The Apuseni Mountains have challenging hiking terrain, so it’s worth considering going with a guide; Pan Travel and Green Mountain Holidays in Cluj can help, as well as organise other adventure activities such as caving and biking.
Cabana Padiş, signposted just off Str Principală running through Padiş, is a starting point for several good hikes. One popular circuit leads southwest via Glăvoi to the fantastic Cetăţile Ponorului or 'fortress cave' (2½ hours one way, blue circles), so called because of its 76m entrance, like the portal to a magical underworld. While much of this walk is on road, the last part is down an uneven path winding through forest. As the path veers sharply downhill you'll have to pick your way across boulders and sprawling tree roots and, for the final 200m descent, you'll need the aid of a ladder and cables to get you to the great mouth of the cave (those prone to vertigo should stop before this point).
The cave itself, with a main gallery 2km long, and one of the country's largest underground rivers – fraught with whirlpools and sinkholes – is only advisable with a guide and equipment including good boots, a helmet and a torch.
Another trail, a long full-day trek, is marked first by red stripes then by red circles, leading from Cabana Padiş north for three or four hours to a meadow at Poiana Vărăşoaia. From here, red circles continue two hours to the Rădesei Citadel (Cetăţile Rădesei), another underground chamber with impressive rock formations (and tent sites). The route then circles Someşul Cald, a river in a deep gorge, after which you can head back south to the cabana.
Padiş has simple chalet accommodation, there are pensions aimed at hikers elsewhere in the park, and camping is possible at Glăvoi, 2km southwest of Padiş. Check ahead, as some accommodation is seasonal.
Pack a picnic or eat at your guesthouse; the Apuseni Mountains are wild, and guesthouse-restaurants open erratically.