M’Goun Traverse in the Atlas, Morocco – Part 1

The M’Goun Massif is part of the Atlas Mountains in Morocco, North-West Africa. Its highest peaks are well over 3000m (Mount M’Goun is over 4000m). These days many of the small villages are connected with good quality paved roads but if you want to discover the higher regions, you’ll have to follow old mule tracks. The M’Goun offers several opportunities for multi-day hikes. One of the most popular routes is the M’Goun Traverse, which crosses the range from Agouti to Ait Hamza. (Of course, you can change the start and end points.)

Quick facts:
Total distance: 55 km (if you don’t get lost)
Time needed: 3-4 days
Accommodation: camping by the rivers and near villages, homestays in some villages
Food on the way: There are very basic foodstores in most of the small villages but don’t count on much more than canned fish and biscuits
Water: there are plenty of sources and brooks in the mountains but take water purification tablets
Highlights: the traditional Berber villages, where time seems to have stopped and the breathtaking landscapes
Photos taken in late June

 

Azilal to Agouti by taxi

The M’Goun Traverse is a medium difficult hiking route but the beauty of the place is definitely five-star. To reach the starting point, I recommend taking a bus from Marrakech to Azilal. There you can stay a night or carry straight on to Agouti village deep in the mountains if you arrive early enough. The waterfalls of Ouzoud are also definitely worth a visit and you can easily reach them from Azilal.

You can take a bus or a shared taxi from Azilal. We chose the taxi and we had to wait 2 hours for the car to fill up. Then it’s a 3-hour ride to Agouti, which lies on 1850 m. But before that the taxi has to climb a 2200 metre-high pass. 

The grand (shared) taxi station in Azilal
The grand (shared) taxi station in Azilal

The Lakhdar Valley

In Agouti, we had lunch at a lodge (gîte), where it would also be possible to sleep it you arrive too late. If not, you can start walking straigthaway. First you walk south along the same road you took by taxi. After about an hour there’s a gravel road to the left. If you follow this road, you’ll soon notice the houses of a village (Agerssif) in the valley on the left. You can have a gorgeous view of the Lakhdar Valley from this point. Instead of walking all along the bends, we followed a mule path down to the river and then crossed the small bridge. 

View of the Lakhdar Valley
The Lakhdar Valley

There are several places suitable for camping in Agerssif by the river (1470 m). We preferred to stop a few hundred meters later in order to avoid the unwanted attention. The locals were usually surprised to see foreigners and children were downright scared. The sandy riverbank was perfect for the tent and the water in late June was OK for washing.

Camping spot near Agerssif, Morocco
Our camp near Agerrsif

The second day begins

The valley is perhaps even more enchanting in the morning in the first rays of the sun. It’s a leisurely walk for the first 8-9 km because you just follow the paved road along the Lakhdar River.

The sun rises over the mountain
The sun rises over the mountain near Agerssif

You’ll certainly not be bored as there is plenty to see. People are working on the fields by the river and you will see men piling hay or women carrying it on the road. I was surprised to see local women performing hard jobs while most of the men I saw were on horseback or muleback, looking after the animals.

Women carrying hay
Women carrying hay from the fields
OK, men also work
A man is working outside his home in a small village
But female mules have the hardest job :)
A mule on its way

It’s exciting to see how the colour of the landscape changes here from brown to red to white and back to brown again. Across the road on the left, you can see a crumbling kasbah and simple houses all built from the stones of the mountain.

Village with kasbah
A village with a kasbah, high above the river
Multicolour mountain
Multicolour mountain

Then you arrive in Ait Bou Wlli (Bououli), where you can find some basic stores. At this point another river, the Tifra flows into the Lakhdar from the left. A gravel road crosses the rivers and then you continue south towards Rougoult. The road is easy to follow and ascends gradually past some groves and terraced fields. About halfway in the valley you will spot the houses of Taghoulit, perched on the mountainside. 

Ait Bou Wlli, Morocco
The main street of Ait Bou Wlli

Where the gravel road ends

Just before Rougoult (1850 m), the road turns from red to brown again. You can buy basic food products in the village and you can sleep in its campsite or one of the homestays. We saw a nice camping area by the river under some big trees, too. But again we didn’t want to be surrounded by curious kids all evening so we carried on a bit and camped a little above the village. (It turned out to be private property when a man appeared on a mule in the dark. We exchanged a few words with my rudimentary Arabic and paid him a little money.) This ends the second day of the M’Goun Traverse, a total of about 18 km. 

Rougoult appears in the distance
Rougoult appears in the distance
The Tifra Valley
The Tifra Valley

From Rougoult, a narrow path continues along the Tifra River to take you close to 3000 m and then on to the other side of the mountain. I’ll tell you more about that in my next post. Until then, why  not check out a picturesque hike in Turkey’s Uludag Mountains?

UPDATE: Here’s the second part of the M’Goun Traverse 🙂

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