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On the Trail: A History of American Hiking

3.27  ·  Rating details ·  45 ratings  ·  20 reviews
The first history of the American hiking community and its contributions to the nation’s vast network of trails

In the mid-nineteenth century urban walking clubs emerged in the United States. A little more than a century later, tens of millions of Americans were hiking on trails blazed in every region of the country. This groundbreaking book is the first full account of th
Hardcover, 243 pages
Published October 25th 2016 by Yale University Press
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Carl Nelson
Feb 08, 2017 rated it it was ok
2.5 stars. Silas Chamberlin examines trail development and culture in the United States in On the Trail: A History of American Hiking. Starting with the developments in technology and culture that first led to the rise of walking as a leisure activity, the author traces how interest in hiking developed, what factors drove its growth, how trails were built, and the decline of the trail club in favor of individual hikers.

The book is rich with noteworthy information about the hiking clubs that acti
Letitia Moffitt
Jun 24, 2019 rated it really liked it
A well-researched history of hiking in the United States. I appreciated the author's thoroughness and attention to detail.
Matthew Ciarvella
Apr 29, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2017
When I first started hiking as a kid with my family and later as a boy scout, I never gave much thought to how trails were made or who made them. Even as a teenager and then as a young adult, I had some vague sense that these trails were probably created by the CCC half a century ago. It wasn't until I joined a local trail organization myself and started working to maintain and build new trails that I began to understand the sheer amount of man-hours (person-hours?) that go into keeping the trai ...more
S. Dawn
Jul 17, 2017 rated it really liked it
On the Trail is a scholarly history of hiking in America. As such, it may not appeal to those who prefer somewhat lighter fare--in other words, some might find it a little dry, or even boring. However, it addresses the topic well. I learned a great deal about hiking's roots in American culture, as well as the transition in American hiking culture since its inception. I would recommend this book to any hiker who's also a history buff, and to those interested in American environmental organization ...more
Jan 28, 2020 rated it liked it
Clearly a work of passion by the author, who’s extensive knowledge on the history of hiking in the U.S. is both surprising and refreshing. The author is biased towards the necessity for private clubs to further outdoor activities though, the claim that outdoor hobbies have become overtaken by consumerist culture is very likely and troublesome to many. This is certainly not a how-to book and, in that vein, perhaps it is not a book for people who do not possess an abnormal enthusiasm for the hobby ...more
Aug 21, 2017 rated it really liked it
As I neared the end of this book I felt a bit overwhelmed by the amount of supporting information provided. How would I sum it up for a review here on Goodreads?

The last chapter solved that with two phrases.

1) "Most Americans are unaware of the rich culture of hiking that has been lost..."

2) This book is about "the transition from producer hiker to consumer hiker".

These phrases can be applicable to many areas of our lives... Everything has a history... we just don't know it and as a society we
May 02, 2018 rated it it was ok
What promised to be an interesting look at one of my favorite hobbies quickly became a very dry tome that was more a history of hiking clubs than of the activity itself. This book was monotonous at times, repetitive during other parts, and very often contradicted itself. The author failed to defend this thesis adequately. To be honest, navigating this book was as frustrating as some of the earliest hiking trails.
Thomas Ryan
Jun 24, 2017 rated it really liked it
What this book does well is build the case for retiring (or living in if work is available) to a town with a well developed trail hiking system and why such towns are in fact so few. In addition, the classification of consumers and producers is ever so interesting and telling.
Susan Berchiolli
Jan 23, 2020 rated it liked it
Good information but Mr. Chamberlin is an outdoorsman, not a writer.

I was hoping for more regarding the Adirondacks and NY State support of the park, especially since the opening section described the author's involvement in ADK trail-building.
May 15, 2018 rated it liked it
Good book if you are really interested in the history of hiking and hiking associations and trail building in the United States. So, niche audience.
Andrea Anderson
Jan 19, 2017 rated it it was ok
was just ok. i couldn't get into it. felt like i was reading a term paper
May 24, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Did you ever wonder how -- and why -- the Appalachian Trail and other local and national trails developed? What motivated people to take up walking as an activity... and not a necessary means of getting from one place to another? Chamberlain addresses these and others hiking related topics in this enjoyable work. For those fans of the Buckeye Trail -- yes, it is mentioned! A good read for anyone interested in the outdoors or in the development of the organizational infrastructure necessary for t ...more
Dec 19, 2016 rated it it was amazing
If you are looking for a survey book of American Hiking and how trails were developed then look no further. Silas Chamberlin covers the early hiking clubs that blazed and organized the trails and formulated the walking culture of America until its boom after the second world war where the shift from organized hiking club to rugged individual enjoying trails maintained by the government began to take shift. While the clubs did not disappear during this time their efforts changed from direct trail ...more
Oct 22, 2016 rated it really liked it
Surprisingly fresh, aided by great writing. I learned new information about aspects of outdoor action in relation to leisure hours as society became more mobile and transitioned to industrial activity. Colin Fletcher kicks off Chapter 5. Backpacker Magazine shows up, and the massive presence of the both the Appalachian Mountain Club and the Sierra Club are detailed. Whether it is hiking for health, social, or even spiritual connection, it's seriously explored here. I found myself yearning for a ...more
Dec 26, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: hiking
Very interesting study of the rise (until about 1968) and decline (since) of hiking clubs in America, and related information. From an East Coast viewpoint, although he does include Mazamas of Portland Oregon, Mountaineers of Seattle, and the Sierra Club. He does not mention, however, the signifiant FWOC/Federation of Western Outdoor Clubs (of which Melvin Becker was Sec/Treas), or the Trails Club of Oregon founded in 1915 to build and maintain hiking trails in Oregon, and founded by Sam Lancast ...more
Dec 13, 2016 rated it liked it
Covered a lot of familiar ground, but still enjoyable. As a west coast hiker it seemed too much of his narrative was focused on the east. At times he even made it seem that invitations came later to the west, but the dates just didn't add up.
Aug 17, 2016 rated it really liked it
“On the Trail” is an informative and delightful read. I’m a long distance hiker and I often wonder about the history of the trails I hike. Well, now I know.

**ARC provided by publisher via NetGalley

good luck
Jan 15, 2017 rated it liked it
Good read but no mention of the Continetal Divide . But good except that . Hiking Clubs formed early in our history and are still going. For my history of hiking I have a son thru hiker on AT and CDT
Tim Brown
Nov 30, 2016 rated it liked it
An interesting survey of how hiking became a popular recreational activity among Americans. Trails I myself have hiked feature in the history, including those built and supported by the New York New Jersey Trail Conference, and forest preserves established in Chicago and Cook County, Illinois,
Scott A. Miller
rated it it was ok
Jun 09, 2020
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May 03, 2019
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Oct 10, 2017
Greg Sheridan
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Sep 27, 2019
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Apr 20, 2017
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Nov 20, 2019
Ruth Feathers
Apr 02, 2017 rated it liked it
Well written, thorough survey of recreational hiking.
Janette Mcmahon
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Feb 14, 2018
Wil Murray
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Jul 12, 2020
Glenn Pillsbury
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Aug 23, 2018
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May 15, 2018
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