The Rachel Carson Trail Challenge registration process


Because of high demand and a limited number of spots, entry into the Rachel Carson Trail Challenge is determined in a series of selection rounds, which is a type of lottery where you can increase your selection odds. See the karma page for more information on how to do that. The registration process described here only applies to the Full Challenge and the Homestead Challenge, not the Friends & Family Challenge.


To enter, simply click the Sign Up button and fill out the form when it's available on the registration site in March. You won't be asked for payment information at that point. Once every 7-10 days, from March to May, the system will run a selection round by taking all the sign-ups and ordering them by the person's karma, from highest to lowest.

Then it'll allocate an available spot to the person with the highest karma, then the next highest, and so on until there are no more spots, or no more sign-ups. Many people will have the same amount of karma and within such groups, the selection process is random.

It's important to note that karma is only a factor when there are more signups than available spots.

After the selection round, you'll be notified by email of the results. If you're selected, you'll have until the next selection round (7-10 days) to pay and complete your registration. If you don't, your entry will be cancelled at the start of the round, and the spot allocated to you will be made available to someone else.

If you are not selected, it means there were more signups than available spots. Your entry will remain in the system for the next selection round, giving you the opportunity in the meantime to earn karma to increase your chances.

Keep in mind that sometimes a high number of spots allocated in a selection round are never claimed, possibly because of an incorrect email address or the person decided not to participate. So even if you weren't selected in this round, there may be spots available in the next one.

Finally, the date you signed up is not considered during the selection process. That means there's no need to rush to your computer to be the first to sign up for a selection round.


If you need to withdraw your registration after payment, a portion of your entry fee will be refundable. You can also withdraw if you haven't been selected and don't want your sign-up to be considered in subsequent rounds.

To withdraw, click the link in your Confirmation email, then click the Withdraw button at the bottom, then review and confirm your withdrawal.

If you don't have your Confirmation email, see the FAQ below for instructions on accessing your entry via the website.


Answers to common questions:

  1. Do I need karma to get into the Challenge?

    Not necessarily. As more selection rounds occur, the number of spots available decreases. Therefore, you're less likely to need karma in the first and second selection rounds. Remember, karma is only needed once the number of signups exceeds the number of spots available.

  2. How do I know how much karma I need to get a spot?

    In the selection process, karma is relative. The amount you need depends on the karma of everyone else in the selection round and the number of spots available. Selected entries can be claimed up until the moment before a selection round occurs, and signups can be submitted at the last minute as well. Thus, neither the available spots nor the amount of karma needed can be predicted.

  3. I want to participate in the Challenge with a group of people. How can we ensure we all get in?

    Every entry is considered individually. Each person in the group should try to earn karma. People who live out of town can donate to the Conservancy, or become a member. Alternatively, try to find people with karma willing to gift it to you and your friends. Finally, if one or more of you is selected, you can then gift your karma (which you no longer need this year) to your friends who weren't selected, to increase their chances in the next round.

  4. How do you associate my sign up entry with my karma?

    The sign up form has fields for your name, gender, and birthdate. These are the fields the system uses to uniquely identify you. Once your entry is submitted, an RCTC ID will be assigned. You can see this value at the top of your sign up form.

  5. I did the Challenge several times years ago but can no longer participate. Did I earn karma for that? Can I give it to a friend?

    Yes, you earned participation karma. To gift karma, first ensure your friend has an account on the My RCTC site, and have him tell you his RCTC ID (shown on his Account page). Note that having an RCTC ID alone is not enough; an account must also exist for that ID. Then log on to the site under your name and ensure it shows your karma earned. Next click Karma at the top, then click the Gift Karma button. Enter his RCTC ID and the karma amount you want to give him. Remember, gifted karma cannot be revoked. If you want it back, your friend will have to gift it back to you.

  6. I need to withdraw from the Challenge, but have a friend who wants to take my place. How do I transfer my registration?

    Registrations are not transferable. You're entitled to a partial refund, so you should withdraw from the Challenge so your spot is recovered (see Withdrawals, above). It will then be made available in the next selection round.

  7. Why do donations earn karma? Can't someone effectively buy entry into the Challenge this way instead of volunteering?

    While donating increases your karma and therefore the likelihood of your entry being selected, it doesn't guarantee it. Moreover, people who live elsewhere and cannot volunteer for the Conservancy need the ability to earn karma.

  8. What happens if I sign up for both the Full Challenge and the Homestead Challenge?

    Only one signup is considered for each person in the selection round. If you have more than one (even if they're for different courses), whichever is the most recent entry is considered. Older entries are ignored and will be automatically cancelled.

  9. What happens if I sign up multiple times?

    Only your most recent entry is considered; older entries are ignored and will be automatically cancelled. Please don't consider signing up multiple times and varying your name or birthdate slightly, as that will cause a new RCTC ID to be assigned which will have no karma. Furthermore, once your entry is selected you won't be able to alter your name, gender, or birthdate, so be sure this information is accurate.

  10. I am registered for the Full Challenge; how can I switch to the Homestead Challenge (or vice versa)?

    You will need to withdraw from the Full Challenge (you may be entitled to a partial refund), then sign up for the Homestead Challenge for consideration in the next selection round. If you are selected, you will need to register and pay again. If you sign up without withdrawing your registration, your signup will be cancelled in the selection round because the system will see that you are already registered.

  11. Why are there multiple selection rounds? Won't all the spots be allocated in the first one?

    It's unlikely that all available spots will be claimed in the first selection round. We also offer refunds to encourage those who can no longer participate to withdraw, thus making those spots available.

  12. I signed up but never received any selection notices, or I can't find my Confirmation email.

    After submitting the signup form, a confirmation email will be sent to you within a few minutes. If you do not receive it, you may have mistyped your email address, or our emails have been routed to your Spam folder.

    In any case, you may check the status of your entry at any time via the My RCTC site. Create an account on the site, log in, and click Participation at the top. Your signup will be shown there; click on it to open it. Do this even if you didn't have a My RCTC account before signing up. When an account is created on the site, the system will find any entries having the same name, gender, and birthdate and automatically associate them with the account.

    If you see more than one entry for this year, that means you've signed up multiple times. All but one of them will be automatically cancelled during the selection round, or you may click the Withdraw button on the superfluous ones yourself. If you don't see an entry but you know you submitted one, the system didn't associate the entry with your My RCTC account. Contact for assistance.