Off the beaten track | Winter hiking in the High Atlas Mountains, Morocco

Hiking boots and Atlas Mountains Morocco

Share this post :)

For Christmas, I flew to Morocco with some friends to go hiking in the High Atlas Mountains. The plan was to hike Morocco’s third-highest mountain, Mt M’Goun.

The Atlas Mountains cover a huge distance spanning across Morocco, Algeria and into Tunisia. Mt M’Goun (Jebel M’Goun) is part of Morocco’s High Atlas Mountains but a long distance away from the popular Mt Toubkal which I climbed a few years ago.

Both Mt Toubkal and Mt M’Goun are located in the High Atlas Mountains, in hiking distance, they are approximately 160 miles away from each other (distance calculated via Komoot).

Views of the Mt M'Goun ridge
Views of the Mt M’Goun ridge

However, our plans changed as soon as we started the trek. Mt M’Goun had had heavy snowfall in the weeks and no-one had summited. But would we?

Arriving at our first Moroccan Gite, our trekking guide, organised by Mountaineerin sat us down and explained that the summit might not be an option due to the deep snowdrifts on the gully route up to Mt M’Goun. 

We quickly realised the snow wasn’t melting and our initial plan of summiting Mt M’Goun was not going to happen.

Becky the Traveller in Atlas Mountains Morocco
Loving the sunshine in the Atlas Mountains Morocco

But instead, we spend four wonderful days hiking in the Atlas Mountain near the Mt M’Goun range. It wasn’t the original plan but the quietness of the mountains, snowy scenes, quaint Berber villages made it a trip to remember.

Here you can read about my four days hiking in the Atlas Mountains with views of Mt M’Goun. Plus a few top tips for how to plan your own hiking trip to Morocco. 

Are you planning a trip to go hiking in Morocco? Ask me any more questions in the comments below.

Read later? Save to Pinterest

Mule in Atlas Mountains

Hiking in the High Atlas Mountains Adventure

Travel from Marrakech to Arousse (via Agouti)

From Marrakech, a minibus had been organised as part of the hiking tour package.

It was about a 5-hour journey, however, we stopped off for two breaks on the way, one at a small service station and the second stop was in the town of Agouti.

A traditional Moroccan town complete with a mosque, busy market and a backdrop of the Atlas Mountains

Agouti town near Atlas Mountains Morocco
Agouti town near the Atlas Mountains
Views of the Atlas Mountains Morocco
Stopping for photos on the way

Our gite for the first night in the Atlas Mountains was a small Berber village close to Arousse.

If you’re wondering what it’s like staying in a gite, you can read below what to expect from a Moroccan Gite.

Day 1 Atlas Mountains Hike

Hiking in the Atlas Mountains Morocco
Day one hiking into the mountains

Hike distance: 12 km
Total ascent: 951 metres
Hiking time: 5.5 hours
Maximum height: 2,653 metres

From our gite, we almost immediately went off the beaten track, heading west up a steep gully before reaching a fantastic lookout point to the snowy mountains. 

The first part of the hike was on rocky ground, with small scatterings of snow as we walked up.

Next, we walked looped back round across a snowy section before we descending through trees, snowdrifts and prickly bushes, which seemed to cheekily spike me when I wasn’t looking.

Hiking in the snow in the Atlas Mountains
Enjoying hiking in the snow in the Atlas Mountains

The hike then reached a wonderful viewpoint, from here we could see all the way to the Mt M’Goun ridge. As a group of Instagrammers, we stopped here for a good 20 minutes clicking away and enjoying the moment.

From the ridge, we then dropped down a steep scree gully, until it gradually reduced in steepness all the way down to a wonderful gite nestled in the valley between the mountains.

Day 2 Atlas Mountains Hike

Snowy mountains in Morocco
Fun times hiking in the snow on day 2

Hike distance: 15.5 km
Total ascent: 562 metres
Hiking time: 5.5 hours
Maximum height: 2,809 metres

Beginning our hike on day two gazing up at the snowy mountain tops outside the gite was wonderful. The hike took us gradually up to the most wonderful views of the Atlas Mountains.

