Southern Cross CDT to CT Loop
ElevationAscent: 18,650' 5,685 m
Descent: -18,649' -5,684 m
High: 12,596' 3,839 m
Low: 8,893' 2,710 m
GradeAvg Grade: 8% (5°)
Max Grade: 45% (24°)
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“A big loop from Leadville encompassing both the CDT and the CT.”— Steve Richards
There’s a discrepancy of almost 10 miles between the Databook and the GPX file, and it appears that the GPX file doesn’t account for the additional mileage associated with climbing and descending. If you add the climbing and descending into the mileage, it matches the Databook. All mileages shown are per the Databook.
Lightweight and pocket-sized, the CT Databook is the "Cliff Notes" version of the CT Guidebook. Users like carrying it and referring to it on the trail.
The Databook answers your questions, including: How far is the next reliable water? Where might I camp tonight? How many miles? Where can I resupply? Information is presented in an easy-to-understand system of key words and symbols, plus maps and elevation profiles for each of the trail segments. Link to the Colorado Trail Databook
While researching a six or seven day outing on the CDT or CT, we didn’t see any established routes that were shorter than the CDT to CT loop, which was much longer than we wanted. So we started looking for a way to go part way on the CDT and part way on the CT. We found a trail starting at Illinois Creek over Browns Pass that joined the CT at the Silver Creek Trailhead. So the following route starts near Leadville, travels south on the CDT to Illinois Creek, then travels east to join up with the CT (which we call the “Southern Cross”), then north on the CT back to Leadville.
On The Trail – Day 1
Mt. Massive TH south to mile 5.9, divert into Twin Lakes town, west out of town to join Willis Gulch trail, then join Collegiate West (CW)01 at mile 3.5 of CW01, then run 3.3 miles south to a campsite.
On the Trail – Day 2
CW01 southbound to CW02 southbound to mile 13.8 and campsite (Illinois Creek). At end of CW01 (mile 9.8) is 3-way intersection. Turn right to stay on CDT, straight 0.2 onto 390 to visit ghost towns. Join back on CDT after Winfield ghost town.
On the Trail – Day 3
Illinois Creek southbound on CW02 to mile 21.4, then east on Texas Creek Trail, over Browns pass to Kroenke Lake and campsite.
This section continues southbound on CW02 to mile 21.4, then turns east to (eventually) connect with the Colorado Trail (CT). Named crossover the “Southern Cross” because it’s the only trail that allows you to cut across from Collegiate West to Colorado Trail without having to go all the way south to where they join. End at Kroenke Lake to camp.
Continuing south 7.6 miles to mile 21.4, the trail drops 1,000 feet in the first 5 miles, then climbs 300 feet in the final 2.6 miles to the intersection of the Texas Creek Trail. Turn east for 4.4 miles to the intersection of Trail 369, turn south to climb Browns Pass. At the top of Browns Pass, turn left onto Trail 1448 for 2.5 miles to Kroenke Lake and campsite.
On the Trail – Day 4
Traveling north on the Colorado trail, the mile markers are “backward” because they’re measured from north-south. The mile markers listed will correspond to the Databook.
Kroenke Lake to Silver Creek Trailhead (CT12 south terminus), then northbound on CT12 to mile 8.1 and campsite (near Rainbow Lake)
On the Trail – Day 5
North on CT12 to join CT11 and continue north to campsite at mile 15
(Since we’re traveling north on the Colorado trail, the mile markers are “backward” because they’re measured from north-south. The mile markers listed will correspond to the Databook.)
On the Trail – Day 6
North on CT11 around Twin Lakes Reservoir and continue north to Mt. Massive TH
(Since we’re traveling north on the Colorado Trail, the mile markers are “backwards” because they’re measured from north-south. The mile markers listed will correspond to the Databook.)
This section starts out with a 2.8 mile run to the TH for the Interlaken Historical Site at the east end of Twin Lakes Reservoir, then an exposed and hot 4.1 mile journey around the north side of Twin Lakes Reservoir (no stopping on the dam), then back into the woods for the final 7.2 miles.
Remember that we left this same trail at mile 5.9 on Day 1 to shortcut into Twin Lakes and join up with Collegiate West 01? At mile 5.9, we retrace our track on the way back to the Mt. Massive TH. The good news is that this final 5.9 miles is basically flat(ish) and within the trees. Campsite at Mt. Massive TH or hotel in Leadville.
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Need to Know, Flora & Fauna, Runner Notes, History & Background