Hiking Mount Pinatubo, The Philippines

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A Day Tour To Hike Mt Pinatubo

​Mount Pinatubo is probably one of The Philippines most famous destinations. Its history is marked by both its geological significance and a catastrophic eruption in the early 1990s.

Today Mount Pinatubo is firmly entrenched on the tourist trail of Luzon. Mount Pinatubo remains a popular destination for trekkers and tourists who visit to witness the stunning beauty of the crater lake formed within the caldera. It serves as a reminder of the volcano’s turbulent history and the resilience of the Filipino people in the face of natural disasters.

About Mount Pinatubo

Mount Pinatubo’s Volcanic Origins

Mount Pinatubo is part of the Luzon volcanic arc, a chain of volcanoes in the Philippines formed by the subduction of the Philippine Sea Plate beneath the Eurasian Plate. It is situated on the island of Luzon, approximately 87 miles (140 kilometers) northwest of Manila, the capital of the Philippines.

Before the catastrophic eruption of 1991, Mount Pinatubo was not widely known for its volcanic activity. However, it had a history of sporadic eruptions dating back centuries. The most significant recorded eruption prior to 1991 occurred in 1572.

Mount Pinatubo’s 1991 Eruption

The most notable event in the history of Mount Pinatubo occurred in 1991. The volcano had been dormant for over 600 years, leading many to believe it was extinct. However, in April 1991, a series of seismic events and steam explosions indicated that the volcano was waking up. Thousands of local residents were evacuated from the surrounding area in the months leading up to the eruption.

On June 15, 1991, Mount Pinatubo unleashed one of the most powerful volcanic eruptions of the 20th century. The eruption sent a massive column of ash and volcanic gases into the atmosphere, reaching heights of up to 35 kilometers. The volcanic plume spread over a large area, affecting not only the Philippines but also causing global climatic effects.

The eruption of Mount Pinatubo was disastrous. It caused the collapse of its summit, creating a large caldera, and resulted in the release of a tremendous volume of volcanic ash, which blanketed nearby areas. Pyroclastic flows, ashfall, and mudflows devastated the surrounding landscape. The eruption claimed hundreds of lives, displaced tens of thousands of people, and caused widespread destruction of homes, farms, and infrastructure.

Global Effects of Mount Pinatubo’s Eruption

The eruption had far-reaching global consequences. The massive injection of sulfur dioxide into the stratosphere led to a temporary cooling of the Earth’s climate. The following year, 1992, is often referred to as the “Year Without a Summer” because of the global temperature drop caused by the Pinatubo eruption.

In the aftermath of the eruption, the region around Mount Pinatubo underwent significant recovery efforts. Volcanic deposits were gradually eroded by rain and rivers, and the affected communities began rebuilding their lives.

The devastating Mount Pinatubo Eruption in 1991
The devastating Mount Pinatubo Eruption in 1991

Hiking Mount Pinatubo as a tourist

I had planned Mt Pinatubo and booked it before we left with Shore-2-Shore the company we did the Underground River with. Unfortunately, our voucher said a 5am pickup and Grace our guide arrived at 4am! Apparently they had revised the pickup time via email but of course we were on the road by then and I hadn’t seen it.

So a very frenzied start to the morning but to our credit we all got down to the van by 4:15. A crazy paced ride through Manila ensued and we actually arrived at the Pinatubo Gate first.

The last few kilometers down to the start area for Mt Pinatubo is actually what once was the Death March Road. There’s not much to see now as the highway follows the direct path of the road but Grace was kind enough to tell us of the statistics and give us heaps of info on the Death March road.

While its mostly flat, it was a very similar situation to our Kakoda trail and an appalling example of POW treatment. I won’t go into it here, I’ll leave you to do the research.

The Blood Pressure Test

Upon arrival at the gate if you are over 40 they take your blood pressure before you can go. WTF??

There’s nothing like scaring you about the 2 and a half hour trek up you are about to take! My blood pressure was slightly elevated (mainly because I hate those damn blood pressure cuffs) so I had to drink a can of pineapple juice and wait for 10 mins.

I’ve never had high blood pressure in my life and have often had the challenge of low blood pressure, however even though I kept saying take it again straight away and it will be fine, they wouldn’t listen and I had to sit there for the time it took to down a can of pineapple juice.

