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Enter This Lottery For A Guided Exploration Of The Recently-Opened Backbone Trail

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The Backbone Trail. (Photo by Phil Calvert via the LAist Featured Photos pool on Flickr)
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Applications to enter the lottery for the yearly Backbone Trail Program open Wednesday. The yearly Backbone Trail Program is a recreational hike exploring all 67 miles of the Backbone Trail over the course of eight, seven-hour segments. Because of the organized nature of the program, the National Park Service only offers a limited number of spots in the hiking group.

The National Park Service will accept applications online until September 30, after which it will randomly select three dozen participants for the January-May 2018 trail program. NPS compiles a wait list as well. They request injury-free hikers for whom the trail is neither too difficult nor too easy. In the application, you can sign up for yourself and one other adult (or minor child).

The Backbone Trail is a National Recreation Trail that traverses the Santa Monica Mountains and the best-protected section of coastal Mediterranean habitat in the world, according to NPS. The trail offers views of the ocean, rock formations, and extensive inland views. Its lowest point is 25 ft. above sea level (in Point Mugu State Park) and its highest point is 3,111 ft. above sea level at Sandstone Peak. The trail was completed in 2016 after years of private and public donations to acquire all the land parcels required to stitch the trail together. When it was completed, Joe Edmiston of the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy described it "as iconic as the John Muir Trail in the Sierra Nevada and the Appalachian Trail in the East," according to the L.A. Times.

Because of the length of the trail and minimal locations for camping, NPS recommends exploring the trail via their annual program. The average length of each of its hiking segments is 8.5 miles, so the Parks Service describes the experience as an "interpretive hike not a fitness hike." Within the hikes, there will be breaks for "discussions on botany, geology, geography, local Native American tribes and other topics," according to L.A. Daily News.

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If you get selected via the lottery, you must be available for the program's orientation on the fourth Sunday in October. Also, make sure to block off the second and fourth Saturday from January to May of next year; you wouldn't want to miss a hike when there is a huge wait list of people who will gladly take your place.