A Beautiful Friendship: AMC Salutes the National Park Service Centennial

National Park Service Centennial


In honor of the National Park Service’s 2016 centennial, we look back at its long and fruitful alliance with AMC

Although the National Park Service officially came into being in 1916, AMC’s involvement in laying the federal bureau’s groundwork stretches back decades, to the twilight of the 19th century.

As early as the 1890s, AMC assisted in crafting proposals for parks that would become some of the nation’s most beloved, including the 1894 call for Mount Rainier’s designation, spearheaded by the club’s corresponding secretary, journalist John Ritchie Jr., and the 1926 expansion of Sequoia National Park, heralded by one-time club president Phillip W. Ayres.

In addition to its work out west, AMC played a visionary role in projects closer to home. In 1900, the club petitioned in favor of the so-called National Appalachian Park, some two decades before the creation of Shenandoah (1926) and Great Smoky Mountains (1934) national parks.

Then, of course, there’s Acadia, first envisioned by the landscape architect and former AMC councillor of topography Charles Eliot as a “refreshing antidote to city life.” The coastal preserve began to take shape when Eliot’s father, Charles W., and George B. Dorr, both AMC members, donated the land that, in 1916, became Sieur de Monts National Monument, then Lafayette National Park in 1919, then Acadia in 1929. (Read more on Acadia, which celebrates its own centennial this year.)

When the Society for the Preservation of National Parks was established in 1909, AMC was there too. With the mission “to preserve from destructive invasion our National Parks—Nature’s Wonderlands,” the society’s advisory council counted luminaries such as Allen Chamberlain, AMC’s councillor of exploration, alongside John Muir.

We also showed support for national parks simply by showing up. From the first decade of the 20th century, AMC members organized club expeditions to the great landscapes of the west—a tradition that continues in August Camp and Adventure Travel. Although predominantly recreational in nature, these early trips often included scientific and exploratory elements. At their heart was a push for preservation, sometimes framed in practical terms of erosion control or water conservation: a marriage of conservation and recreation familiar to present members.

The stunning photos on these pages, taken largely from the AMC Library & Archives, reveal just a fraction of those trips’ wildness, playfulness, and unbridled love of nature, a legacy AMC members continue to live outdoors with enthusiasm today. Click through the slideshow above to see the living history.


Acadia National Park also turns 100 in 2016. Read more about AMC’s century-plus of recreation and conservation on Maine’s Mount Desert Island.


To book your spot on any of the AMC trips to national parks listed below, visit activities.outdoors.org.

  • July 22–24, 2016 | Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area (DWG), NJ
    Dark Skies Getaway: Join astonomer Douglas Arion for a weekend of stargazing and hiking at AMC’s Mohican Outdoor Center, located within the DWG.
  • Sept. 4–Oct. 1, 2016 | Acadia National Park, ME
    Volunteer Vacation: Give back to the trails while experiencing this park in its centennial year.
  • Sept. 8–9, 2016 | Fire Island National Seashore, NY
    FINS Trek: Hike to the lighthouse, with an overnight stay at AMC’s Fire Island Cabin.
  • Oct. 21–24, 2016 | Acadia National Park, ME
    Acadia Autumn Getaway: Lace up for easy to moderate day hikes, with hotel lodging.
  • Jan. 17–25, 2017: Yellowstone National Park, ID/MT/WY
    Backcountry Skiing: Get set for geysers, wildlife, and lots of snow. All ages and ability levels.
  • April 21–30, 2017: Death Valley, CA/NV
    Explore Death Valley: Experience the badlands, slot canyons, hot springs, and mountains of the lowest, hottest, driest spot on the continent.
  • April 29–May 7, 2017: Guadalupe Mountains National Park and Carlsbad Caverns, TX/NM
    Spring Hiking: View desert flowers, rocky peaks,sheer cliffs, rugged canyons, and one of the most beautiful cavern systems in the world.
  • June 30–July 9, 2017: Denali National Park, AK
    Wild Alaska Sampler: Start conditioning. This trip is designed for intermediate hikers able to hike 10 miles a day through backcountry terrain.
  • July 22–30, 2017: Rocky Mountain National Park, CO
    Wildflowers and Mount Elbert: Have those cameras ready for awesome wildflower displays on 8- to 12-mile hikes (10,000 to 13,000 feet).


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Rebecca M. Fullerton

Rebecca M. Fullerton is AMC’s archivist and de-facto historian. When not documenting club history, she can be found painting, hiking, running, and flatwater paddling New England’s wild places.

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