Major jump-off: Brgy. Sta. Juliana, Capas, Tarlac
LLA: 15°8'35"N, 120°20'54"E, 960 MASL
Days required / Hours to crater: 1 day, 45 min 4x4 + 2 hrs hike
Specs: Minor climb, Difficulty 2/9, Trail class 1
As you behold the crater of Mt. Pinatubo, after a two-hour walk, you will be filled with awe. It will be - and this is not an exaggeration - sensory overload, for who would imagine seeing glacier-like barren brown peaks with white smoke effusing up, in the background of a crater lake that was in itself enchanting? It was truly an awesome sight to behold.
That will just be the culmination of wonders, in an action-packed expedition to the world-famous volcano, whose eruption brought forth a desolate landscape that can aptly be described as 'out of this world'. The 45-minute 4x4 drive to the foot of the mountain from Capas, Tarlac, is exhilirating; you will feel as if you were on a Disneyland ride in real life, as the 4x4 jeep crosses varicolored streams and an endless plain of volcanic sand. The two-hour trek that will ensue will take you to more volcanic formations; streams varied in color, depending on the minerals: there was ferrous red, sulfuric yellow, and algal green; there are cliffs of lahar that precariously stand tall against the remnants of a once tall (1,700+ MASL) mountain. The destructive force of the eruption is manifest wherever you would look. And finally, after arriving at the crater, after beholding the incredible sight, you could swim across the crater, and treat your way in the murky, reddish, mildly sulfuric water.
Although more of a tourist spot than a mountaineering destination, the Mt. Pinatubo trek is a must-do for Filipino mountaineers because of its stark difference from the regular mountains. Instead of forests you have stretches of sand; and instead of the blue-green mountains, you have a white-gray-brown, almost Alpine, formations.
The elder generations will remember Mt. Pinatubo as a forested mountain; indeed, prior to 1991 nobody expected it to erupt. After all, its previous eruption, 600 years ago, is recalled only in myth as a war between Apung Pinatubo and Apung Sinukuan ( Mt. Arayat ), in which the former threw stones at the latter. The 1991 eruption had worldwide implications: spewed ash reached as far north as Russia , and worldwide temperature dropped by 1 C. There are so many stories and narratives about this internationally-renowned catastrophe.
It is unimaginable then that the most powerful volcanic eruption of the 20th century will, less than two decades later, give rise to one of the country’s most beautiful travel destinations. However, the relative barrenness is a transient phase which will be gone in a matter of years. Trees will grow and the landscape continues to evolve. Hence, enthusiasts are encouraged to visit Mt. Pinatubo while it lasts! The next time around it may no longer be the same.
One can also kayak and swim in the waters of the crater. Extra precautions are needed as well when swimming, there is a big drop to the bottom from the shore, and a person of a height of at least 5’7” can barely touch the shifty bottom less than 1 meter from the banks. The water temperature is just about lukewarm, and being in a volcano is sulfuric in nature and supposedly good for the skin.
Best time to visit:
Best time to hike is during the dry season (November to May). Avoid going if there are storms around the area, as some areas are prone to landslides and the water in the rivers goes up very fast. Check with the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration or PAG-ASA for updates in any weather disturbances before you go.
If you are not going with a tour group, there are buses going or passing through Angeles from the different bus terminals in Manila (Buendia and Taft Avenues in Manila; Araneta Center in Cubao, Quezon City and along EDSA Kamuning-Kamias). From there, take a northbound jeepney from Angeles and ask the driver to drop you at the intersection for Santa Juliana. Take a tricycle into town and look for the Santa Juliana Tourism Council at the Municipal Hall where you can register and arrange for your guides and provisions.
Mountain guides are mandatory, and if you need camping provisions, make sure to arrange this beforehand to avoid the hassle. Municipal permits are required and there is a fee – a fee is usually higher for foreigners than for local residents.
Mt. Pinatubo’s Crater Lake tour package rate is P2,400/person. The world-famous volcano, whose eruption brought forth a desolate landscape that can aptly be described as 'out of this world'. The 45-minute 4x4 drive to the foot of the mountain from Capas, Tarlac, is exhilirating; you will feel as if you were on a Disneyland ride in real life, as the 4x4 jeep crosses varicolored streams and an endless plain of volcanic sand. The two-hour trek that will ensue will take you to more volcanic formations; streams varied in color, depending on the minerals: there was ferrous red, sulfuric yellow, and algal green; there are cliffs of lahar that precariously stand tall against the remnants of a once tall (1,700+ MASL) mountain.
*Roundtrip Manila-Capas with Tour Coordinator onboard
*Private air-conditioned van
*4×4 ride from Sta. Juliana
*Passage fee to use the Skyway 4×4 Trail
*Guide fees and all registration/entrance fees
*Travel coordinator with email updates/consultations
To reserve slots and get more information please email firstname.lastname@example.org. Limited slots available. Register now!
0230 ETA Manila for Capas, Tarlac via NLEX (P140)
0500 ETA Capas, Tarlac. Breakfast
0600 ETA Brgy. Sta. Juliana; finalize prior arrangements
0700 Board 4x4 vehicles; adventure begins!
0800 ETA end-of-the-road; start trek
1000 ETA crater of Mt. Pinatubo. Explore the crater
1200 Start return trek
1400 Back to the 4x4s parked
1445 Back at jump-off point
1500 Return to Manila
1900 ETA Manila
Born to be wild