Cascades d'Akchour

near Chefchaouen / Talassemtane National Park / Rif Mountains, Chefchaouen Province, Morocco

Rating: 3.5     Difficulty: 4
The Upper Cascade d'Akchour

TABLE OF CONTENTS



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INTRODUCTION

The Cascades d'Akchour consisted of a lower waterfall and a much taller upper waterfall (pictured above) as well as a handful of other modest waterfalls and cascades sharing the same stream as the main waterfalls. Although we learned on our visit that it wasn't typical to do this, we also visited the Bridge of God (Le Pont de Dieu), which was an impressively tall natural bridge, on the same day as our long hike to the waterfalls. Actually, Julie and Tahia only went to the lower waterfall, while I did the physical challenge of keeping up with the local guide to get all the way to the upper waterfall and back before it got dark (more on the hike later on in this page). The Upper Akchour Falls could be on the order of about 100m tall while the lower waterfall was probably on the order of 20m or so.

First things first. One thing we weren't well-armed with on our visit to Akchour was the knowledge of the logistics of how long the hiking truly was. So allow us to bring this down for you right now.

River walking on the Oued Farda to the Pont de Dieu or Bridge of God The mostly out-and-back hike to the Bridge of God was on the order of 3-4 hours round trip and it required extensive river walking in the Oued Farda as well as a few tricky steep scrambles and slippery bridge crossings. The out-and-back hike to the Akchour waterfalls involved a one-hour uphill walk on mostly developed trail to the Lower Falls. However, it would take roughly another hour at a minimum (probably more like 90 minutes or two hours at a more leisurely pace) to get from there to the impressive Upper Falls along a narrower and rougher trail (or 5-6 hours round trip at a more reasonable pace to do both waterfalls and come back). We did the full day's combination of activities as a family to the Bridge of God and the Lower Akchour Falls. However, I trail ran with the guide up to the Upper Akchour Falls and back. All told, we spent about 7 hours away from the car.

For the purposes of this page, we'll only focus on the waterfall excursion though the Bridge of God excursion was just as exciting and had its share of small waterfalls and cascades. In reality, we actually did a semi-triangular hike from the trailhead to the Bridge of God, then cutting through the main waterfall trail before going up to the lower falls, and then finally the upper falls and back.

Looking upstream towards the dam from the bridge fronting the dam at the trailhead The waterfall hike began from a dam flanked by very tall cliffs. This dam not only produced a reservoir with practically clear-as-glass water, but it also seemed to be a magnet for people wishing to go for a dip or a real short swim (though the water here was bitterly cold despite the hot weather). Facing the dam, the trail to the falls started on its left side after crossing the bridge over the river. Meanwhile, the trail to the Bridge of God started on the right side of the dam (i.e. don't cross the bridge if you're intending to go to the natural bridge).

While on the waterfall trail, we found that the path was wide and paved for much of the way. There were a handful of shelters, shops, cafes, and even a hotel, along this stretch of the path. Consequently, it was also very busy with families and as well as hardier hikers along this stretch. Throughout this initial stretch of trail, there were plenty of other side distractions from gorge scenery to other smaller cascades for an opportunity to cool off.

On the main waterfall trail going past some buildings and some picnic tables en route After about an hour or so from the trailhead, we made it to the Lower Cascade d'Akchour, which featured a roughly 15m-20m shadowy waterfall up against one side of the gorge wall. Meanwhile, there was a cafe with tables here, which Julie and Tahia proclaimed had a tagine lunch that was just as good as the one that we had at the Sources Oum er-Rbia (prompting her to theorize that in Morocco, the rural places tended to have fresher and better meals than some of the popular restaurants in the city centers). In addition to the cafe and falls, slightly further upstream were more clear pools and smaller cascades as well, which were quite popular amongst many of the visitors. So it was understandable why most people would be satisfied and stop here before turning back for about a two-hour round trip affair.