I have no idea what the pineapple juice is supposed to do however in 10 mins it was declared “perfect” and off we went.

Driving the River Bed up to the start of the hike

​At this point, you get into an open backed jeep and prepare for an hour and a half of 4WD-ing to get you to the start point for the trek. The jeep is actually pretty cool. You are driving up what was the lava flow from the 1996 eruption so the landscape is very extreme.

It feels like a cross between Avatar and Star Wars and varies from limestone pinnacles to moss covered giant boulders. It’s not exactly the most comfortable trip but its a good introduction to the mountain.

Jake in the jeep heading up to the hiking trail at Mount Pinatubo
Jake in the jeep heading up to the hiking trail at Mount Pinatubo

The Pinatubo Hike

Once you get as far as the jeeps can go you then have a two and a half hour walk to the crater. After the blood pressure drama I thought it was going to be really gnarly but you are pretty much just walking up a river bed. There is of course a few crossings and as usual the wobbly rocks are not user friendly to me and I got bucked off a giant one the second crossing. A mere flesh wound – and on we go.

Is the Hike Up Mt Pinatubo Hard?

Its not a hard walk at all but it does range from beach type sand to round softball size river bed rocks so its quite diverse in itself. You get to the last section before the crater climb and the sign alone gives you the assumption that this last 20 minute push is going to be really tough. Nope – still exceedingly easy.

Its a tighter track after you pass the sign and you are literally following the creek bed but still no elevation to speak of and apart from the 40 odd steps at the end, again, still very easy.

Sign for the final push to the summit of Mount Pinatubo
Sign for the final push to the summit of Mount Pinatubo

Mount Pinatubo Caldera

The crater is spectacular and while its disappointing that you can’t swim, its postcard material for sure. We did the star jump shot, had a very overpriced Gatorade, sat in the shade for about 15 mins and then started the haul down.

We passed a few people coming up who were dying! I mean absolutely shagged and wanting to know how much further. OMG – apart from the fact it wasn’t on bitumen it is just walking. Maybe they’ve had cause for the blood pressure test??

You do ascend quite a way but because you do it over 8 or 9 kilometres its so gradual you can’t even notice it. I’m not quite sure how someone decides to do Mt Pinatubo from their lounge chair and doesn’t think they should do some kind of preparation, but it seems that’s exactly what they do. Weird.

I was coming off 6 months recovery from a ruptured Achilles and I found it easy so its not a difficult climb.

Jen at the Caldera on Mount Pinatubo
Me at the Caldera on Mount Pinatubo

Driving Out Along the Riverbed

Once you get half way out in the jeep its at least 11am or 12 pm, depending on when you started and the sun has now dried the riverbed from the overnight dew and it’s the dusty ride from hell back to the starting point.

Of course sitting in the back of the jeep you get completely covered in that awful fine riverbed sand and we ended up without shirts over our faces and heads tucked into our chests trying to minimise our exposure.

Fortunately they do have showers at the starting point, however I wasn’t prepared for that and would have had to completely pull apart my very hastily packed bag to find clean clothes so I just did the wet one wash but Jake and Brad did shower and then of course bragged about it all the way back to Manila.

On the way back Grace was very accommodating with my questions about the Philippines and Luzon in general and for the two hour trip back to Manila we learnt a great deal about the Filipino culture, politics and lifestyle. Grace was an excellent guide and it was so great to meet someone that was happy to talk about her home and her people.

Companies that offer the Mount Pinatubo Hike

Its a very popular hike and there are many companies that offer it. In the wake of COVID I would now book through either GetYourGuide or Viator just to be sure its a reputable company and that you can change or cancel if needed.

Short Video Showing Out Mount Pinatubo Hike

Jenny Marsden - Charge The Globe
About the author

Meet Jenny, a passionate Australian travel blogger who has explored 103 countries to date. With over 30 years of travel experience, Jenny has a wealth of knowledge to share with her readers about the cultures, landscapes, and people she has encountered on her journeys. She’s always battling unfashionably frizzy hair and you will never catch Jenny in anything but comfortable shoes. Learn more about Jenny and her travels.