Mount Pinatubo

philippines

Mount Pinatubo: Hike what is left from the eruption

Mountain Stats
Natural Form and History
Climbing Experience & Itinerary
Support Facilities
Safety & Accessibility
Special Tips
Gallery
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Quick Answers

Q:How do you Climb Mount Pinatubo?
A:Once you’ve arrived in Manila, take a 2-3hour bus ride to the McDonald’s at Capas, Tarlac. Next, take a trike to Santa Juliana. Here you’ll have to register at the Tourist Office and hire an SUV. After a one hour drive you’ll start your 2hour long trek.
Q:Can you swim in the Mount Pinatubo crater lake?
A:The Mount Pinatubo Crater Lake is not fit for swimming due to toxic levels of sulphur and other substances.

Climbing Mount Pinatubo Philippines - Mountain Stats

Country
philippines
Height
1,460m (4,800ft)
Climbing Height
500-1,100m (1,640-3,609ft)
Numbers
  • 2nd Largest Eruption in the 20th Century in 1991

Climbing Mount Pinatubo Philippines - Natural Form and History

Natural Mount Pinatubo Philippines - Natural history

Mount Pinatubo is a volcano that is part of the Cabusilan sub-range of the Zambales Mountains. It is located on the boundary of the Zambales, Tarlac, and Pampanga provinces in Luzon. Ancestral Pinatubo is believed to have begun its activity approximately 1.1 million years ago. A dactite and andesite stratovolcano, its eruptions were far less explosive than modern Pinatubo, which was born around 33,000 BC, after a series of cataclysmic eruptions. Prior to the 1991 eruption, the volcano had been dormant since the Buag eruption, which took place in 1500 AD. During this time, the slopes became eroded into ravines and gullies and covered in highly dense rainforest. On Saturday, June 15, 1991, Mount Pinatubo erupted in what became the second-largest eruption of the 20th century and the largest volcanic eruption to take place in a densely populated area. The resulting caldera filled with water from the rains of the annual monsoons and developed the Pinatubo crater lake.

Natural Mount Pinatubo Philippines - Climbing history

Prior to the 1991 eruption, Mount Pinatubo was not a tourist attraction. It was the home and hunting ground for the Aeta, the indigenous population. Few people ventured to Pinatubo, and those who did were there to get away from the heat and problems of their daily life. Some of the military personnel in surrounding bases (including Clark Air Base and Subic Bay Naval Station) were more familiar with the volcano because they received survival training from the Aeta. Mount Pinatubo only became popular after the formation of the crater lake, after the 1991 eruption, which has become a popular tourist attraction.

Natural Mount Pinatubo Philippines - Current status

Mount Pinatubo has become very popular due to the beautiful lake and the easy hike to reach it. It’s also only approximately 3 hours away from Manila, so its location combined with the fast trek, make it a popular destination for foreigners and locals alike. While completely safe since the volcano is dormant and any activity will likely be predicted – as it was in 1991 – it is still wise to use the services of a local guide.

Climbing Mount Pinatubo Philippines - Climbing Experience & Itinerary

Climbing Mount Pinatubo Philippines - Climbing Experience

Depending on the trail you choose, Mount Pinatubo can be an easy and short trek that’s great for beginners, or it can be longer and more intensive. For the easy and short routes, basic physical fitness and a small amount of preparation is enough, as the first takes about 2 hours each way, while the second only requires 30 minutes each way. The longer routes will require more preparation and physical fitness. They traverse more rugged terrain and require a few days to complete.

There are two distinct parts – the drive, and the climb. The 4×4 Drive through the Crow Valley trail features a few river crossings, lahar formations, and volcanic sands. Some have described the scenery as being similar to what you’d expect to see on the moon, except for a little more greenery. The trail itself is quite easy and the climb is so gradual, it’ll be a while until you realize you are actually going up. There is a steeper incline at the rim of the crater, but it is not all that challenging.

Climbing Mount Pinatubo Philippines - Trail options

Number of options
4
Summary

There are four trails to choose from depending on the season and how much time you want to spend on the hike itself, as well as your level of endurance and physical fitness. The first and most popular involves travel by 4×4 jeeps through lahar fields to the base of Mount Pinatubo, followed by a 2-hour hike to the crater lake. The second is only accessible during the summer months because the jeeps drive up the dry riverbed, resulting in a hike that is only 20 to 30 minutes long each way. The third and fourth hikes, however, are more complicated. One starts at Porac, Pampanga and involves numerous river crossings and lots of lahar deposits. The other starts off at San Marcelino, Zambales and involves hiking through dense forest before reaching the characteristic lahar fields of Mount Pinatubo. Both trails require multiple days to complete.

