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Cover for On the Trail

On the Trail

A History of American Hiking

Silas Chamberlin


List Price: 18.00*
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Other Editions of This Title:
Hardcover (10/25/2016)


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 the unique history of the American hiking community and its rich, nationwide culture.
Delving into unexplored archives, including those of the Appalachian Mountain Club, Sierra Club, Green Mountain Club, and many others, Silas Chamberlin recounts the activities of hikers who over many decades formed clubs, built trails, and advocated for environmental protection. He also discusses the shifting attitudes of the late 1960s and early 1970s when ideas about traditional volunteerism shifted and new hikers came to see trail blazing and maintenance as government responsibilities. Chamberlin explores the implications for hiking groups, future club leaders, and the millions of others who find happiness, inspiration, and better health on America’s trails.

Praise For On the Trail: A History of American Hiking

“An excellent introduction to the history of hiking in the U.S.”—Sarah Mittlefehldt, American Historical Review

“This winning, thought-provoking book offers insight into a relatively unknown aspect of environmental history.”—Library Journal, starred review

“A wonderful addition to both special and general collections. It will also be useful for seasoned researchers and general readers with a strong interest in the history of hiking.”—Choice

"The book provides an excellent introduction to the history of hiking in the U.S. and opens new avenues for research that have long lingered on the peripheries of historical scholarship."—Sarah Mittlefehldt, American Historical Review

“Silas Chamberlin. . . . has written the first comprehensive account of [hiking].”—Charles Petersen, New York Review of Books

“With rich historical context Silas Chamberlin inspires new appreciation for trailblazers, while sharing the legacy of hiking and its growing importance today, as people find their way to a new relationship with the natural world.”—Richard Louv, author of Last Child in the Woods and Vitamin N

“A must-read for anyone interested in the evolution of hiking. The kind of hikers we are has roots in a winding historical path that Silas Chamberlin unravels with insider's knowledge and scholarship.”—Laura Waterman, author of The Green Guide to Low Impact Hiking and Camping

“Silas Chamberlain views the past with fresh eyes, and through him readers learn how American hiking evolved from a communally produced activity into an individualistic act of consumption. This is a smart and timely book.”—Joseph E. Taylor III, author of Making Salmon and Pilgrims of the Vertical

“A highly detailed and engaging look at the foundational role hiking clubs have played both trail building and the conservation movement – and a reminder of the need to engage a new generation in this mission.”—John Judge, President and CEO, Appalachian Mountain Club

“Chamberlin has demonstrated that what at first looks simple—walking on our own two feet—has a complex history of changing cultural associations, social infrastructure, and national significance.” —James Longhurst, University of Wisconsin – La Crosse

Yale University Press, 9780300249668, 272pp.

Publication Date: September 24, 2019

About the Author

Silas Chamberlin is an independent scholar who speaks and writes widely about past and current trail policy.