Cascades d'Ouzoud

Tanaghmeilt / High Atlas Mountains, Azilal Province, Morocco

About Cascades d’Ouzoud


Hiking Distance: 3.6km loop
Suggested Time: 2 hours

Date first visited: 2015-05-17
Date last visited: 2015-05-17

Waterfall Latitude: 32.01524
Waterfall Longitude: -6.71943

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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.

Ouzoud_167_05172015 - Cascades d'Ouzoud
Cascades d’Ouzoud

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.

Ouzoud_092_05172015 - Context of the activity at the Cascades d'Ouzoud within the base of the Wadi el-Abid Canyon
Context of the activity at the Cascades d’Ouzoud within the base of the Wadi el-Abid Canyon

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.

Ouzoud_177_05172015 - The bustling area where we had a late lunch and post-hike afternoon tea at the top of les Cascades d'Ouzoud
The bustling area where we had a late lunch and post-hike afternoon tea at the top of les Cascades d’Ouzoud

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.

Bin_el_Ouidane_004_05172015 - Looking towards the reservoir at Bin-el-Ouidane, which was where we stayed after our epic visit to the Cascades d'Ouzoud, and this saved us from having to make the long three-hour drive back towards Marrakech
Looking towards the reservoir at Bin-el-Ouidane, which was where we stayed after our epic visit to the Cascades d’Ouzoud, and this saved us from having to make the long three-hour drive back towards Marrakech

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.

Ouzoud_048_05172015 - Our guide pointing out some of the hand-dug irrigation ditches diverting some of the springs around the Cascades d'Ouzoud towards small-scale agricultural farms nearby
Our guide pointing out some of the hand-dug irrigation ditches diverting some of the springs around the Cascades d’Ouzoud towards small-scale agricultural farms nearby

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.

Ouzoud_050_05172015 - Looking towards a couple of hand-dug pools or wells at some of the small-scale farms around the Cascades d'Ouzoud as they took advantage of the sloping topography of the area
Looking towards a couple of hand-dug pools or wells at some of the small-scale farms around the Cascades d’Ouzoud as they took advantage of the sloping topography of the area

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.

Ouzoud_018_05172015 - Looking downstream towards the canyon Waid el-Abid from the brink of les Cascades d'Ouzoud
Looking downstream towards the canyon Waid el-Abid from the brink of les Cascades d’Ouzoud

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.

Ouzoud_024_05172015 - Looking back towards the top of Cascades d'Ouzoud towards with buildings from the administrative and commercial area (where we had our late lunch) behind it
Looking back towards the top of Cascades d’Ouzoud towards with buildings from the administrative and commercial area (where we had our late lunch) behind it

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.

Ouzoud_080_05172015 - Context of Julie taking a break from a tea house at the Cafe de Panorama des Cascades towards the very bottom of our loop hike around the Cascades d'Ouzoud
Context of Julie taking a break from a tea house at the Cafe de Panorama des Cascades towards the very bottom of our loop hike around the Cascades d’Ouzoud

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.

Ouzoud_118_05172015 - Lots of activity at the very bottom of les Cascades d'Ouzoud as we were about to cross the Tissakht River and start climbing back up to the top
Lots of activity at the very bottom of les Cascades d’Ouzoud as we were about to cross the Tissakht River and start climbing back up to the top

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.

Ouzoud_141_05172015 - Julie and our guide continuing the ascent along the Cascades d'Ouzoud as we were on the second half of our late afternoon loop hike
Julie and our guide continuing the ascent along the Cascades d’Ouzoud as we were on the second half of our late afternoon loop hike

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.

Ouzoud_170_05172015 - Monkeys looking for human handouts near the contextual lookout of the Cascades d'Ouzoud
Monkeys looking for human handouts near the contextual lookout of the Cascades d’Ouzoud

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.

Ouzoud_156_05172015 - Julie and our guide ascending back up to the bustling souks near the top of les Cascades d'Ouzoud
Julie and our guide ascending back up to the bustling souks near the top of les Cascades d’Ouzoud

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.

Authorities

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.

