Winder, Georgia is far enough from Atlanta that you can forget all about that crazy downtown traffic, but close enough to the city to give your fur family all the creature comforts you could want. Located about halfway between the outer Atlanta suburb of Lawrenceville and the hip university town of Athens, Winder makes use of its connections but still feels a bit like a true Southern small town.
The happiest dogs in Winder hang out at the massive Fort Yargo State Park. At over 1,800 acres, this scenic park includes a challenging disk-golf course and over 20 miles of dog-friendly walking trails, so you’re all set for exercise whether you like to keep score or just meander. Water and restrooms are available in the park, but bring water bottles and waste bags for the trail. You can also rent a variety of small boats to explore the park’s lake, which means you can stay dry while your pups do some dog-paddling and explore the lake.
With three veterinarians right in town and several major pet supply chains nearby, you won’t have to drive far to get your best friend’s needs met. A 24-hour emergency vet is also available in Lawrenceville, and plenty of specialty care (including the UGA Vet School’s research hospital) is available in Athens.
Only 13 miles away in Dacula, Harbins Dog Park is an easy outing from Winder. This fenced canine retreat features three separate areas, including space for large and small dogs as well as some agility equipment. With such a great off-leash area, it is easy to forget about the rest of the 1,960-acre Harbins Park — but grab that leash and check it out. Harbins Park has 4.5 miles of paved multi-use trails as well as a system of more rustic hiking, biking, and equestrian trails. Horses in the area mean you should watch your step and look forward to lots of interesting things to sniff!
There’s nothing like taking off that leash and letting it all hang out! A shady, comfortable neighborhood dog park 16 miles from Winder on the northern end of Dacula, Rabbit Hill Dog Park provides three fenced off-leash play areas: one for large dogs, one for small dogs, and one for dogs with special needs. A water fountain and waste stations are provided, and the park features some obstacles for extra fun. Anyone up for some bacon? Near the park’s entrance is one of the area’s best loved spots for brunch. The Brunch Apothecary is housed in a converted historic house and welcomes dogs to join you for a meal on the covered porch.
At almost 900 acres, the Little Mulberry Park isn’t so little, and it is only 13 miles north of Winder. With a lake and nature preserve as well as an 18-hole disk golf course, the park has plenty of entertainment for both you and your fur family. You’ll also find a meadow and overlook from one of Gwinnett County’s highest points — both are great for relaxing in the sunshine on a pretty day — but it’s the 15 miles of trails that will keep you coming back. With both paved and rustic trails, this network is pawpular with both dog lovers and equestrians. Hungry after all that walking? A cluster of restaurants with pet-friendly patio seating await on Hamilton Mill Parkway, northeast of the park near I-85.
Tribble Mill Park is 17 miles from Winder, on the southwestern edge of Lawrenceville, and the 713 acres of this natural gem include scenic ruins of a historic mill. Your pups might not care about the history, but they will enjoy the 3.5 miles of the paved trail around Ozora Lake. Additional unpaved trails lead into the woods and down to a second lake: a full trail map is available at the park’s website. If your pups prefer more excitement and less nature, head a few blocks south to Bay Creek Park. The one-mile paved trail is a good exercise spot for your on-leash fur babies while you watch all the action at the skate park, tennis courts, playground, and ballfields.
Downtown Athens is always worth a day out. At less than 25 miles from Winder, it is also an easy journey. The beautiful grassy lawns of the UGA campus face a fun and funky downtown full of dog-loving college kids and hippies: your pack could pass a whole day just walking the sidewalks and exploring the more than 60 dog-friendly restaurants with outdoor seating. The city’s four dog parks are calling, though! The C Spot Run at Sandy Creek Nature Center is a pawticular favorite: it provides free off-leash play areas, and you can even rent one of three private parks featuring a picnic spot and running water for a very small fee.