Mount Pinatubo

philippines

A giant sleeps on outskirts of one of Asia’s largest cities. It can be a great day hike to visit her.

In 1991, Mount Pinatubo gave the world its second largest eruption in the 20th Century. It gave the people of the Philippines, particularly the immense city of Manilla, quite the shock and a wonderful new summit to hike.

Country
philippines
Height
1,460 m (4,800 ft)
Climbing Height
Between 500 m and 1,100 m
Rank

Climbing Mount Pinatubo Philippines - Natural Form and History

Climbing Mount Pinatubo Philippines - History

Climbing Mount Pinatubo Philippines - Geological 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.

Climbing Mount Pinatubo Philippines - Modern 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.

Climbing Mount Pinatubo Philippines - Current popularity as a climbing destination

Mount Pinatubo has become very popular due 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 - Overview of the Trail

Climbing Mount Pinatubo Philippines - Overall Assessment

Climbing Mount Pinatubo Philippines - Summary of trail accessibility

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. During the rainy season, though, don’t be surprised to discover the authorities closed down access to Mount Pinatubo even a day before. The heavy rains can cause landslides as the lahar (mudflows caused by raining on volcanic slopes) can be very volatile.

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 4x4 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.

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 4x4 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 4x4 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.

The riverbed trail has become very popular for those whose main goal is to visit Lake Pinatubo. With this trail, the 4x4 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.

Starting Point: Porac, Pampanga (900 m above sea level) Longitude and Latitude: 15°8'35"N, 120°20'54"E The Delta 5 trail is far longer, at 22 km, 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 to 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.

The San Marcelino Trail is similar to the Delta 5 trail in the sense that it takes between 2 and 3 days. However, it involves trekking through dense rain forests and features far fewer river crossings.

Climbing Mount Pinatubo Philippines - Most popular trail

Crow Valley Trail

Climbing Mount Pinatubo Philippines - Standard itinerary

Number of days
1
Summary

The hike to Lake Pinatubo takes only about 2 hours each way, but also involves a 4x4 SUV ride through lahar fields to the base of the volcano. This can take around an hour and can be very dusty and bumpy, which is why wearing masks is recommended.

Climbing Mount Pinatubo Philippines - Day 1
  • Take a bus from Manila to Capas, Tarlac
  • Ride a trike or take a SUV to Santa Juliana
  • Register at the tourism office in Santa Juliana and hire an SUV
  • Enjoy the bumpy, dusty, yet fascinating one-hour drive to the base of Mount Pinatubo
  • Hike for approximately 2 hours to the crater lake
  • Enjoy the view and relax
  • Hike back to the base of Mount Pinatubo
  • Drive back to Santa Juliana, change vehicles and continue to Capas, Tarlac

Climbing Mount Pinatubo Philippines - Climbing Difficulty

Climbing Mount Pinatubo Philippines - Terrain

Number of distinct sections
Summary

There are two distinct parts - the drive, and the climb. As a mountaineering website, we don't necessarily advocate 4x4 driving, but its a pretty fun thing to do! Hiking through this terrain is going to be challenging and long, and not everyone will be up to it.

Climbing Mount Pinatubo Philippines - 4x4 Drive through the Crow Valley
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, but not by much.
Climbing Mount Pinatubo Philippines - Climb to the Crater Lake
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 - Weather

Climbing Mount Pinatubo Philippines - Overview of climate

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

Climbing Mount Pinatubo Philippines - Best time to climb

July to October will be the months its 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 Mount Pinatubo Philippines - Common weather challenges
  • If it rains, the loose volcanic soils can get muddy and unstable.
  • Be sure to protect yourself against the sun and heat by staying covered and hydrated.

Climbing Mount Pinatubo Philippines - Safety tips

Climbing Mount Pinatubo Philippines - 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.

Climbing Mount Pinatubo Philippines - Personal safety
  • Don’t hike alone
  • Be sure to check the latest information about the vulcanology of Pinatubo
  • Lakes can be toxic, so don’t go swimming without expert local advice and an enemy (as a guinea pig!)
Climbing Mount Pinatubo Philippines - Safety for women travelers

Compared with other countries in the region, the Philippines does not present special challenges for women. Still, its better not to travel to wayward areas alone, and always be on the watch for sketchy areas where crime might be a particular problem.

Climbing Mount Pinatubo Philippines - Recommended equipment

Climbing Mount Pinatubo Philippines - Footwear

No special equipment is necessary.

Climbing Mount Pinatubo Philippines - Clothing
  • Sturdy boots
  • Loose fitting clothing for the warmer lower levels
  • Maybe a sweater for the upper levels in the cooler seasons
Climbing Mount Pinatubo Philippines - Bags

A light day-pack for the Crow Valley trail should suffice.

Climbing Mount Pinatubo Philippines - Weather protection
  • Sun protection – a hat, long sleeves, and sunscreen
  • Rain protection – a rain coat
Climbing Mount Pinatubo Philippines - Climbing support

You aren’t likely to be doing technical climbing on Pinatubo, so no special climbing support is necessary.

