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Weekend Getaway: Hiking Mt. Pinatubo Crater Lake



The volcano that brought destruction and havoc in the 1990s becomes a beautiful destination today. Mt. Pinatubo in blah-blah Pampanga is now a favorite weekend destination for hikers and travelers.
Mt. Pinatubo Crater Lake

How To Get There

Mt. Pinatubo or "Bulkang Pinatubo" is located at the intersection of the borders of the provinces of Zambales, Tarlac, and Pampanga, almost 150 kilometers north of Manila. The gateway to the crater lake is at Santa Juliana, Capas Tarlac.

  • From Pasay/Cubao, ride a bus bound either to Baguio, Dagupan or Tarlac (do not take via SCTEX route) then alight at Capas Junction.
  • Landmarks are McDonald's and Caltex gas station. Travel time is about an hour and a half.
  • Proceed to the tricycle terminal near Caltex gas station and ride a tricycle going the to Santa Juliana Tourism Office.

Gateway to Mt. Pinatubo Crater Lake

Tour Providers

Prior to you climb, it is recommended to reserve a tour, especially in the weekends since the place is packed. The registration is from 6:00 AM to 8:00 AM. From there, guests are asked to fill out an information form and sign a waiver. The tour rates are regulated by the tourism office so expect the prices should be:

  • 4x4 Truck Rental (max of 5 persons): PhP 3000.00
  • Tour Guide Fee (per 4x4): PhP 500.00
  • Conservation Fee (per person): PhP 500.00
  • Aeta Passway Fee (per person): PhP 150.00
Waivers to be signed
Our tour provider
The 4x4 Ride

We got our tour from Wendell Ramos. You can contact me at +63 918 420-1286 or +63 919 608-4313 or. You can also get group package tours online. You can also rent an ATV going to the jump-off point in the tourism office. Price should be around PhP 5000.00

Parked ATVs at the jump-off point

4x4 Fun

We were picked up by a 4x4 jeep in the registration. We drove to areas covered with volcanic ashes/lahar so the air is very dusty. We then stopped to Toblerone hill where we took some photos. We also crossed some small stream of waters with rocks in our 4x4 and ride.
Ready to go!
A dusty ride because of the lahar
Not so dusty in this 4x4 ride
Hills made of lahar
4x4 Adventure!
Stopped by the Toblerone Hill
Toblerone Hill

The Hike

After the 2-hour 4x4 hike, we were dropped to the starting area of the hike. There are a lot of hikers during the weekends, but we didn't encounter any traffic on the trail since the trail is wide. The start of the trail is mostly covered with rocks and volcanic ashes with vegetation around.
Start of hike
Queue of hikers during the weekends

Upon nearing the crater, the trail becomes covered with more vegetation. Some Aeta kids are along the way, waving and saying hi. There is a resting area before reaching the crater lake where there are also some vendors selling drinking water and other refreshments.
Stream along the trail
There's the rest station
Only 1 KM to the crater

From the resting area, it is just around 20-30 minutes (well, depending on your pace) to get to the crater. The hike is surely worth it when you reach the crater. We were rewarded by the magnificent view of the crater lake.
Where do you belong?
These steps will lead you to the crater lake
Welcome!
The lake from one of the view decks
#LeaveNothingButFootprints
The crater lake
The magnificent Mt. Pinatubo Crater Lake
Activities in the crater lake have been limited since swimming prohibited and boating is also not allowed anymore, we just relaxed, enjoyed the view, and ate our packed lunch. We went back after lunch time, so we hike through the scorching heat of the sun.
Just enjoying the view
The hike was worth it

Quick Tips

  • Day hike starts as early as 6 in the morning.
  • An overnight stay or camping is not allowed at the moment.
  • There is no shade near the lake so it's better to bring umbrellas.
  • Pack light and bring your own packed lunch. Stores in the area sell limited stuff
  • Bring also lots of water and refreshments since prices in the store is surprisingly high (A PhP 100 for a small bottle of Coke!).
  • Shower rooms are available near the registration area for PhP 50.00.
  • If your climb is scheduled around February, check out the schedule of the Hot Air Balloon Fiesta in Clark.
  • Pinatubo Spa Town is currently closed.
Pedro Skywalker
Riding the 4x4 truck again when going back

Itinerary

  • 03:00 AM: ETD Manila to Tarlac
  • 05:00 AM: ETA Capas/Breakfast
  • 05:30 AM: ETD Capas to Santa Juliana
  • 06:00 AM: Registration in Santa Juliana Tourism Office
  • 06:45 AM: Start of 4x4 Adventure
  • 08:15 AM: ETA Jump-off point for the hike
  • 10:00 AM: ETA Mt. Pinatubo crater lake/Early lunch
  • 11:30 AM: Descend from Mt. Pinatubo
  • 01:00 PM: Board 4x4 ride
  • 02:30 PM: ETA Registration/Tourism Office
Cheers from Mt. Pinatubo!


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Hey there, thanks for reading! I hope you enjoyed reading my article and helped you out with some travel tips and ideas. Please do leave a comment if you have some comments or suggestions and I'll gladly answer it. Cheers!

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