Less than an hour from the perimeter is a place that provides an enjoyable getaway destination. Fort Yargo State Park, located near Winder, offers nice scenery, good hiking trails, and an opportunity to get some exercise. Like most state parks, it is lightly used in the cooler months. On a recent visit, we didn’t see anyone else on the trails.
The lake inside the park is long and narrow, and curves around and between the hills surrounding it. There are two trails that are best suited for people with dogs. Both begin at the footbridge which crosses the lake in Area B, a section of the park used by fishermen and people visiting the old fort. On the far side of the bridge, the trails go left and right.
A little over half a mile to the right is the old fort, and it is worth the short walk, if only to see how small it is. Built in the 1790’s to protect settlers from Indians, the single remaining building is solid and well preserved. Built of squared off logs, with no windows for light, it is hard to imagine spending much time in one of these small structures without going nuts.
Back at the bridge, the Lake Trail leads off to the left, and follows the edge of the lake for awhile before moving away from the water. There are both electric and natural gas right of ways in the park, and at times a trail will follow one of them. When the Lake Trail reaches the gas pipeline ROW, it turns left and follows the clear-cut area. On the left, another trail bears off into the woods and down to the lake again. We missed it and followed the right of way for awhile until the trail turned into the trees and down to the small earthen dam that contains the lake.
A walk out onto the dam provides a nice view up the long, narrow lake, with peaks and ridges rising along the shore. This is as far as the trail goes at this time. The shoreline trail is easy to find at this end, and it offers an easy walk with nice views through the trees. If you are lucky, you might get to see the osprey, or fish hawk, that has taken a liking to the park. Normally a coastal bird, this one seems to like it in the mountains. The sight of it flying just above the water is pretty impressive. It looks like an eagle. The Lake Trail is about 5 miles round trip, but it doesn’t seem that long, possibly because it is an easy hike. Add a mile to the old fort and back, and you have a pretty good day outdoors. To get there, take I-85 north to Exit 126, go right on GA 211 to Winder, then take GA 81 south about a mile. The main entrance is on the left. The park office is here and has trail maps, which are a help. The Area B entrance is one mile farther on GA 81, on the left. It is a short distance to the parking area and the footbridge.