On October 19, 1920 local hiking clubs gathered in the Log Cabin atop the Abercrombie & Fitch sporting goods store in New York City. The meeting was proposed by Meade C. Dobson of the Boy Scouts and organized by Major William A. Welch, general manager of the Palisades Interstate Park Commission to plan a system of hiking trails to make Harriman-Bear Mountain State Park more accessible to the public. In addition to Welch and Dobson, those attending included Raymond H. Torrey, who edited the Outings page of the New York Evening Post, and included representatives from the Appalachian Mountain Club, the Fresh Air Club, the Green Mountain Club, the Tramp and Trail Club, the Associated Mountaineering Clubs of America and the League of Walkers. Major Welch guided the organization during its first ten years. Raymond Torrey served as its Secretary. The first trails built were the Ramapo-Dunderberg, the Timp-Torne, the Tuxedo-Mount Ivy Trails, and the Boy Scouts' White Bar Trail; all are still in use.
In 1922 a proposal by forester Benton MacKaye to build a 2100-mile trail from Maine to Georgia (subsequently named the Appalachian Trail) was publicized by the New York Evening Post. The project generated great enthusiasm, and on October 7, 1923, the first section of the trail, from Bear Mountain west through Harriman State Park to Arden, New York, was opened by groups of enthusiastic volunteers.
In 1923, the Palisades Interstate Trail Conference changed its name to the New York New Jersey Trail Conference. As more trails were built during the 1930s, a system of trail maintenance was developed giving each hiking club a share of responsibility. Over the ensuing years, as the number of miles of trails maintained has grown, the Trail Conference has relied on trained individual volunteers as well to maintain the trails. They also have developed skilled volunteer trail crews to repair and build trails. The organization, now located in Mahwah, NJ, is volunteer based.
The Trail Conference participates in, or attends in an advisory or information gathering capacity, a number of governmental, quasi-governmental, or not-for-profit agencies, including: