Top of Georgia Hostel on AT Has Been Sold; Future Uncertain

Top of Georgia Hiking Center, an Appalachian Trail icon for years, has been sold, and the property’s future is uncertain.

Jan Simony with Mountain Realty in Hiawassee, Georgia, said Monday, Jan. 7, that the new owners will close on the property this week. She was not certain of the new owners’ plans for the property, which she said needs renovations.

She said 4.2 acres bordering the hostel are still for sale.

Bob “Sir Packs A Lot” Gabrielsen closed Top of Georgia on May 1, 2019, for what he called a break to determine whether he will continue with an “old-school hostel that seeks to educate.”

Simony said Gabrielsen did not own the property, but ran it for the owners.

Gabrielsen announced the closing on the center’s Facebook page and website (both are now inactive) on April 30, 2019, after multiple online reports that the hostel in Hiawassee would be closing. The hostel and hiking center opened March 1, 2014, according to its Facebook page.

“TOG is closed from 5/1/19 until we RE-OPEN ON 1/1/20,” according to Top of Georgia’s now-inactive Facebook page. “I will take that time for a break after 5 years / do some property fixes / and re-assess whether the trail still wants and needs an ‘old-school’ hostel that seeks to educate. At this point – it seems apparently not. We shall see. Have a great rest of the year ! You can still call for a shuttle in the meanwhile. Bob”

Hikers were quick to respond to the announcement on the center’s Facebook page.

“I can only say that the trail needs more hostels like TOG,” one person commented. “I loved my experience at TOG and hope to get back in the future.”

“Loved our time at TOG. Thank you for all you do for the hiker community!” another said.

Gabrielsen did not respond to an email from The Trek seeking comment.

Feature image courtesy of Stacia Bennett.

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Comments 18

  • Avatar
    Scott A Brotherton : May 2nd

    From the vibe of the statement issued, particularly “… and re-assess whether the trail still wants and needs an ‘old-school’ hostel that seeks to educate. At this point – it seems apparently not. ” It would appear they have had to deal w/some not so intelligent hikers, which is unfortunate. We need more places like this, not less…

    Reply
    • Avatar
      J. Sutton : May 10th

      In addition to all of the legit bad reviews all over the web about how the hostel is run and managed, the hiking community uncovered evidence against the owner’s claims about being an AT thru hiker and completing the Triple Crown, that he used to lure hikers of all types to stay at his hostel. There’s a video or site out there showing where he had the ATC change his section hike to a thru hike after a few Reddit threads appeared about it.

      Reply
      • Avatar
        Christopher Aaron Raborn : Nov 28th

        Gooder Grove owner has gone to punching hikers in the face and David Magee at The Station 19E uses high pressure tactics while harassing and threatening people with death over bad reviews.

        Reply
    • Avatar
      Christopher Aaron Raborn : Nov 28th

      Yeah. I liked Top of Georgia Hiker Hostel, I liked Bob “sir packs alot” Gabrielson. He tried well he didn’t just try but he did start insulting me at the Ingles in Hiwassee 2017. Bob kept going on and on about me having said something to a whole bunch of hikers about his hostel. Keep in mind this was January 2017.
      I did have several legit complaints about his hostel in 2016 and 2017.
      But none of them where deal killers but who wants to stay at place where the owner insults you and put you down?
      But then again if I hiked there in 2020 I would stay there again.

      Reply
  • Avatar
    TJ : May 5th

    I stayed at TOG this year, along with many other hostels and B&Bs. They are near the bottom of my list as far as hostels go. While the staff was “mostly” friendly, after the experience, its easy to understand why they are closing. In fact, myself and some other hikes just conversed about this topic a few days ago. They, and many “older” hostels are falling behind, when it comes to accommodations, upkeep and cleanliness.

    And some of their policies seem a bit hypocritical. For example (and I’m not a dog owner); they don’t allow hikers with their pets. Yet Bob converted a good quarter of the hiker common area into his own personal, private, pet cage. Seriously? That’s a double whammy to the hikers with pets. This is just one example of where they need to rethink their business model.

    I disagree with the previous comment also. This is not a hiker/intelligence issue, and the AT doesn’t need more places like TOG. These types of hostels need to update or perish.

