From the Plateau’s Cabana Padis, the most popular hiking circuit leads southwest along the regrettably polluted Ponorului River to the opening of the Cetatile Ponorului (or Cetatea Ponorului; about 2 and 1/2 hours one way, follow the blue circles). The cave’s towering, fortress-like entrance it earned the Cetatile (‘citadel’) name. You’ll need good footwear and a flashlight to get around in the damp, subterranean chamber. The river zips through the chamber’s numerous holes, some as deep as 150m.
Another trail (marked first by red stripes, then by red circles), leads from Cabana Padis north for three or four hours to a meadow at Poiana Varasoaia. From here, red circles bear east two hours to the Radesei Citadel (Cetatile Radesei), another underground chamber with impressive rock formations. There’s tent sites here if you don’t want to race back to Cabana Padis. From here, the route circles Somesul Cald, a river in a deep gorge, before heading back south to Cabana Padis. Start very early if you want to complete all of this in one day. Alternately, if you continue to follow the red stripes north through the Stâna de Vale ski resort you’ll arrive at Cârligatele Peak (1694m).
The best vehicle access road to Padis is south of Huedin from Rachitele (it’s 21km from Rachitele to Ponor, and another 10km to Padis). Another slower option is to start at Pietroasa in the west (it’s 16km to Boga then 6km to Padis). These can be difficult roads to ride, but apparently people can make it in regular cars.
If you’ve got it in you, these roads can be hiked or use the trails leading from Gârda de Sus (about five to six hours, follow the blue stripes) or on the lesser-used trail from Stâna de Vale in the northwest (six to seven hours, follow the red stripes).