Panoramic views of the Atlas Mountains
Panoramic views of the Atlas Mountains

The hiking route switched between walking on and off snowy paths which were hard work but the most fun to walk in. 

We then continued and made our way down to the river bed where we followed the river all the way to the village where we were staying.

Day 3 Atlas Mountains Hike

Sun popping up behind the mountains
Sun popping up behind the mountains

Hike distance: 17.5 km
Total ascent: 255 metres
Hiking time: 4 hours
Maximum height: 2,132 metres

Our day 3 trek was very different from what I’d expected to do when I first signed up for the trek. Instead of hiking up mountains we did a long hike but through the valley.

Walking through valley in Atlas Mountains
Walking through the valley

It had the advantage of not needing mountain boots so I switched into my Salomon trail shoes, shorts and a t-shirt, much more comfortable for the temperatures.

The morning was still cold, so I started the hike in a warmer jacket, hat and gloves but as soon as the sun came out I could de-layer!

Walking through the valley of the Atlas Mountains meant we have beautiful views of the mountains but also the advantage of hiking through the small Berber villages.

We saw local villagers going about their daily jobs, washing clothes in the river and hanging clothes to dry on bushes and trees, chopping firewood, donkeys carrying loads around the farmlands and a lot of chickens!

Then we arrived at my favourite Moroccan Gite nested at the top of the village and with views of our walk.

Moroccan Gite in Atlas Mountains
Moroccan Gite in the Atlas Mountains

Day 4 Atlas Mountains Hike

Hike distance: 16 km
Total ascent: 303 metres
Hiking time: 3.5 hours
Maximum height: 2,308 metres

Hiking in the Atlas Mountains Morocco
Hiking in the Atlas Mountains

Our last day was another more relaxed hike, so back into shorts and t-shirt for the day. From our Moroccan Gite, we followed the trail back through the valley then headed up into the mountains.

The path snaked up the mountains until the views opened up the higher we climbed, then we followed the trail until we stopped for lunch with magnificent views of the mountains.

Soaking in the views of the Atlas Mountains
Soaking in the views of the Atlas Mountains

For several hours we walked up high and on both our right and left we could see snow-capped mountains

Watch the YouTube short film of my Atlas Mountains hike right here

What to expect staying in a Moroccan Gite in the Atlas Mountains?

To be honest, I was expecting our accommodation on the hike to be very basic. However, each of the different gites we stayed had great facilities, considering they were in completely remote locations.

These thoughts are based on the five gites we stayed at on our trip in the Atlas Mountains.

Bedrooms at the gite

Four out of the five gites we stayed in had beds, the fifth one had mattresses on the floor but were still comfy. The beds were a mix of singles, doubles and some smaller ones. 

I have to admit not every mattress was the comfiest, from too soft and lumpy to too hard but after a full day’s hike, I slept well every night!

Bedroom in a Moroccan Gite
Our bedroom on night one at a Moroccan Gite
Bedroom in Moroccan Gite
Bedroom with a mix of beds at the Gite

Blankets were provided, however, in most cases I opted to sleep in my sleeping bag, which I’d packed as I thought we would be camping.

Top tip

  • Since there’s no heating in the gites, I would recommend taking your own sleeping bag to guarantee to keep warm.
Sleeping bag on a bed
Keeping cosy in my Thermarest winter sleeping bag

Electricity

Surprisingly, there were power points at every gite we stayed at, some gites only had one or two plugs but at least it was handy to recharge our phones.

I took my worldwide converter but it was pretty large and difficult to balance, especially as some of the plug points were halfway up the wall.

Top tip

  • Take a power bank instead of relying on electricity in gites.

Wi-Fi in the mountains

As you might expect, there is no Wi-Fi in any of the gites. One of our group had a Moroccan sim card and did have signal at most of the gites we stayed in. 

I opted for keeping my phone in flight mode to save battery and additional phone charges whilst I was away.