Ouzoud_001_05172015 - Leaving the car park and heading to the Cascades d'Ouzoud complex
Ouzoud_015_05172015 - After lunch, we managed to get this partial view of Cascades d'Ouzoud from near the edge of the travertine cliffs at its brink
Ouzoud_020_05172015 - Context of the viewing area around the brink of Cascades d'Ouzoud
Ouzoud_021_05172015 - Our guide takes us across the bridge spanning the Oued Tissakh or Oued Ouzoud, which was the river responsible for Cascades d'Ouzoud
Ouzoud_022_05172015 - On the developed walkway leading away from Cascades d'Ouzoud towards other direct overlooks further downstream
Ouzoud_025_05172015 - Looking across Wadi el-Abid towards an unfinished hotel while revealing some of the context of the commercial activity further down below in the canyon
Ouzoud_032_05172015 - Frontal view of Cascades d'Ouzoud from the rim of the Wadi el-Abid with a faint rainbow
Ouzoud_043_05172015 - Context of our first clean views of the front of Cascades d'Ouzoud along with the trail skirting the rim
Ouzoud_045_05172015 - Julie and Tahia continuing to walk further away from Cascades d'Ouzoud while following this unfinished trail that ultimately led us down a path going to the bottom of the canyon
Ouzoud_046_05172015 - The welcome shaded relief of trees as we went further away from the Cascades d'Ouzoud in a counterclockwise manner
Ouzoud_053_05172015 - Julie following our guide Hassan towards the Panorama Cascades cafe
Ouzoud_054_05172015 - An interesting corridor as we were approaching the cafe part of the Cafe de Panorama des Cascades
Ouzoud_059_05172015 - View of Cascades d'Ouzoud from the Cafe de Panorama des Cascades
Ouzoud_074_05172015 - Contextual view of les Cascades d'Ouzoud from the Cafe de Panorama des Cascades
Ouzoud_075_05172015 - Another view of Cascades d'Ouzoud from the Panorama Cascades Cafe while revealing some of the Oued Tissakh further downstream
Ouzoud_089_05172015 - Closer examination of the upper tier of the Ouzoud Falls with a lot of people down below for a sense of scale
Ouzoud_090_05172015 - Hassan guiding us through more of the path at the bottom of the canyon Waid el-Abid while it was flanked by other cafes
Ouzoud_099_05172015 - Descending further towards the very bottom of the canyon Waid el-Abid as we were about to cross the Oued Tissakh
Ouzoud_106_05172015 - Looking up at the Cascades d'Ouzoud from within the canyon Waid el-Abid
Ouzoud_112_05172015 - Julie crossing an unbridged river crossing by trying to stay balanced on the protruding rocks
Ouzoud_119_05172015 - Our guide Hassan guiding us through to the other side of the bridge over the Oued Tissakh or Oued Ouzoud, where there were more cafes and boats waiting on the other side
Ouzoud_122_05172015 - Looking back at the crossing of the River Tissakh or River Ouzoud from the other side
Ouzoud_124_05172015 - Frontal view of Cascades d'Ouzoud with a wide arcing rainbow right across it
Ouzoud_133_05172015 - Following our guide Hassan up the steps while getting views of Cascades d'Ouzoud along the way on our second half of the loop hike that we did
Ouzoud_136_05172015 - Looking towards the uppermost tier of Cascades d'Ouzoud with a nice rainbow arcing across its spray as seen while we momentarily paused during the long ascent on the second half of our loop hike
Ouzoud_144_05172015 - Looking up at someone hiding beneath the travertine alcove behind the Cascades d'Ouzoud
Ouzoud_146_05172015 - Looking downstream into Wadi el-Abid showing how high up we had gone on the ascent back up to the top of Cascades d'Ouzoud though we still had more to go
Ouzoud_149_05172015 - Looking up towards the tall wall of water belonging to the Cascades d'Ouzoud's uppermost tier seen from one of the higher lookouts
Ouzoud_155_05172015 - Continuing our ascent to the top of Cascades d'Ouzoud as we were approaching another interesting structure full of cafes and souks
Ouzoud_165_05172015 - Towards the top of the long ascent, we finally found a lookout yielding this direct look at Cascades d'Ouzoud. This was the last lookout we would visit before returning to where we started from

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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.

Marrakech_to_Imi_Nifri_005_05172015 - It was a very long and mostly featureless three-hour drive from Marrakech to the Cascades d'Ouzoud
It was a very long and mostly featureless three-hour drive from Marrakech to the Cascades d’Ouzoud

Julie, Tahia, and I happened to visit the waterfalls as part of a one-way drive from Marrakech to Bin el-Ouidane with a detour to Imi n’Ifri Natural Bridge near Demnate.

It took us about two hours to drive to Imi n’Ifri from Marrakech.

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.

Imi_Nifri_to_Ouzoud_005_05172015 - The road between Imi n'Ifri and les Cascades d'Ouzoud, where we couldn't imagine that there could be such a world class waterfall in such an arid environment
The road between Imi n’Ifri and les Cascades d’Ouzoud, where we couldn’t imagine that there could be such a world class waterfall in such an arid environment

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.

Right to left sweep from the brink of the waterfall revealing how high up we were as well as the gorge further downstream and the development within


Left to right sweep starting with a top down panning of the entire height of the falls before moving downstream then panning back up to an unfinished hotel


Downstream to upstream sweep of the stream and falls from a cafe with perhaps the most comprehensive direct view without the spray getting onto us


Right to left sweep of the falls from a belvedere with lots of monkeys around as well as a panoramic view of the falls and its surrounding cliffs

Tagged with: tanaghmeilt, high atlas, azilal, morocco, waterfall, africa, marrakech, bin el-ouidane, cascades, babary apes, macaques



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