Our hikes often involve serious whining with a side of bribery (skittles, jelly beans, lollipops). The girls get crabby. I get disappointed when my nature propaganda isn't effective. But in a convenient twist, they love the Piedmont Nature Trails, which are adjacent to Chapel Hill's North Carolina Botanical Garden and consist of two pretty, shady, intertwined paths. Several bridges, steps and views of Meeting-of-the-Waters Creek along the two miles of trails add interest for kids. (Aside: best creek name ever.)
The .5-mile Streamside Trail is an easy loop. The connected .75-mile Oak-Hickory Trail is hillier. You can check out the trail map here. Maps and interpretive brochures are available at the kiosk near the entrance. The girls had fun finding the trail markings coinciding with the map descriptions. The trails seem well used but not crowded, and I would personally feel comfortable using them alone.
Cricket begged to go back for a second time in one week, so she could bring her drawing supplies to take advantage of the well-placed benches for sketching. Of course I agreed.
Parking logistics & hours: You can park in the North Carolina Botanical Garden parking lot near the Education Center, but be mindful that the gates may lock when the garden closes. Check out garden hours here. There is some parking on the grounds but outside the gates if you plan to use the trails before or after hours. Walk through the Children's Wonder Garden and use the gate to enter the trails during garden hours, or follow the Pedestrian-Bike Path from the far side of the parking lot. (See map).
Strollers: The trails are not suitable for any type of stroller (too many roots, rocks and steps), but manageable for preschoolers to walk.
Bathrooms: Yes. There is an outdoor entrance to the restrooms at the Education Center next to the Children's Wonder Garden.
100 Old Mason Farm Rd.
Chapel Hill, NC 27517