Top tip 

  • Take a break from technology and go without social media for your trip.

Heating

There was no heating in any of the gites, as soon as the sunset the temperature noticeably dropped. It certainly wasn’t freezing cold, the gites were at a height of between 1,800 – 2,200 metres.

Social area at Moroccan Gite
One of the social area at the gite

We often sat in our outdoor jackets, hats and drank hot drinks to keep warm.

Top tip

  • Thermals are perfect for staying warm in bed.

What did we eat on the hike?

All the food on our hike was provided, with the exception of snacks which we had bought from home.

Breakfast

Breakfast was porridge and bread, with a selection of different jams, honey and chocolate spread. As well as hot water for tea or coffee. I also took my own flask and some peppermint tea that I filled up for my day hikes.

Lunch

To start we always had a lovely mint tea (or you could have tea or coffee!)

Lunch on the hike
Lunch stop on the hike

Lunch was a mix of salads, pasta, lentils, tinned fish and bread. Also accompanied by some delicious chilli sauce and mayonnaise!

For dessert, there was also a selection of fruit, normally oranges!

Snack time

As well as the other meals provided each day after our hike we had a huge plate of popcorn and biscuits to boost our energy levels. And of course, some mint tea too!

Moroccan mint tea in the mountains
Moroccan mint tea in the mountains

On our last day, we were even treated to some delicious homemade doughnuts, with jam, they were amazing!

Dinner

And for dinner, we had a mix of different meals. Each evening meal started with bread and soup.

Then we had a variety of meals, including couscous with meat and vegetables, pasta and even chips.

And again for dessert, there was a selection of fruit, as well as hot drinks for an evening hot chocolate!

What to wear for hiking in the Atlas Mountains in winter?

Standing on a rock in the Atlas Mountains
Just hanging out admiring those views (again)

I admit I got my clothes wrong for my Atlas Mountains trek! Of course, our plans changed from hiking to the summit of Mt M’Goun but hopefully, these tips will be helpful when you’re planning what to pack for your trip.

You can read my full packing list for my trip here:

Morocco winter hiking packing list

On day one of the hike, I wore my warm hiking trousers, with a long-sleeved t-shirt and my new Scarpa winter hiking boots. A big mistake, we were hiking uphill, the sunshine was beautiful beaming down on us and I was way too hot!

Atlas Mountains and Becky the Traveller
Feeling hot on day one and rolling my trousers up!

Ideally, a pair of lightweight hiking trousers and a t-shirt would have been the best combo. At some points, shorts would have been perfect but once we reached the snow line and I fell in the snow several times I was glad I had trousers and not shorts on!

It’s still important to make sure you have some warm layers in your backpack as we reached nearly 3,000 metres high and it was pretty cold so the extra layers came out of my backpack.

Winter hiking boots

If I had a choice and had known that we wouldn’t have needed crampons on the trip I would have preferred to wear my normal Salomon 4D Quest hiking boots.

The winter boots were way too hot for the walking we were doing and a large part of the day we weren’t even hiking in the snow.

The main problem with this is packing another pair of hiking boots, which would have been difficult to fit into my Eagle Creek Duffel Bag and adhere to the 15 kg weight limit.

Read my review of the Eagle Creek duffel bag here.

Mules with Eagle Creek Duffel Bag
Mules carried my Eagle Creek duffel bag on the trek

However, I did pack a pair of trail shoes which I ended up wearing on day 3 and 4 of our trip. I would recommend you pack a pair of trail shoes for the trip.

Read later? Save to Pinterest now

Atlas Mountains Morocco

Top tips for winter hiking in the Atlas Mountains

  • During the day the weather can be warm, so don’t forget some suncream and some lighter clothes for hiking.
  • And in the evenings the temperature can drop considerably so warm layers are a must for the trip.
  • Stargazing is phenomenal in the Atlas Mountains, make sure you take a look at the starry skies at night before bed.
  • Depending on the snow and had cold it is you may need crampons and an ice axe for your trip.