Time to complete
1 day

The Crow Valley Trail starts at Santa Juliana, Capas, Tarlac. From this point, you will enjoy a drive of approximately one hour through the Crow Valley via 4×4 off-road SUVs to the base of Mount Pinatubo. Subsequently, you will trek up to the rim of the crater lake, which will only take approximately two hours. The climb is gradual, with only a slightly steeper incline to get to the crater lake itself. The trail is approximately 5.5 km long. The trail is relatively easy and suitable for beginners.

It does become a little more difficult during the rainy season, when the 4×4 vehicles cannot go as far. You will have to hike around 10 kilometers each way, and the trek itself becomes more perilous as the lahar deposits are very volatile and the rain can lead to landslides. For this reason, the authorities might completely close access to Mount Pinatubo with as little as one day’s notice.

Itinerary
Number of days
1
Day 1
06:00:

Take a 2-3 hour bus ride from Manila to Capas, Tarlac

09:00:

Ride a trike or take an SUV to Santa Juliana

10:00:

Register at the tourism office before 10:00 in Santa Juliana and hire an SUV

11:00:

Enjoy the bumpy, dusty, yet fascinating 1 hour drive to the base of Mount Pinatubo

11:30:

Hike for approximately 2 hours to the crater lake

13:30:

Enjoy the view and relax

14:30:

Hike back to the base of Mount Pinatubo

16:30:

Drive back to Santa Juliana, change vehicles and continue to Capas, Tarlac

The riverbed trail has become very popular for those whose main goal is to visit Lake Pinatubo. With this trail, the 4×4 vehicles drive up the dry riverbed, resulting in a trek that is, at most, 30 minutes long. However, this route is only accessible during the summer months, when the riverbed is dry.

Time to complete
2 days

Starting 900m above sea level at Porac, Pampanga, this trail is far longer, at 22km, and more difficult than the ones starting at Capas, Tarlac. It involves multiple river crossings, volcanic sand, and large boulders. The trek features gradual elevation, but there are some steeper and more challenging portions. One of the more difficult sections is the climb to the crater lake itself. It takes 2-3 days to reach Lake Pinatubo and return to the starting point. Local authorities recommend that only experienced hikers undertake this trip, and only if they are accompanied by accredited guides with experience.

Time to complete
2 days

The San Marcelino Trail is similar to the Porac Pampanga trail in the sense that it takes between 2-3 days. However, it involves trekking through dense rainforests and features far fewer river crossings.

Climbing Mount Pinatubo Philippines - Support facilities

Guides and porters

Guides are recommended
Porters are not required

Trail facilities

Trail head - Registration kiosk
Trail head - Toilets / Bathrooms

Food & water

Trail head - Food
Trail head - Potable water

Network connectivity

Trail head - Network signal
Trail - Network signal
Summit base camp - Network signal
Summit - Network signal

Climbing Mount Pinatubo Philippines - Safety & Accessibility

Weather

Typical of tropical climates, Mount Pinatubo can be a hot and muggy hike, particularly at the lower reaches, all year round. It’s likely to be hotter and wetter in December-March. However, it can rain all year with short notice. Bring appropriate wet-weather gear, particularly for the longer treks.

July-October will be the months it’s most likely to be more cool and dry. Climbing in the early morning and late night can be more pleasant than the heat of the day.

Climbing safety

Wearing sturdy boots can help protect you from falls and scrapes in the volcanic terrain, which can deliver a mix of dusty, muddy, jagged, and unstable terrains, depending on where you are on the mountain.

Personal safety

It’s advised not to do this hike alone.

Be sure to check the latest information about the volcanology of Pinatubo.

Permits, Fees, and Regulations

A permit is not necessary for the Crow Valley trail (though the longer two trails require permits), but you do have to register with the Tourist Office in Santa Juliana.

Emergency contacts

National Emergency Hotline: 911.

Police: 117 or (02) 722-0650.

Red Cross: 143 or (02) 527-8385 to 95.

Getting there and away

The Manila International Airport is the nearest airport for travellers from across the seas.

Money Matters

The entire trek with conservation, guide, 4×4 fees and the Skyway toll shouldn’t cost you more than $100 USD.

Climbing Mount Pinatubo Philippines - Special Tips

Tips for amateur climbers

The drive to the base of Mount Pinatubo can be bumpy and dusty, which is why it’s a good idea to have a scarf. You can also buy masks at the Santa Juliana Tourist Office.

Consider taking a blanket to relax and enjoy the view of Lake Pinatubo

Choose your shoes wisely – there are a few river crossings and thick soles will help with the loose terrain.

Tips for advanced climbers

If you’d like to test your fitness and endurance, try one of the longer trails. You can also hike instead of taking the 4×4.

Tips for women

The Philippines does not present special challenges for women. It’s still best to always be on the watch for sketchy areas where crime might be a particular problem.

Tips for responsible / safety-conscious climbers

Swimming in the lake is not permitted due to a high content of sulphur and other toxic substances. 

Tips for trail runners

The Mount Pinatubo 50k Trail Ultramarathon 2019 last took place in February. The registration for this race usually begins between October-November of the preceding year.

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