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Crater Climbing in Capas: A Mount Pinatubo Adventure

Crater Climbing in Capas: A Mount Pinatubo Adventure

For a unique day trip, head to Mount Pinatubo for a one-of-a-kind trekking experience.
By Abet Lagula

Abet Lagula shares his images of the Mount Pinatubo Capas Trail nearly two decades after the catastrophic eruption of the volcano in 1991.

When Mount Pinatubo woke from its deep slumber in 1991, the effects of its eruption were felt worldwide. Billions of metric tons of ash spread throughout the atmosphere, and massive lahar flows destroyed several towns in the vicinity of the volcano. What used to be dense forestland became a barren landscape of ash and mineral deposits. Several hundreds were killed and the livelihoods of more than two million people were affected.

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Two decades later, nature has restored the beauty of Mount Pinatubo. While traces of ash and other deposits can still be seen on the way to the mountain, volcanic activities have subsided. When the mountain summit collapsed during the eruption, a caldera was formed and within it a crater lake now rests, enhanced by abundant rainfall and the growth of new vegetation surrounding it. Pinatubo, formerly a mountain feared by the people because of its eruption, is now a major tourist attraction and is one of the most beautiful hiking destinations in the Philippines. Best experienced during the summer season, a hiking expedition to Mount Pinatubo via the Capas trail is one way to see this majestic attraction.

Getting There

Mount Pinatubo is located at the boundaries of Pampanga, Tarlac, and Zambales in Central Luzon. The starting point for the main trail leading to the lake is in Barangay Sta. Juliana in Capas, Tarlac. To travel by car from Manila to Capas, Tarlac, take the North Luzon Expressway. Drive up to the Sta. Ines exit in Mabalacat, Pampanga and continue driving north to reach Capas, Tarlac. Head towards the Capas Shrine until you reach Barangay Sta. Juliana, where numerous billboards and road signs can be found pointing towards the Mount Pinatubo Trail.

Travel time by car from Manila to Capas is around two hours. For alternative means to reach Capas, visit the Capas, Tarlac website.
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Crow Valley in Mount Pinatubo

Your adventure begins here. Upon registration in Barangay Sta. Juliana in Capas, Tarlac, 4x4 vehicles will take you on a 45-minute drive to the Crater Lake.

Skyway at the Capas Trail

The Skyway is an uphill route along the Capas Trail that can only be crossed using 4x4 vehicles. It was developed by the Pinatubo Development Corporation (PDC) to shorten the travel time from Barangay Sta. Juliana to the Pinatubo Crater Lake.

Skyway

On top of the Skyway, a 4x4 vehicle prepares to go down the steep slope.

Skyway

The Skyway affords 4x4 vehicles a closer approach to the Pinatubo Crater Lake, cutting what used to be a three-hour hike from the jump-off to a much shorter thirty-minute trek to reach the lake.

Pit Stop along the Capas Trail

4x4 drivers stop for a brief rest to allow visitors to enjoy and take photos of the surreal landscape of Pinatubo.

Fields of Cogon on the Way to Pinatubo

Traversing vast cogon fields, a 4x4 vehicle approaches Mount Pinatubo.

Parking

Your 4x4 ride ends in this area. A thirty-minute trek will take you to the Crater Lake.

Trail

The trail is easy even for beginners. Guides are available to assist you on your way. Wear shoes or sandals with good traction, and loose breathable clothing like short-sleeved cotton shirts and shorts. Wear sunblock to protect your skin against the sun's scorching rays. Temperatures drop at the crater area, so bring a long sleeved jacket as well.

View of the Pinatubo Crater Lake

This is the new Pinatubo two decades after the eruption. The color of the lake changes throughout the year, from cyan to green, blue to brown.

Rest Area

The vicinity of the Crater Lake has been developed by the Pinatubo Development Corporation (PDC), complete with kiosks, rest areas, toilets, and other amenities. Prices are steep, though--a can of soda costs P80. Bringing your own water bottle can save you money and is better for the environment.

On the Way Down

Although swimming is not encouraged, you may do so at your own risk. Bring life jackets as a precaution.

Docked

Canoes are available for rent at the crater.

Across the Crater

Guests who availed of the canoe services explore the other side of the lake.

Sunset

It is possible to cover the trip from Manila to Pinatubo and back within a single day. It takes about two hours to reach Tarlac from Manila by car. Plan ahead to reach the crater by early morning to avoid the direct heat of the sun during your trek to the lake. At the end of the day, enjoy the sunset as you head back to the city.
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