A Pair of Denver Neighborhood Twins
Sitting next to each other like twins, the Mar Lee and Westwood neighborhoods in West Denver are two forgotten treasures. They share Federal and Sheridan as their east/west borders, with Westwood to the north starting at Alameda, stopping at Mississippi where Mar Lee starts, ending at Jewell. You can take a 5-mile amble through these two neighborhoods, meeting kind people, walking along two gulches, and getting to know these secret areas of west Denver.
The Shinier Westwood
Westwood has gotten more attention in the news than its southern neighbor, Mar Lee. With Morrison Road running diagonally through it and home to Westwood Park, the City of Denver plans to spend almost $1 million upgrading, renovating, and beautifying the area.
The heartbeat of play in the middle of Westwood is Westwood Park. This newly renovated park invites the melting pot of Westwood out to play. With a nature play area that has a fun manual pump for kids to create a watery, muddy, sandy play time, you’ll find enough playground structures for your smalls, mediums and bigs. All sizes can also romp around the fallen timber area, crawling under logs and over branches. There’s a fun loop through the park that passes several pollinator gardens, and adults (and kids too!) can workout on the outdoor fitness machines. 7 laps around the loop equals a mile. At the northern edge of the park in what used to be a dirt field where drivers did donuts in their trucks has now become a grassy open space. You’ll find volleyball nets set up by the neighborhood athletes looking for some high energy recreation.
Westwood homes several large night clubs featuring Spanish-speaking artists, many local Mexican restaurants, and World War II housing.
Been Here a Long Time
While walking along, I came across a yard sale. The owner had lived in her home since she was 3 (or for 63 years!) She stated that her house was the first home built in the neighborhood. She said it originally was a barrack. Considering how the neighborhood grew in response to rise of the Ordnance factory in what is now Lakewood, it’s no surprise a few barracks-turned-homes show up in Westwood.
Hello Mar Lee
Crossing into Mar Lee over Mississippi was uneventful. Yards became a bit neater, and many of the tiny WWII homes still stand. Some not even 1000 square feet, these 1940 doll-house sized homes give way to 1960s brick split levels as we made our way toward Sanderson Gulch.
The heartbeat of Mar Lee is the Garfield Lake Park. In the past, folks came to Garfield Lake, named after President James Garfield, to walk around the lake and get a little exercise in at the fitness center. A chin up here, a sit up there. They might even cast a line for black crappie, largemouth bass, bluegill, channel catfish and common carp. But then Great Outdoors Colorado (GOCO) took a look at the park and decided it needed some freshening up.
GoCo talked with the neighborhood kids, and they all came out to help build a bike skills course. This ½ mile track, over small bridges, ramps, and dirt bumps also escape out onto the lake for a crossing on a floating bridge. Caregivers can watch from the inside of the track, or jog along the smaller tots as they stride their way around the track. Once the kids are done on their bikes, they can hustle over to the playground and run across the rope bridges.
Off to the southeastern edge of the park, you can take your chance at Futsal, a variant of association football. Although it’s usually played on a hard court, smaller than a football pitch, here at Garfield Lake, it’s played outdoors. Many people think of Futsal as a 5-sided football game.
Enjoy the Gulches!
Sanderson Gulch, a nice trail that leads to the Platte River, runs along the southern end of Mar Lee. Together with the Weir Gulch in Westwood, it’s easy to make a large 5-mile loop between the two neighborhoods. Take advantage of both, hooking up through Mar Lee to Westwood via the fabulous Garfield Park.
A Few New Places, But Not Many
Walking through Mar Lee and Westwood is a pleasant surprise. Although these neighborhoods were quickly thrown up in the 1940s with limited thought for code or longevity, they have survived the wax and wane of neighborhood growth and change. You’ll see a new higher density set of buildings going in, but for the most part, the neighborhood homes have stayed the same. After walking neighborhoods like Highland, Hale, and Jefferson Park, it’s nice to see things stay the same.
The Route (click for an interactive map):
Start at 629 S Wolff St. Jump on the Weir Gulch trail on the west side of the street.
Take the Gulch to Sheridan. Turn left.
Turn left on Ohio. Take that to Yates. Turn left (north) on Yates for a few steps, taking a right on W Ohio St to Westwood Park.
Take a right into the park, walking through the park to W Kentucky Ave. Take a right, then a left on S Yates St. At Morrison, admire the Welcome to Westwood sign, then turn left on Sheridan.
Take a left on W Arizona St. Take a right on Wolff. Cross over Mississippi into Mar Lee. Continue to Mexico St.
Take a left on Mexico, and when you can, jig to the right to get on the Sanderson Gulch.
Stay on the Gulch until you take a left (north) on Newport.
Follow Newport to Garfield Park. There’s a nice Denver Park and Rec restroom in the park, and if you’re lucky, a man selling ice cream cones!
Walk north through the park past the lake and next to the single-track bike trail. At W Mosier Place, exit the park to the left, then turn right on S Patton Ct.
Cross Mississippi back into Westwood. Continue to W Ohio Ave and take a left.
Cross over Morrison, turning north on Utica St. At W Exposition Ave, take a left.
Take a right on S Wolff St, returning back to the start at Weir Gulch.
Discovering Westwood and Mar Lee While Supporting DenverByFoot
If you’ve enjoyed this walk, maybe you’ll enjoy some other walks curated by Denver By Foot. Get the 52 Hikes 52 Weeks Denver Calendar, which recommends a hike a week, subscribe to the YouTube Channel to hear about weekly hiking suggestions in Denver, and buy access to the Denver By Foot Challenge. The Challenge is 30 activities in Denver to do by foot where you’ll uncover treasures throughout Denver. It’s a great thing to do with friends and family, or even along during our lock down.
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See you on the trail!