How much did the Morocco trip cost?

Marrakech Hostel with Becky the Traveller
Arriving at a hostel in Marrakech

Here’s a breakdown of all my costs for my 10-day Morocco trip, which includes the hiking tour and additional days in Marrakech. I will share what was included within the tour costs, plus additional items I paid for.

If you are planning to just go on a hiking trip then you simply need to deduct the additional Marrakech costs.

Flights 

Booked with Ryanair, including paying extra for a checked bag (20 kg) and cabin luggage – £250

Travel + parking costs 

Fuel costs for travel to the airport – £20

Liverpool long-term car parking for 10 days – £61.99

Travel insurance

BMC Travel insurance (including high altitude cover) – £46.94

Group tour

The group tour that I booked via Mountaineering Tours cost £550, based on a group booking for myself and six friends.

For this price, it included the following:

  • Accommodation at a hotel in Marrakech
  • Transport to and from the mountains
  • Accommodation in the gites
  • Our guide, mules/muleteers and chef for the trip
  • Meals on the trip (Breakfast x 6, Lunch x 5 and Dinner x 5)

Tips for the guides, muleteers and chef are not included in the overall tour price. This is optional how much you give as a tip. As a group, we all chipped in 300 MAD each for our team.

Booking independently per person

If you would prefer to book individually instead of a group trip these are some costs that were in the final gite to give you a rough idea of how much it would cost.

Most components of the trip would be relatively easy to book; however, the one thing that may be more challenging is transport. The public transport options are pretty limited to the remote areas of the Atlas Mountains

Qualified guide per day 325 MAD – Price based on 6 days, 2 travel and 4 hiking – 1,950 MAD

Muleteer per day 150 MAD – Price based on 4 days – 600 MAD

Additional accommodation in Marrakech

Hostel in Marrakech
Rodamon Riad Hostel in Marrakech

Prior to the tour, I stayed at a budget hostel, then afterwards I spent 3 nights at Hostel Rodamon

Hostel Kif-Kaf (1 night in a dorm) – £5

Hostel Rodamon (3 nights in a private shared room) – £69

Other costs in Marrakech

1 Moroccan Dirham = 0.08 GBP

At Marrakech airport, I exchanged £200 into Moroccan Dirham. Then towards the end of my trip, I took out an additional 1,500 MAD (£122). The majority of this money was spent on food and drink during my time in Marrakech.

Bus to Marrakech – 30 MAD (2.40 GBP)

Food + drink in Marrakech (Breakfast x 3, Lunch x 5, Dinner x 6)

In addition to food and drink costs, I experienced a hammam (150 MAD/12 GBP) and also a hammam/massage (450 MAD/36 GBP). I also went quad biking, this cost 450 MAD/36 GBP, for transport and a mornings quad biking. – 1,050 MAD/84 GBP

Morocco Trip Budget summary

Flights – £225.98
Travel + parking costs – £81.99
Travel insurance – £46.94
Group tour – £580
Additional accommodation – £74
Other costs – £322

Total trip cost – £1,360.91

Would you go winter hiking in the Atlas Mountains? Is there anything else you would like to know? Ask me in the comments below.

Save to Pinterest for later

Winter in Atlas Mountains

Not ready for a winter hiking trip?

You can read here about my summer hiking trip, climbing Mt Toubkal in the High Atlas Mountains.

Mt Toubkal is closer to Marrakech, although this does mean it’s more popular with day-trippers to the Atlas Mountains too.

Full hiking guide here – Hiking Mt Toubkal in the Atlas Mountains

 
Free Tips + Discounts from Becky the Traveller
Sign up now for my monthly newsletters, latest posts, travel + hiking tips. Plus giveaways + discounts including 20% discount code off Water-to-Go Bottles  
* indicates required

*Becky the Traveller participates in the Amazon Services Associates Programme, as well as other affiliate programmes. If you make a purchase through these, I earn from the qualifying links. This is at no extra cost to you. Read more here.

Share this post :)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

shares