When talking about the High Atlas, most literature and marketing focuses on the western section of the range -- and with good reason. This area is one of the most scenic regions in all of Morocco, a land of majestic, sometimes snowcapped, mountains; verdant valleys; terraced fields; and remote Berber villages. The main focus for trekkers is the Toubkal National Park, centered around the 4,167m-high (13,671-ft.) Jebel Toubkal. The park is usually approached via Asni, a ramshackle village worth a stop only for its Saturday souk, which attracts its fair share of day-tripping busloads. Upward from Asni is the attractive village of Imlil, from where most ascents of Jebel Toubkal depart and where there's an established infrastructure of accommodations, guides, and mule transport. The more energetic and experienced may wish to trek from the scenic Ourika Valley or the nearby ski resort of Oukaïmeden, both villages worthy of a visit in every season. It's also possible to get an authentic feel for the mountains and the people who live among them by spending a couple of days exploring the range's lower passes, valleys, and villages. Amizmiz, for example, is a pleasant base for day walks and mountain biking. Every Tuesday, the village also hosts a Berber souk that is one of the largest in the Atlas. On the Tizi n'Test road to Taroudannt are Ijoukak and Ouirgane, pleasant alternatives for trekking the surrounding peaks and valleys and close to the spiritual Tin Mal Mosque. For those with less time, the Western High Atlas can simply present a scenic day's drive from Marrakech. If possible, try to include a drive over one of the region's dramatic passes -- the Tizi n'Test, Tizi n'Tichka, or Tizi Maachou.

It's possible to trek in the Western High Atlas year-round, though winter conditions can sometimes border on dangerous above the snow line. Lower down, the region is a pleasant escape at any time of the year, although nights can always be a bit brisk. I personally enjoy traipsing around lower Toubkal in late spring, between April and May, when the flowers are in bloom. The days are warm and still relatively clear, and there is usually still some snow on the higher peaks.