About Cascades d’Ouzoud
Cascades d’Ouzoud (or Ouzoud Falls) was really the main waterfalling reason for us to even consider going to Morocco.
It’s rare for us to experience a waterfall of this magnitude cutting through the typically hot and arid environments of Northern Africa.
With a height of 110m while flowing with the vigor of snow melt from the surrounding High Atlas Mountains, we felt that we had witnessed a world class waterfall attraction.
Heck, it was so impressive that we even considered putting this waterfall on our Top 10 World’s Best Waterfalls List!
Moreover, this paradoxically lush oasis featured that rare combination of a waterfall cutting through contrasting reddish cliffs and green vegetation clinging to life in the desert climate.
It was almost as if we had experienced something similar to say the Havasu Falls in the Grand Canyon area of Northern Arizona, but Cascades d’Ouzoud was even more world-class.
Add it all up and this miracle of Nature pretty much lived up to the hype and lofty expectations going into our trip to Morocco.
The Logistics behind Visiting Cascades d’Ouzoud from Marrakech
We were aware that the Ouzoud Waterfalls were perhaps one of the most visited attractions in Morocco so we expected this place to be crowded.
While our visit was on the busy side, I think we showed up late enough in the afternoon (around 4pm on a Sunday afternoon) to where most of the day visitors had already left.
It was pretty much mostly locals and Moroccan visitors lingering around while there was still daylight.
I’d imagine that a large chunk of the visitation would come from day-trippers from Marrakech.
The city was some 150km away, which required a drive of three hours in each direction.
This meant that we would have needed an early start to give ourselves enough time to cover the minimum of six hours of driving plus some additional time to enjoy the waterfalls themselves as a very long out-and-back day excursion.
Since we did this waterfall en route to Bin el-Ouidane from Marrakech, we didn’t have to make the long drive back to Marrakech.
Instead, we were allowed to linger around the Cascades d’Ouzoud until later in the afternoon, which helped us maximize our enjoyment here.
The Berber and the Cascades d’Ouzoud
The word “Ouzoud” was said to be Berber for “grinding grain”.
Apparently, a lot of the buildings that we saw while touring this Ouzoud Waterfalls just so happened to be grinding mills that probably utilized the force of the water.
There also seemed to be quite a bit of some farming going on as well in the immediate surrounding area.
Our local guide explained to us that normally this waterfall would flow year round as it was fed by some 25 springs.
However, over the years there had been a fair bit of small-scale water diversion for the purposes of irrigation.
We actually witnessed a few hand-dug channels alongside the loop trail that we took, which further corroborated this claim.
Thus, in the drier months of Summer, this falls could actually have significantly diminished flow.
It’s said that Spring time would be the period of highest flow, and indeed, we were pretty happy with the flow on our mid-May 2015 visit.
Experiencing the Cascades d’Ouzoud – the Descent to the Oued Tissakht
We began our excursion with a late lunch of delicious tagines and Moroccan tea at one of the cafes near the brink of the Cascades d’Ouzoud.
Next, we walked in a counterclockwise loop with a stop at the brink of the falls.
This was where we fought butterflies in our stomachs as we sought the best view possible without suffering a fatal fall from the exposed dropoffs.
We then crossed over a bridge spanning the river Oued Tissakht, where we noticed some calm areas of the river further upstream as people were playing in the water.
Then, the trail curved along with the rim of the canyon as it slowly went further from the main drop of Ouzoud Falls while providing our first frontal views of it.
Next, the trail entered a little tree-lined area where we had some momentary relief from the intense desert sun.
It was around the vegetation that we noticed some kind of the aforementioned small scale agriculture going on.
Then, the concrete ended as the trail descended alongside hand-dug ditches and smaller springs before we’d eventually get to the bottom of the canyon.
It took us about an hour from the start of our walk to the bottom of the canyon Wadi el-Abid.
Once down there, we took a break at the Cafe de Panorama des Cascades where we managed to get direct angular views of the Ouzoud Falls dwarfing the bridges, people, and structures fringing the waterfall’s big plunge pool.
It seemed like a suitable place to chill out and have some Moroccan mint tea before continuing on.
Then, the trail undulated before descending right to the bridges spanning the Oued Tissakht (though LP referred to this river as the Oued Ouzoud).
Experiencing the Cascades d’Ouzoud – The Ascent to Complete the Loop Hike
On the other side of the Tissakht River, there were many cafes and souvenir stalls.
They would pretty much line the majority of the remainder of the walk.
In any case, we managed to catch a few rainbows as well as some of its refreshingly cool spray to offset the hot weather at some of the shady and misty lookouts in the area.
It was also down here that it seemed like most of the visitors were concentrated, which provided an atmosphere all its own.
Once we had our fill of this bustling part of the visit, we then climbed up a series of steps and uphill trails, which essentially ascended alongside the height of the Cascades d’Ouzoud’s multi-tiered drop.
A few spur trails led to additional lookouts that got us even closer to the wall of water of the main drop.
I even noticed a handful of visitors who managed to get behind the main drop of Cascades d’Ouzoud by sheltering in the travertine alcoves that the falls had left behind over time.
Eventually at the end of the climb, which by the way was flanked by even more souks, there was one last spur trail to our right.
This spur trail ultimately led us to an overlook that provided us with a broad contextual view of Cascades d’Ouzoud and the cliffs encompassing the gorge below.
There were quite a few monkeys (possibly Babary Apes or some kind of orange macaques) also sharing the overlook with the handful of visitors who managed to get to this spot.
The monkeys lingered here mostly because they knew there’d be some people providing them with human food handouts.
Clearly this was not a healthy practice for neither the monkeys nor the people who might get attacked from aggressive monkeys used to such handouts.
So we made sure our daughter stayed close to us while we were here.
Finally, we went full circle as we continued on a gently uphill course, which continued from the last overlook and returned to the cafe that we had lunch at.
All that was left between this and the car park was a short walk across the narrow plaza.
Overall, our visit took nearly four hours, which included the late lunch as well as a tea break after the hike was over.
We also took our time on the loop trail given how hot it was on the afternoon of our visit.
This was especially the case since we were quite exposed to the sun for most of our walk.
At least our guide knew where the shadows would be so our counterclockwise loop meant that the climb back up to the top was totally in the shade.
Les Cascades d’Ouzoud (or the Ouzoud Waterfalls) reside in the village of Ouzoud near the High Atlas Mountains of the Azilal Province in Morocco. I don’t think the waterfalls are administered by any formal authority, but there are Ouzoud locals who are motivated to maintain the trails for commerce. For information or inquiries about the area as well as current conditions, you may get leads from the Morocco National Tourism website.
Cascades d’Ouzoud was said to be roughly 160km east-northeast of Marrakech.
This distance was said to require about three hours of driving in each direction so it would make for a very long out-and-back day tour.
Then, it took us about 75 minutes to drive from Demnate to Cascades d’Ouzoud.
Finally, it took another hour to drive from the Ouzoud Waterfalls to Bin el-Ouidane.
We can’t give specific directions since we were driven out here on a custom tour.
If you’re self-driving, you need to be cognizant of numerous police traps and checkpoints typically checking for speeding as well as checking for security purposes.
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