However, our guide and I continued further on the trail as it got narrower and undulated in a generally uphill manner towards the Upper Akchour Waterfall. At this point, there were far fewer hikers than there were down below. Plus, most of the creek crossings were either direct rock hops or pillar hops (from where there might have been bridges here before). The scenery along this part of the route showcased even more of the V-shaped rugged gorge surrounded by tall and shapely cliffs. If the guide and I weren't in such a hurry to get to the falls and back, this could've very easily been an unforgettable long hike through the best of the accessible Nature that Talassemtane National Park had to offer.

Looking back at a wide valley en route to the Upper Akchour Waterfall That said, it was still amazing that we passed at least two or three cafes before reaching the last cafe just a few paces downstream of the final destination - the Upper Akchour Falls. I always wondered how the locals managed to bring the supplies for these cafes so far from the nearest road, but then again, I recalled seeing something similar to this phenomenon back at the Setti Fatma Waterfalls, which involved an even trickier hike over uneven rocks with plenty of dropoff exposure. The guide and I managed to do this stretch from the Lower Akchour Falls to the Upper Akchour Falls in only an hour, but I'd imagine that this stretch should require around 90-120 minutes of hiking in each direction at a more reasonable pace.

Anyways, the Upper Akchour Waterfall was at the head of the gorge with a segmented drop of roughly 100m by my estimation over travertine cliffs. The contrast between the reddish cliffs and the thin waters with the travertine formations kind of reminded me of the kind of scenery one might find in the Havasupai area of the Grand Canyon in Northern Arizona. It seemed like it was mostly younger and able-bodied folks who found ways to frolick around the falls or have a well-earned meal at the cafe here. I even noticed some who managed to scramble towards the backside of the base of the falls.

As you can see from the photos on this page, the flow of this waterfall was a bit on the thin side. So I could totally envision how the later into the Summer we get, the less this falls would flow until it might dry out completely or merely trickle by mid- to late Summer. Our visit occurred in mid- to late May 2015, which happened to be a year where Morocco seemed to have received pretty good precipitation during the Winter months. In drier years, even more pressure could be put on this falls to perform by this late into the Spring.

The return hike only took the guide and I about 75 minutes to make it all the way back to the cafe area just downstream of the dam at the start of the trail. Again, since we trail ran pretty much the whole way, I'd imagine that it would typically take about 2-3 hours to finish the downhill hiking from the last waterfall to the trailhead.




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PHOTO JOURNAL

This was the Lower Akchour Waterfall, which took about an hour's walk in each direction from the trailheadThis was the Lower Akchour Waterfall, which took about an hour's walk in each direction from the trailhead
Earlier in the morning and midday, we did a rough river hike right up to the Bridge of God, which took us nearly two hours to reach from the trailhead while bringing our daughter along (not easy!)Earlier in the morning and midday, we did a rough river hike right up to the Bridge of God, which took us nearly two hours to reach from the trailhead while bringing our daughter along (not easy!)
It was roughly a 45-minute drive to get to the trailhead for the Cascades d'Akchour from Chefchaouen. We based in Chefchaouen for obvious reasons as you can see in this photoIt was roughly a 45-minute drive to get to the trailhead for the Cascades d'Akchour from Chefchaouen. We based in Chefchaouen for obvious reasons as you can see in this photo
Chefchaouen was one of the main reasons why we tailored our itinerary to pass through the Rif Mountains, thereby expanding our Morocco itinerary to more than just Cascades d'Ouzoud and MarrakechChefchaouen was one of the main reasons why we tailored our itinerary to pass through the Rif Mountains, thereby expanding our Morocco itinerary to more than just Cascades d'Ouzoud and Marrakech
Dramatic scenery seen along the way to the Akchour village and trailheadDramatic scenery seen along the way to the village and trailhead

Looking back towards our parking spot as we started walking towards the dam at AkchourLooking back towards our parking spot as we started walking towards the dam

