happy.
What a great feeling and such a massive achievement. Our Atlas Mountain challenge is complete, we have all conquered the mighty Mount Toubkal. Time for another Moroccan experience now, the Moroccan Hamman/Spa. Read more here to find out about.
- Drink as much water as you can, this really helps prevent altitude sickness
- Loss of appetite is a common side effect of high altitude but you really need to start with a good breakfast and lots of snack on route too.
- Decent walking boots are a must, protect those ankles. I love my Scarpa walking boots