A guide to hiking Jebel Toubkal (Mount Toubkal)

Everything you need to know to climb Morocco's tallest mountain.

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Did you really think I could go for a trip and not climb a mountain? While we were in Morocco, we planned a short trip to the High Atlas to knock off the highest peak in the country. I know what you're thinking -- Morocco? Big mountains? But don't be fooled, this climb was no joke.

What is the hike to Jebel Toubkal like?

Jebel Toubkal is is the highest peak in North Africa, at 13,671 (4,167m) high. Round-trip, you'll cover around 22 miles and 8,000 ft of elevation gain on the trail. While it isn't a technical climb, although conditions can vary widely depending on the time of year -- you may need crampons when there is more snow. Although it's not technical, it's still quite difficult, both because of the elevation and elevation gain.

Do I need a guide to hike Mount Toubkal?

Yes, you need a guide to hike Toubkal. I've seen some online blogs mention that you can do this solo, but following an incident several years ago, all hikers are *required* to have a guide. You'll pass through a series of checkpoints on the trail that will check with your guide and take your passport information.

How long does it take to hike Jebel Toubkal?

Most itineraries take 2-3 days. You'll hike up to the refuge on the first day, summit the next day, and depending on your level of fitness, either continue all the way back to town or spend an additional night at the refuge before hiking out on the third day.

Toubkal 2-day Itinerary

In the morning, we caught a shuttle from near our hotel in Marrakech. You'll begin in the town of Imlil, a short-ish drive from Marrakech. Most tour companies will pick you up in the morning at your lodging in Marrakech. However, Imlil is a nice destination by itself and many travelers choose to spend a day or two here.

The trail begins on a short portion of road through town before transitioning to single track. You'll make your way up through the valley, stopping at several checkpoints. You'll need to have a guide, and your passport. If you ever find yourself on this hike, definitely get a glass of orange juice from one of the locals selling it on the trail. I can basically guarantee that it'll be the most delicious orange juice you've ever had.

Starting the hike to Toubkal

No really. Best orange juice ever.

After gaining nearly 4500 ft of elevation, the trail arrives at the base of the Toubkal massif, where you'll find two refuges. We stayed at Refuge Toubkal les Mouflons, which was our home for dinner and short nights rest. The refuge is large, but pretty bare bones (especially if you're used to European-style refuges).

Refuge les Mouflons

We left the refuge around 6:00 (depending on the time of year and your fitness you may start earlier), giving ourselves a few hours to get up high for sunrise. The trail up to the ridge was mostly packed snow -- we had crampons, which were useful. The conditions here can be wildly variable, especially in the winter, but we were here in a very dry January.

The stars were glorious as we wound up icy slopes towards the summit ridge. Sunrise revealed a landscape that looks kind like...Colorado? These mountains were definitely one of the biggest surprises about Morocco for me. Not only did I have no idea Morocco had mountains even remotely this high, but if I plopped you down in the middle of this range and told you it was the Rocky Mountains, I doubt you'd question me.

Sunrise on Jebel Toubkal
The sunrise shadow of Mount Toubkal

After spending a bit of time on the summit, it was time to head down. And down. And down. All the way to Imlil. Day 2 ended up being around 13 miles with 3400 ft of up and 8000 ft of down. Tired legs, but all worth it. After a bit of refreshment in town, we met our shuttle driver for the short drive back to Marrakech and a well-deserved nights rest.