Julie and Tahia taking the path on the right to get to the Bridge of God.  The waterfall trail was on the other side across the bridgeJulie and Tahia taking the path on the right to get to the Bridge of God. The waterfall trail was on the other side across the bridge

Looking back at the crystal clear reservoir held up by the dam, which seemed to be very inviting for a swim or just to cool offLooking back at the crystal clear reservoir held up by the dam, which seemed to be very inviting for a swim or just to cool off

We took a shortcut trail that connected the Bridge of God Trail to the Waterfalls Trail.  In this photo, we were very close to joining up with the Waterfall TrailWe took a shortcut trail that connected the Bridge of God Trail to the Waterfalls Trail. In this photo, we were very close to joining up with the Waterfall Trail

The start of the Waterfall Trail was developed enough that there was even a hotel along the way, shown here at the base of the tall mountainsThe start of the Waterfall Trail was developed enough that there was even a hotel along the way, shown here at the base of the tall mountains

The trail to the Lower Akchour Waterfall was quite busy and well-definedThe trail to the Lower Akchour Waterfall was quite busy and well-defined

This was one of the attractive small waterfalls that we encountered en route to the Lower Cascade d'AkchourThis was one of the attractive small waterfalls that we encountered en route to the Lower Cascade d'Akchour

Even for the trail to the Lower Akchour Falls, it passed through lovely gorge scenery where I easily could've stopped and taken more pictures to try to capture the beautyEven for the trail to the Lower Akchour Falls, it passed through lovely gorge scenery where I easily could've stopped and taken more pictures to try to capture the beauty

Finally made it to the first or lower Akchour WaterfallFinally made it to the first or lower Akchour Waterfall

Some of the younger folks managed to find a way to scramble to the bottom of the Lower Akchour FallsSome of the younger folks managed to find a way to scramble to the bottom of the lower waterfall

These were the picnic tables at the cafe by the Lower Akchour FallsThese were the picnic tables at the cafe by the lower waterfall

Just upstream from the Lower Akchour Falls were more clear pools and cascades, which seemed to be very friendly for a swim as these folks were doingJust upstream from the Lower Akchour Falls were more clear pools and cascades, which seemed to be very friendly for a swim as these folks were doing

Closer look at a few more small cascades seen upstream from the Lower Akchour FallsCloser look at a few more small cascades seen upstream from the lower waterfall

Trying to keep up with the guide Mohammed to make it up to the Upper Akchour FallsTrying to keep up with the guide Mohammed to make it up to the Upper Akchour Falls

The trail to the Upper Akchour Falls was definitely longer, rougher, and a bit more narrow.  Consequently, there were also far fewer hikers than earlier onThe trail to the upper waterfall was definitely longer, rougher, and a bit more narrow. Consequently, there were also far fewer hikers than earlier on

The Upper Akchour Falls Trail was also very scenic when I managed to sneak in a break or twoThe upper waterfalls trail was also very scenic when I managed to sneak in a break or two

This was a particularly dramatic part of the Upper Akchour Falls trail as we passed through this wide and scenic valleyThis was a particularly dramatic part of the upper waterfall trail as we passed through this wide and scenic valley

Still keeping up with Mohammed the guide as we literally trail ran to the Upper Akchour FallsStill keeping up with Mohammed the guide as we literally trail ran to the upper waterfall

Approaching the last cafe near the Upper Cascade d'AkchourApproaching the last cafe near the upper waterfall

Approaching the Upper Cascade d'Akchour where some folks were also having a well-earned dinner from the cafe nearby hereApproaching the Upper Cascade d'Akchour where some folks were also having a well-earned dinner from the cafe nearby here

Here's a closer and more direct look at the Upper Cascade d'Akchour with its plunge poolHere's a closer and more direct look at the Upper Cascade d'Akchour with its plunge pool

Here's a slightly more contextual look at the Upper Cascade d'Akchour as I tried to show the cliffs above the fallsHere's a slightly more contextual look at the Upper Cascade d'Akchour as I tried to show the cliffs above the falls

