What it is: North Forest Hills Park is located just off 86 in Chapel Hill deep in a residential neighborhood. I was expecting to have to park on the street, but when we got to the park, there was a nice little parking lot. The park consisted of one big plays structure surrounded by trees, a picnic table, and some benches. There was also a nice picnic shelter with restrooms and some trails leading away from the playground.
The structure says that it's for kids 5-12 years old, but honestly I would think it would be best for kids a little younger than that. My three year old could navigate it easily. It was also handicapped accessible which was a nice touch. My son and I spent quite a while searching for caterpillars, digging in the sand (I wish I had brought sand toys.), and playing chase on the play structure. Since we were the only ones there in this little play area surrounded by trees, it was a very peaceful morning.
The play structure and sand were the only part of the playground, so my son did eventually lose interest want to go off wandering. We decided to wander down the trails for a while. I assumed they would just lead of to other larger Chapel Hill trails and we would just turn around. However, these trails were much more interesting. First, we took the trail on the right. It led down a short way through the trees and then forked again. We could see that one direction led down to the street, so we took the other way. This path ended in a large grassy clearing, a perfect spot for running around or picnicking.
After this find, we headed back to the playground and decided to explore the other path on the left. This one led slightly uphill for a similar short distance before it finished at a basketball court with seating. While the trail was a little too steep for little ones on their riders, this basketball court in the trees would be perfect for little ones to practice and wheel themselves around for a while. So, it turns out this park has so much more than we had initially thought, and was a hidden gem with more secret features around every corner.
What we liked: The play structure was accessible for the little ones, and the big trees provided nice shade in portions of the park. The bathrooms, parking lot, and picnic shelter were nice touches to make the park experience easier. However, our favorite part would have to be our adventuring on the trails. Next time we come, I will bring a picnic lunch, sand toys, and maybe some riders to play on the basketball court.
What we would change: Since the park was in Chapel Hill it was a little further away than some other parks, but it certainly wasn't too far away. It was definitely worth it for a quiet morning with some unexpected pleasant surprises.
Website and other important information:
Address: 121 Collums Rd, Chapel Hill, NC 27514
(the play structure)
(the picnic shelter)
(the hidden field)
(the tucked -way basketball goal)