After the historic 1991 eruption of Mt. Pinatubo, its crater lake has become a popular hiking travel spot for mountaineers. The effect of its eruption reached the neighboring countries of the Philippines in Asia and its lava dome have formed an island submerged in a lake on its crater. This active volcano is located near the tripoint of Zambales, Tarlac and Pampanga with trails of volcanic sand, areas covered in lahar, boulders, streams that varied in colors which also serves as a home to Aeta tribe. At the end of the trek is Mt. Pinatubo’s crater lake which changes its color to various shades from deep green to mint depending on the season.
Our group bought a package tour from CashCash Pinoy, so far the services we purchased are great. I have no experience going here in a DIY way, so I’ll only talk about the trails, what you can see and the thrilling experience trekking Mt. Pinatubo.
Explore Pinatubo on a group tour for a day hike or an overnight camp. This volcano has it all, here's your travel guide on how you can survive Mt. Pinatubo!
TREKKING MT. PINATUBO
THE TRAIL TO THE CRATER - LAHAR PLAIN
Your adventure starts with a 4x4 jeepney ride to the drop-off point where the trek starts. The jeep can accommodate up to 5 persons, plus the driver and tour guide. The first few minutes of the ride is smooth, flat plain and a few streams along the road.
First stop! The so-called “Toblerone Hills”, a multi triangular shaped hills, one of the sights to see when visiting Mt. Pinatubo.
The road gets bumpier after, the 4x4 jeep had to cross through streams and sometimes I feel like we would tip over. It’s a tough ride and water gets splashed inside the jeep. The rocky ride ends when we saw a bunch of other jeeps in the valley, it’s our drop-off point and the start of the trek.
START OF THE TREK - THE TERRAIN
The trail is sandy due to volcanic ash, it can be somewhat compared to walking on a beach only it is very rocky. We went last January 2015, when the season is still a bit cold here in the Philippines. But the sun can really exhaust you after an hour, I felt my legs being scorched by the heat.
It was lucky that this trek is for beginners, this was my first climb, later I knew that there are levels of difficulty per mountain. Long before, I wanted to climb a volcano so I just bought this package tour without much research on what we will face when trekking. Aeta kids also roam the place, this is their home actually.
The trails are mostly flat and sandy, it is easy, but for a while each step hurts my waist as I was balancing myself for hours. But if you just don’t mind the pain and look ahead, the views are very beautiful, even if the area are just boulders, hills, and looks very dry. There’s still something that makes it wonderful, much alone this volcano is historical! And I’m walking on its history.
THE LAST 1 KILOMETER TREK
This is a spot where it also serves as a resting area for the climbers. It marks the last 1 km of the trek ascending the crater. There’s a restroom here and a clean water where you can freshen up your face.
You’ll see a sign board here asking which age group you belong. We didn’t mind, but I think it took us more than an hour to reach the crater. Don’t try to hurry and beat the numbers game. The next terrain is slippery due to moss and wet from the stream, always be careful to avoid accidents. It's a lush green path full of shade which feels like an inside of a forest. This was the most challenging part as you need to climb large boulders adding more strain to your exhausted body. But it’s only for a short while because the hardest would be climbing the stairs after you descend to the crater.
A man-made park welcomes you atop the crater, it mostly lookl like a garden with a hut where you can rest. Some facilities are still ongoing, maybe they are adding some restrooms. It’s nice to visit this place again to see what has changed since my visit last 2015. To get to the crater, you have to descend the rocky stairs, the easiest part of the trek.
Mt. Pinatubo crater lake. I was hoping for a boat ride, but sadly it was banned, they said it was due to high sulfur content of the lake. Riding a boat here was my main reason I bought this package tour, thankfully the view was enough for my visit. Staring at the lake is very refreshing and breathtaking, it was an enough reward climbing here while sitting at the corner with lots of shade eating our lunch peacefully while regaining our strength to climb the stairs.
You can camp here and stay overnight, someday I’d like to try it. I also remember our driver telling us that there were events here where couples get married at the crater and riding a helicopter is also an option.
We did not spend too much time at the crater, we’re very slow climbers and we go on our own pace. Going back will take more time since we were already exhausted with the climb. The hardest part? Climbing the stairs. 1/3 of the stairs and our knees are already weak, the steps are high, making it more difficult for us.
We asked our tour guide to take us to the shortest route going back. Surviving is very hard. And we were the last of the batch finishing the trek. This is the drop off area before where there were flocks of jeeps.
THE ROAD BACK
It was after noon, and the views are more picturesque, cloudy with grey skies, we see carabao’s with their owners crossing the lahar. It was windy, it was dusty, it was tiring and it is worth it!
Though our hairs became very stiff due to the dust. We took a shower, went home with bodies too heavy and just dropped dead on the bed.
BEFORE THE TRIP
PACKAGE TOUR FEES:
When we purchased this Mt. Pinatubo Trek promo it was originally valued at Php3,500. We got it for a price of Php1,200, from tipidlakbay agency.
It's a joiners tour of 10 persons, we all met up in Cubao at 4am. If I remember correctly, we arrived back here at around 7 or 8 pm, walking home was really hard, our bodies were too fatigued. But still, it was a great and a memorable first trek experience.
WHAT TO BRING:
- Sun block, shades, caps etc. (bring items to protect you from the sun)
- Scarf, bandana - the ride is very dusty
- Packed lunch (fast food/take out/homemade)
- Trail food like jelly ace, fruits, nuts
- Water - there are drinks sold in the crater (but it’s expensive)
- Medicine (you might get a headache because of the heat)
- Change of clothes you’ll really need a shower after the trek
- Slippers - to change into after the trek
- Shower stuffs (shampoo, towel, soap etc.)
WHAT TO WEAR:
- TOP: If you are visiting on a dry season, I’d recommend wearing a thick long sleeved shirt. Especially if your skin is weak in the heat like I am. Or just a regular shirt if you prefer a comfortable clothing.
- BOTTOM: Leggings and shorts are your best friend. You’ll cross streams and will get really wet, jeans will hinder your movements, you need to be comfortable for your legwork.
- HEADWEAR: Scarves, bandanas, caps anything that will shelter you from the sun is advisable. Mt. Pinatubo is an open area there aren’t a lot of shade.
- FOOTWEAR: Shoes, sandals, and if you have water-resistant shoes, better use it. Make sure your feet won’t hurt when the shoes get wet. Always wear sturdy foot wears!
SOME USEFUL TIPS:
- Leave no Trace! No littering, just leave your footsteps behind.
- Mt. Pinatubo is beginner friendly, if you choose this for your first trek you can survive. I did!
- Best visited on a dry season, the terrain is soft, it’ll be harder to trek on a wet trail
- Swimming and boat riding are no longer allowed. I went here ready for a boat ride sadly, it’s not allowed anymore.
- Always pack lightly! Don’t strain yourself lifting heavy bags.
It's lovely to see greens budding again after the eruption. The place is starting over for a new look now. Mt. Pinatubo is very worthy of visiting, from the dry plains, multi-colored streams, sandy terrains and rocky road, then at the end of the trek you see a lush place. It's like the Mt. Pinatubo is telling you "I have them all".