Even though Mohammed and I were trail running back from the upper waterfall, we were still passed by this group of very strong hikersEven though Mohammed and I were trail running back from the upper waterfall, we were still passed by this group of very strong hikers

Most of the bridges in the Akchour area seemed to only have their pillars left. I wasn't sure if this was intentional or if they had been washed away. In any case, you have to treat these like rock hops across the streams, but you can't miss or else it could be a very painful fallMost of the bridges in the Akchour area seemed to only have their pillars left. I wasn't sure if this was intentional or if they had been washed away. In any case, you have to treat these like rock hops across the streams, but you can't miss or else it could be a very painful fall

Even on the return hike, the scenery was simply beautifulEven on the return hike, the scenery was simply beautiful

Finally made it back to the dam near the trailheadFinally made it back to the dam near the trailhead

Enjoying the scenery as we were being driven back from Akchour to ChefchaouenEnjoying the scenery as we were being driven back from Akchour to Chefchaouen

Here's a view over the far end of the reservoir held up by the dam at the trailheadJust to give you an idea of what the Bridge of God hike was like, here's the first of a series of photos showing you that hike. Here's a view over the far end of the reservoir held up by the dam at the trailhead

Looking down into the deep gorge carved out by the Oued Farda. Yep, we were supposed to go into that gorge and hike IN that river!Looking down into the deep gorge carved out by the Oued Farda. Yep, we were supposed to go into that gorge and hike IN that river!

Julie requiring some assistance to make it down this very steep descent towards the Oued FardaJulie requiring some assistance to make it down this very steep descent towards the Oued Farda

It was not an easy hike or scramble along the Oued Farda to reach the Bridge of GodIt was not an easy hike or scramble along the Oued Farda to reach the Bridge of God

This was a tricky river crossing over slippery and dropoff-exposed bridgesThis was a tricky river crossing over slippery and dropoff-exposed bridges

The water on the Oued Farda was crystal clear as well as very cold so that helped to offset the heat of the dayThe water on the Oued Farda was crystal clear as well as very cold so that helped to offset the heat of the day

Throughout the Oued Farda, there were small cascades like this oneThroughout the Oued Farda, there were small cascades like this one

Perhaps what was even more amazing was that there were cafes situated along the river hike like this onePerhaps what was even more amazing was that there were cafes situated along the river hike like this one

Finally approaching the Bridge of God after hiking for nearly two hours from the damFinally approaching the Bridge of God after hiking for nearly two hours from the dam

After visiting the Bridge of God, this was the crossing of the Oued Farda on the connecting trail to the Waterfalls TrailAfter visiting the Bridge of God, this was the crossing of the Oued Farda on the connecting trail to the Waterfalls Trail


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VIDEOS OF THE FALLS


Checking out the impressive upper waterfall after a rigorous hike just to get here


Checking out the area around the lower waterfall, which includes a cafe as well as other cascades and swimming holes further upstream


Bottom up and back down sweep of the Bridge of God as well as some tiny cascades further downstream


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DRIVING DIRECTIONS

The trailhead for both the Cascades d'Akchour and the Pont de Dieu (Bridge of God) were from the end of the road through the village of Akchour. It took our driver roughly 45 minutes to an hour to drive here from Chefchaouen, where we were based for a few days.

Chefchaouen was about two hours drive or so from Tangier and about 3.5 hours drive from Fes.

We can't give specific directions since we didn't drive here ourselves. So hopefully the drive times and nearest cities that we've provided should be sufficient to help with your trip planning.




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ITINERARIES

For more information about our itineraries involving this waterfall, check out the following links.




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MAP OF THE FALLS



Click here for the full World of Waterfalls map





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TRIP REPORTS

For more information about our experiences with this waterfall, check out the following travel stories.




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TRIP PLANNING RESOURCES




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NEARBY WATERFALLS




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