- Associated Press - Thursday, May 26, 2016

LOS ANGELES (AP) - Hearty hikers will soon be able to travel an uninterrupted 67-mile path along the canyons and peaks of the Santa Monica Mountains.

After decades of planning and deal-making, all sections of the Backbone Trail will be connected next month between Point Mugu State Park and Will Rogers State Historic Park, the National Park Service announced Thursday.

The trail with spectacular ocean views has been slowly stitched together since the 1960s, thanks to public funding and private donations to acquire land.

The National Park Service recently closed escrow on a 40-acre donation by former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and fitness pioneer Betty Weider.

Within 10 days, the agency expects escrow to close on two remaining parcels along a fire road known as the Etz Meloy Motorway.

The agency will commemorate completion of the trail at a ceremony at Will Rogers park on National Trails Day, June 4.

“The Backbone Trail offers the primo, sustained outdoor experience in Southern California,” said Joe Edmiston, who has been hiking the Santa Monica Mountains since the 1970s.

Edmiston, 67, is longtime executive director of the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy. He told the Los Angeles Times (http://lat.ms/1OOXNhW ) that the trail is as iconic as the John Muir Trail in the Sierra Nevada and the Appalachian Trail.

The three new properties are among 180 individual tracts that have been acquired over the decades by the National Park Service, California Department of Parks and Recreation, Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy and Mountains Recreation and Conservation Authority.

Unlike the unbroken wilderness of Yellowstone or Yosemite, the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area is a patchwork of private and public land that has made charting the singular path a challenge.

As conceived more than a half-century ago, the trail would pass through old forests and chaparral highlands, offering views of the Channel Islands to the south and as far north as the Tehachapi range.

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