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Trail Clubs: Connecting People with the Mountains

About this exhibition

Museum Exhibition Dates: March 31, 2015 – March 2, 2016

Exhibition Locations: Museum of the White Mountains, Main Gallery

Online Exhibition: View here

Exhibition Catalog: Read here (pdf)

Exhibition Press Release: Read here

Exhibition Films: Building a Wood Frame Shelter and The Art of Building: John Nininger

Photo courtesy of Mike Dickerman.

For 140 years trail clubs have been instrumental in the development of the White Mountains as a destination for visitors and residents seeking physical exertion, scenic beauty, spiritual refreshment, and hearty fellowship on mountain trails.

The clubs were formed for several purposes: to explore remote regions of the mountains, away from the usual tourist routes; to organize group “tramping” excursions for members, providing opportunities for hikers to socialize; and, perhaps most importantly, to work on trails, whether creating new trails, or maintaining existing trails. Over the decades the work of trail clubs has expanded to include conservation, education, and community involvement, while others have stuck to their original roots in trail work.

Though some peaked and then faded into oblivion, many of the clubs founded in the late 1800s and early 1900s are still active in the 21st century and can take pride in many lasting accomplishments.

The exhibition is organized around three key themes, each representing the contribution of trail clubs to the outdoor recreation landscape:

1. Sense of Place: Trail clubs help people connect not just to the activity of hiking but also to the club’s local region and the White Mountain region as a whole.

2. Sense of Purpose: Trail clubs leverage their resources and the resources of their members to create and maintain trails, educate visitors, and advocate for natural spaces.

3. Sense of Belonging: Trail clubs create opportunities for people to be part of a community and socialize with others.

The exhibition also includes a full-scale, handcrafted log shelter donated by John Nininger, owner of the Wooden House Co., Ltd., Newbury, Vermont. Following the exhibition the shelter will be dismantled and rebuilt by the Cohos Trail Association along their long-distance trail in Northern New Hampshire, continuing the age-old tradition of trail clubs bringing volunteers together to benefit the hiking community.

Educational Materials

Educational materials courtesy of the Appalachian Trail Conservancy.


Project Director: 

Catherine Amidon, director, Museum of the White Mountains

Curatorial Team: 

Ben Amsden, rural sociologist, Director, Center for Rural Partnerships, Plymouth State University

Mike Dickerman, author, publisher, co-editor of the Appalachian Mountain Club Guide (2010 – present)

Steve Smith, author, co-editor of the Appalachian Mountain Club Guide (2001 – present)