Hiking in Morocco’s Rif Mountains
After two days of exploring Morocco’s medinas in Tangier and Chefchaouen, Dan and I were looking to get out of the city and explore some of the gorgeous scenery we had spotted on the drive in between. I had heard there was great hiking in the Rif Mountains just outside Chefchaouen, so we decided to go for it.
I must tell you that our day of hiking at Akchour in the Rif Mountains was one of my favorites in Morocco. As we visited at the end of December, we were basically the only ones on the trail and we had the most gorgeous views to ourselves.
As I outlined in my post about Chefchaouen, the city is small enough to explore in its entirety in a single day. While I recommend two days in Chefchaouen, the second can be spent hiking in Akchour for a day in the mountains. In this post, I’m going to share enticing photos to convince you to strap on your sneakers as well as my tips how to make it happen.
Well it turns out that Chefchaouen is a backpacker’s paradise. Who knew? I had no idea that the area is such a popular destination for hikers. I guess it makes sense. I mean come on...check out that view! There are a number of treks from which to choose that vary in length from a half/full day to multi-day trips. One of the most popular is heading to Akchour to see waterfalls and a rock formation called God's Bridge. After reading a post from Who Goes Wear, I knew I had to check it out. Her post boasted of beautiful scenery, swimming in natural pools, and stellar food. I was sold!
Talk about expectations...I had no idea that Morocco was so lush. The Rif Mountains are absolutely spectacular and the best part is that you'll basically have them all to yourselves. When we hiked in late December, we only saw two other groups on the trails our entire day. I can image it can get a bit busier on the weekends and during peak season, but still, nothing like the crowds I'm used to in Northern California.
There are two major hikes in Akchour: one to God's Bridge and the other to waterfalls. If you head to the right, you'll hike toward God's Bridge, and if you turn left you'll reach the waterfall. We were overly ambitious and hoped to accomplish both hikes in one day, but with limited sunlight in December, we were only able to hike to God's Bridge and about half way to the waterfall. I imagine if you have a full day, you can accomplish both.
Let's start with the hike to God's Bridge. Mohammed, our guide, took off at a very brisk pace. I had heard the hike takes about 45 minutes, but we did it in 30. The hike is quite steep and narrow without signage, but boy does it offer great views.
The best views of the bridge are from quite far away. You can hike over to it and actually cross the bridge. There is also a path down to the water, but it was too cold for us to swim in December.
After our return to the starting point at the dam, we continued on to the waterfall. There is a large and small waterfall. It takes about 2 hours to reach the large one with the small one around an hour into the hike.
You may encounter wildlife on your hike. Sorry for the blurry photo below, but can you see the large monkey? Watch out for them...the biggest I've ever seen.
We reached a gorgeous viewpoint on our way to the waterfalls.
We chose to turn around at the first smaller waterfall. If you continue, you'll hit a much larger one with a swimming hole in another hour.
Akchour is about a 45 minute drive from Chefchaouen. If you have hired a driver, such as Dunes Line Tours, to take you around Morocco, then you can use your car. If not, there are Grand Taxis just outside the medina that can take you. Simply ask your riad to point you in the right direction. I've read that it could cost around $10 USD.
TBP Insider Tips
> I highly recommend taking a guide. The paths are not well marked and they can often be closed without signage. For example, there are different routes to God's Bridge. The most popular is the one that follows the river and ends at a swimming hole underneath the bridge. Unfortunately, when we were there, a number of the wooden bridges that cross the river were destroyed from floods. Our guide, Mohammed, was able to ask a local in the area. I don't think there's any way we would have felt comfortable hiking without a guide. Mohammed works at the Casa Perleta, a small hotel in the medina, and he often takes guests on day excursions to Akchour. He also hosts guests at his home for a traditional Moroccan dinner. You can reach out to him via Facebook if either interest you.
> I read on the blog Life on Pine that you can also hire a guide when you get to Akchour. Up to you!
> Wear sunscreen no matter the time of year!
> Make sure to wear sturdy sneakers.
> Note the hike to God's Bridge is pretty strenuous. The hike to the small waterfall was much easier.
> If you're there during the warmer months make sure to bring a swimsuit, so you can swim in the pools.
> Layer! It was quite cool in December in the shade, but once we had basically run up a huge mountain we were drenched. Then, we needed our sweatshirts again hiking in the shade of the trees to the waterfalls. Bring a hat and sunglasses of course. These are my favorite pants for hiking!
> Bring water, toilet paper, wet wipes or hand sanitizer, and cash. There is a snack stand and toilets at the start of the hike to the waterfall, but you'll need your own toilet paper and a few dirhams. It's more of a hole in the ground...
> Come hungry because there are great lunch options on the hike! There are stands along the hike that sell tagine. During the summer, they are open every day, but in the off-season, they may only be open on the weekend. We ate at Restaurant Cafe Saad, just off the parking lot back at the entrance to Akchour. Our meal was delicious with huge portions, so make sure to share!
> Make sure to check out my other adventures in Morocco!