Some 42 marked trails weave through the park, including plenty of day-hikes from Zărneşti, 2km from the park’s northeasterly edge. Entry tickets for the park (week/season ticket 10/20 lei) are available from booths in Zărnesţi and at the park office.
Before setting out on any hikes, be sure to check weather conditions, and ask the info centre for trails suitable for the season. In May/June and September, Piatra Craiului receives heavy rainfall. Summer storms are possible too. In winter much of the mountain cannot be accessed and avalanches are common.
Day-hike loops from Zărneşti are a popular way to experience the park. Suitable for all levels is the three-hour return hike along Zărnesţi Gorge; park your car at Culmea Prăpăstiilor. Alternatively, walk from Zărnesţi, adding an extra two hours each way (total return journey seven hours).
A tougher day-hike begins south from Zărnesţi past Cabana Gura Râului (red cross markings). The trail then veers northwest (yellow vertical-stripe markers) to Cabana Curmătura, before circling back along the same trail to Zărneşti. It takes about six hours in total. An alternative, heavy-going return route splinters east on the blue-dot trail up Piatra Mică (a challenging 1816m peak, assisted by chains); seek local advice on weather and trail conditions before attempting this route.
Several trails meet up behind Cabana Curmătura, from where you can follow a blue-stripe trail in a looping direction west and north to Colţul Chiliilor Monastery peak (1125m, two hours return). The blue-stripe trail back to the northwestern edge of Zărneşti from here is relatively flat (about two hours).
Hikers with a high level of fitness, and climbing experience, can eye tougher routes on the western side of the range. Even so, it's strongly advisable to hire a guide who knows the area (ask at the park office). From northwestern Zărneşti, a road marked with red-stripe signs goes 11km to 849m Cabana Plaiu Foii. From the cabana, start early for a very difficult trail (red stripes, four hours one-way) up ghostly pale limestone cliffs to La Lanturi (or ‘to the chains’, as you’ll need to use the permanent cables to navigate some of the narrow canyon walls). Nearby is the vigorous climb up to the highest peak in the park, La Om (2237m). Trails along the ridge usually take two days and are for hiking experts only.
There are no cabins in the national park itself, but a couple on the fringe; aim to sleep in these, or base yourself in Zărnesţi and take day-hikes. There are four camping areas around the national park, three within the park bounds and one on the edge. Resist the temptation to wild camp in bear country. Even daredevils should avoid camping on the ridge, which is notorious for bad weather.
Pack picnics for hikes in the park (stock up in Zărnesţi). Food is served at hiking huts such as Cabana Curmătura, and at restaurants in Zărnesţi.