Climbing Mount Pinatubo Philippines - Navigation tools

For the longer hikes, a trail map and compass could come in handy, especially if you’re venturing off the trail.

Climbing Mount Pinatubo Philippines - Medical equipment

A basic first aid kit might be a good idea for the longer hikes.

Climbing Mount Pinatubo Philippines - Food

Some high-energy snacks can be a good idea for the shorter hikes, but could be skipped given the short hiking time. The crater lake is a great place to enjoy a beverage, especially if you can keep it cold.

Climbing Mount Pinatubo Philippines - Hygene sanitation

Bathroom facilities on Pinatubo are limited, so bringing toilet tissue and hand sanitizer could be a good idea. Bring a small plastic bag to take your litter back with you to dispose properly.

Climbing Mount Pinatubo Philippines - Connectivity

You should be able to get reception on part of the mountain, so bringing a mobile phone can be a good idea.

Climbing Mount Pinatubo Philippines - Documents

You shouldn’t need special documentation, but it’s always a good idea to bring ID with you.

Climbing Mount Pinatubo Philippines - Support facilities

Climbing Mount Pinatubo Philippines - Resting stops and facilities

Climbing Mount Pinatubo Philippines - Rest stops

There are no designated rest stops for the 2 hour, Crow Valley, hike. There may be towns and stops you can make on the longer versions, but we are yet to confirm this.

Climbing Mount Pinatubo Philippines - Base camp

There is no base-camp for the 2 hour, Crow Valley, hike. There may be towns and stops you can make on the longer versions, but we are yet to confirm this.

Climbing Mount Pinatubo Philippines - Guides and porters

Climbing Mount Pinatubo Philippines - Do you need a guide?

Guides are highly recommended, and you’ll need a driver at the very least if you take the Crow Valley route.

Climbing Mount Pinatubo Philippines - How to find a guide?

You can either organize the entire trip with the help of a travel company, and they’ll provide a guide. The other option is to either hook up with a group at the Santa Juliana Tourist Office to share the cost of the guide, or to hire your own from the same location.

Climbing Mount Pinatubo Philippines - Tips while working with guides

Keep in mind that the last trip leaves for Mount Pinatubo at 10:00 AM. After that, no one is allowed to leave for the volcano, so make sure you get there before that.

Climbing Mount Pinatubo Philippines - Porters

Climbing Mount Pinatubo Philippines - Do you need a porter?

For the shorter route in particular, you shouldn’t need a porter if you are able bodied and fit.

Climbing Mount Pinatubo Philippines - How to find a porter?

If you require a porter, it will likely be your guide, or a second guide, that would do the heavy lifting. Inquire with your travel company, or at the Santa Juliana Tourist Office.

Climbing Mount Pinatubo Philippines - Tips while working with porters

Climbing Mount Pinatubo Philippines - Food & water

Climbing Mount Pinatubo Philippines - At the start of the hike

The trip takes around 7 or 8 hours, depending on how much time you spend at Lake Pinatubo. Since you will be engaging in physical effort, taking at least some snacks is a good idea.

Water is a definite must as it can get quite warm and combined with the effort and the dust during the drive, you can end up a bit dehydrated and uncomfortable. It’s recommended to have at least 1.5 liters with you.

Climbing Mount Pinatubo Philippines - During the hike, along the trail

After setting off, you won’t have places to buy food or drinks.

Climbing Mount Pinatubo Philippines - During the hike, at base camp

After setting off, you won’t have places to buy food or drinks.

Climbing Mount Pinatubo Philippines - Network connectivity

Climbing Mount Pinatubo Philippines - Phone and data (3G) connectivity

Being only a short way away from Manila, and other towns, you could expect to get some reception at parts of the mountain.

Climbing Mount Pinatubo Philippines - Accessibility

Climbing Mount Pinatubo Philippines - Getting there

Climbing Mount Pinatubo Philippines - Nearest airport
Manila
Climbing Mount Pinatubo Philippines - From the airport to the starting point

Climbing Mount Pinatubo Philippines - Climbing permits

Climbing Mount Pinatubo Philippines - Is a permit needed?
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.
Climbing Mount Pinatubo Philippines - How to get a permit?

Inquire with your tour provider, or with the Tourist Office in Santa Juliana.

Climbing Mount Pinatubo Philippines - Special Tips

Climbing Mount Pinatubo Philippines - 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;
  • Use sunscreen and wear a hat
  • Choose your shoes wisely – there are a few river crossings and thick soles will help with the terrain
  • Swimming in the lake is not permitted due to a high content of sulfur and other toxic substances

Climbing Mount Pinatubo Philippines - For advanced climbers

Advanced hikers aren’t likely to be challenged on the short, Crow Valley, hike. And aren’t likely to be challenged technically on others. Rather, if you’d like to test your fitness and endurance, try one of the longer trails, and see if you can do it quicker than the next trekker!

Climbing Mount Pinatubo Philippines - Other Mountains in philippines

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