An Academic Amble through University Neighborhood

Potatoes. That’s what used to cover the land where the current University neighborhood is at Downing and University, I25 and Dartmouth. Dad Rufus H. “Potato” Clark was the great donor of the land, which developed into its current community. He amassed his fortune, making $30,000 one year on potatoes alone, soaking his land with water from the High Line Canal. The Bennett flume, between mile markers 16 and 17 on the High Line Canal carries the canal across Dad Clark Gulch. Likely named after Dad Clark, this gulch drains into the McLellan Reservoir.

Need a good pair of walking shoes? Get them at REI, where you can return them for a year.

Clark was an interesting fellow. A reformed alcoholic, he insisted that no alcohol could be made or sold on the land he donated; some older home’s deeds still contain this restriction! His land created the Highlands Ranch Golf Club, too. He donated a portion of his proceeds to the survivors of the Great Chicago Fire of 1871. The Potato King left quite a foot print south of Denver.

By the way, the Colorado Department of Agriculture declares February as Potato Lover’s Month. Here’s a fun Denver Potato recipe for you.

On this walk, you’ll travel through Clark’s donated acreage by mostly enjoying the grounds of the University of Denver. Whereas the University neighborhood used to be way out of town and away from the rough and tumble influence of Denver, it’s now a “college town” where most of the residents are somehow engaged with the University of Denver.

Old Buildings and a Chapel Invite You In

The University of Denver, still legally called Colorado Seminary, invites about 11000 students a year, both undergraduate and graduate, to study. Originally started in downtown Denver in 1864 and named after then territory governor John Evans, the school relocated to this area soon afterward. Many of the buildings on campus date from the late 1890s. Of interest is the small, centrally located Evans Chapel. This 1870s-vintage, originally located in downtown Denver, was moved to the DU campus in the early 1960s.

DU has remained a Denver institution. It graduated its first woman and first African-American in 1886 and 1900 respectively, and began the first Social Work program in the west. It remains a center for academic achievement and political influence.

Gulching It through the ‘Hood

The Harvard Gulch runs through University neighborhood. It connects Harvard Gulch Park to the Schlessman YMCA. You can meander for about 2.5 miles on it, passing by SR DeBoer Park. DeBoer, a landscape architect, designed Cheesman Park, Alamo Placita Park, City Park, Speer Boulevard, and the Bonnie Brae subdivision. He had huge impact on the overall aesthetic of Denver’s parks up and down the front range.

Fast and Fresh Food from Denver

Around the corner from the campus on Evans Blvd sits the original Chipotle. Started by Steve Ellis, who had graduated from the Culinary Institute of America, he originally thought he’d open a fine dining restaurant. But burritos prevailed, McDonalds invested (then divested), and the chain grew to become one of America’s favorite fast fresh burrito makers. Be sure to stop in and marvel at its size (small!).

Sadly, our Denver-born Chipotle moved its headquarters from Denver in 2018 to Los Angeles, and Ellis has been replaced by Taco Bell’s previous CEO, Brian Niccol.

Toss in a Turtle or Two to Taste

After checking out Denver’s famous fast fresh franchise, continue on the block to Deiter’s, the local’s favorite chocolate store. Be sure to try the dark chocolate turtle with pecans, a creamy deliciousness you won’t want to pass. Been there for over 15 years, be sure to support this family-owned business and buy some truffles for your honey!

The Route (Click for interactive map):

Start at 2199 E Harvard Ave. If you park, be sure to double-check the parking restrictions on your block. You’ll need about two hours. Look to your south across the small park and you’ll see the Harvard Gulch Trail. Jump on trail and walk west. At S Gilpin St, exit the trail to the north.

Follow Gilpin to to E Evans Ave, take a right. Enjoy the original Chipotle’s on the corner of Gilpin and Evans. Stop inside, grab a bite, use the restroom and imagine how this tiny place turned into an international powerhouse in fast-fresh food! At Evans, take a right, noticing the nice murals on the building walls.

Continue on Evans, past Deiter’s chocolate shop (stop in and take home a piece of chocolate!), taking a right after the Dricoll Center South, meandering up through the campus toward its center. If the chapel is open, enter and have a look inside. Be sure to respect anyone who might be in the chapel for religious reasons. Exit the chapel to the west, continuing your meander through campus. Be sure to be respectful of the campus rules and guidelines for visiting its buildings and the campus itself.

Reach S High St. Take a right. Cross over the park onto Harvard Gulch, taking it to the left (east) until you return back to your start. If you’re feeling like you want a few more steps, continue on the Harvard Gulch to Harvard Gulch Park. It’s a nice addition to this walk.

An Academic Amble through University Neighborhood and Supporting Denver By Foot

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.

Finally, please support Denver By Foot by purchasing Chris Englert’s books, The Best Urban Hikes: Denver and Discovering Denver Parks. Thank you so much!

Wasn’t this a fun walk?

~See you on the trail