    Reply
    • Avatar
      Scott A Brotherton : May 9th

      It’s a hostel – not the Ritz…and you stay there by choice. It is basic Supply and demand – if enough people are offended or have issues they will simply stop coming, right ? Then they may have to do as you suggested. Most people that run hostels on the AT don’t do it for the $$$, IMHO – and there are obviously real costs involved for the Innkeeper. Sorry but I have a hard time giving much weight to mostly general comments and if I were staying there and had an issue I would raise that issue w/the Innkeeper. Not say nothing and complain about it later on a forum, where the person charged has no ability to address whatever it was you were unhappy with…
      My 2 cents…

      Reply
      • Avatar
        Tj : May 10th

        Your giving much weight to my comment doesn’t really matter. In fact, by reading the title and the third paragraph, it’s pretty obvious that the owner/s have felt some kind of pressure from disappointed guests. And regardless of whether it’s a hostel or “The Ritz”, basic customer service and appreciation is still required for either (see comment 3, which has been echoed on the trail over and over this year). That’s especially true when they beat the “I do it for the hiker…” drums. So while the AT does need hostels, maybe they need more of the 2014 TOG, and less of the 2019 TOG.

        Reply
      • Avatar
        Christopher Aaron Raborn : Nov 28th

        👍

        Reply
  • Avatar
    Bbrett2018 : May 5th

    They’re closed because it was bullshit! They charged $.25 for a packet of FREE Taco Bell sauce! They needed to be shut down. Not only that but they treated people like scum.

    Reply
    • Avatar
      Sir snacks alot : May 8th

      Lol that cant be real. Hahah.

      Reply
    • Avatar
      Christopher Aaron Raborn : Nov 28th

      Go get your own free Taco Bell sauce then and save yourself the $0.25

      Reply
      • Avatar
        Rob Zombie : Nov 2nd

        Are you sir packs a lot by any chance?

        Reply
  • Avatar
    Dan : Jan 4th

    So, did it re-open on January 1, 2020 as promised?

    Reply
  • Avatar
    Pilgrim : Jan 17th

    If the TOG was so daggum wonderful how come it’s so daggum kaput? Not really a big mystery, just Google Sir Packs A Lot. And the whole “most hostels don’t do it for the money” argument is absurd in the extreme. If Bob, or any other hotelier, wanted to run a charity they could have opened a soup kitchen in Atlanta which would have been useful, needed, and successful.

    Reply
  • Avatar
    Chilly : Mar 14th

    I don’t know about other hikers experiences at TOG but on my 2016 thru-hike, I had a great stay. My dog, Bode was welcome, we stayed in the Wolf Den. He was not allowed in the main part of the hostel but that was totally OK by me. I loved the scrubs they gave us to wear while Our launders was bring done. The showers were great and the bunks were fine. Because of my dog, I didn’t sit though the presentation but Bob did have some good positive hiking tips and fun stories. People. An take what hey Wang out of what they hear. I heard so many lies on the trail I just quit listening and hiked. Everyone has their is path. Everyone should spend less time worry about others accomplishments or lack of. You Do You!

    Reply
  • Avatar
    Therese : May 7th

    Just a month or two before the “temporary” closure I made reservations over the phone for a small group and included fees for leaving my car there. I paid a couple hundred dollars in advance. About a week before our early June trip I tried calling to confirm the stay, and couldn’t reach anyone nor did I get any response by email. I only found out they had closed after a google search. Despite filing a BBB complaint and multiple attempts to reach anyone at all about a refund, I never did get my money back. Even if this was a decent hostel to visit, their business ethic is horrible and I’m glad they won’t be reopening.

    Reply
  • Avatar
    Andrew : Jul 9th

    Bob did a great job when I stayed there. He gave a very informative talk and was focused on helping hikers. I do believe there are hikers who just expect way too much from hostels and get offended that they charge anything. If you can’t afford a hostel you shouldn’t be hiking. It’s too bad because all the attacks resulted in a loss to future hikers.

    Those that accuse him of not completing a triple crown go get a life, who really cares? I believe him. HYOH Seeing how he was treated would discourage any good person from wanting to open a hostel.

    Reply

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