Around 1 p.m., Kaycee Formont and Liya Chen - both 8-years-old - were discovered missing during a head count after recess in a fenced in playground area.
They were found near Forest Green Drive just before 4 p.m.
Investigators said it appears the girls left the playground and went into a wooded area nearby. The were found along a dirt road just a few blocks from the school.
"Me and my friend heard about the thing and then we were walking down and we saw two girls walking by," neighbor Ben Nouam said.
But when they returned to the woods where they saw the girls, Nouam says they weren't there. A few minutes later, rescuers had found both girls.
"I'm feel like happy that they found them and stuff, because if I was them I would feel really scared," Nouam said.
The girls said they were okay and were returned to their parents.
"We are happy and relieved to safely return these girls to their parents," said Captain Scott Davis, District 3 Commander for the Town of Cary Police Department.
After being reunited at the school, Formont and Chen told officials their afternoon adventure was a sort of prank.
"They decided to hop over the back fence and they went out into the woods from there," Heartwood Montessori Director Sue Daniels said. "And their parents are relieved and we're all relieved that they're safe and this, we hope, will never happen again."