A Retreat for Dogs

& Their People


We create happy vacation memories for dogs with people who love them.


We provide exceptional vacation accommodations, fun and freedom for dogs and their families.


  • Safe, secure space for pets and people.
  • Comfort and cleanliness for pets and people.
  • Environmentally responsible practices.
  • Protecting and enhancing natural beauty.

Barkwells is a small, peaceful community of vacation guest homes, specifically designed as a destination for like-minded dog lovers, close to all the fun yet far away from every day.

  • The dogs get that this place is for them. Happy dogs make happy guests.
  • We strive to be good stewards of the land and all who live on it with sustainable, earth friendly practices and policies.
  •  Guests often remark that we have “thought of everything” – we strive to attend to every detail so your stay is care free. Shopping is nearby, so guests  need only to pack themselves and their dogs.

The Story of Barkwells

We are Michael & Ellen Winner – the creators and owners of Barkwells. Our family has vacationed “at the lake” in Minnesota for four generations. After moving to the Asheville area from 20+ years in Florida, we sought a way to create that same “aaaah” deep sigh getaway feeling here in the beautiful Blue Ridge mountains, and include our dogs in the experience.

In the fall of 2004, Barkwells presented itself ready to go with a fully fenced property, one cabin, a pond, and an antique sign on the barn that read Barkwells Antique Gallery, Lexington Avenue, Asheville. It was a “sign” that we had found the perfect place to create a dog-friendly haven for vacationers.

Many years and more than 18,000 visits and 30,000 dogs later, we have eight vacation cabins in Mills River near Asheville and an historic home with two vacation cottages in Pisgah Forest near Brevard. Our terrific staff ensures that the standards and quality of Barkwells are maintained and constantly improved.

We are pictured here with our kids, Rachel and Kirby, who were integral in the story of Barkwells, too. Rachel is a writer and works internationally in the nonprofit sector. She returned to join the Barkwells team in 2020. Kirby is a nursing student and works in a nursing facility in Asheville. Our Tibetan Terrier, Baxter (left), passed on in 2020 and ever the escape artist, is probably sniffing around for holes along the pearly gates. Fisher (right) can be found with a ball in his mouth at the Brevard location. Not pictured, we hope you’ll have the chance to meet our newest canine family member, Buster (cairn terrier/boxer), and our 3 miniature donkeys, when you visit next. 

We are blessed to have many wonderful repeat and regular guests and we so enjoy all the new friends we make here. We are very grateful to have found what we were looking for – great quality of life in a spectacular setting. We hope you will find that here, too. 

And in this next chapter of life, we look forward to retiring and passing this special place on to the next generation of owners who will care for the unique community and environment we have created.

Barkwells Mills River (Asheville) is for sale.

If the Barkwells lifestyle appeals to you, please visit our “Follow your Dream” blog, which includes broker contact information.