Thornburg Conservation Park & Insurrection AleWorks

Heidelberg, PA

There’s nothing quite like a good local hike. A place that you can pop over to on a weeknight for some quick nature time. Even better when there’s a great brewery nearby too! J and I are super lucky that the Thornburg Conservation Park is very close to our home! I love to walk the grassy trails in the Conservation Park area and then add on Johnson’s Trail along Chartier’s Creek. This is a really nicely maintained trail that runs in between the creek and the railroad trails almost all the way to Carnegie. It’s very quiet and peaceful and the perfect place to unwind on a Friday after work!

THE HIKE: Thornburg Conservation Park and Johnson’s Trail

Length: 3.5 miles
Elevation Gain: 75 ft
Difficulty: Easy
Time: 1-1.5 hours
Trail use: Hiking, nature walks, biking, leashed pets (Note: no pets on Wednesdays or Sundays)
Parking: Lot for about 10 cars at entrance.
H&H: 4/5

The Thornburg Conservation Park was built on the site of the Former Crafton golf club. This 9-hole course opened in 1923 and operated for decades until the family sold the property in 2001. After a years long legal battle, the Borough of Thornburg was able to crowdsource the funds to purchase the nearly 40 acre park and turn it into the beautiful place that it is today! 

There are two main sections to this greenspace. First is the Conservation park which features about 2 miles of flat trails laid out in the grid. The park is perfectly located at a bend in the Chartiers Creek so it is bordered on two sides by the water. The trails are wide and grassy, separated by large areas of trees and shrubs. This is a great park for family walks as the ground is very flat and there’s no difficult inclines. This is also a great park for birdwatching and I’ve even heard of people seeing bald eagles along the Creek! 

The second part of the park is Johnson’s Trail which follows along the Creek towards Carnegie. This trail is not maintained by Thornburg. Quite honestly, I wasn’t able to find out any information about who originally made the trail or maintains it now but I wish I could give them a shout out because it’s a very nicely cut trail. There are several small bridges made of railroad ties over stream crossings that are very solidly made. Due to the nature of the area, the trail can get a bit muddy so use caution! I really loved exploring this trail but don’t be surprised if it seems dirty. Because it’s on the creek’s floodplain, trash often gets washed up along the shore. I’d love to organize a cleanup day soon, who’s with me?! 

Johnson’s trail is about 1.5 miles one way and leads all the way to the railroad tracks near Carnegie. I’ve heard rumors about wanting to extend this trail into Carnegie and eventually meeting up with the proposed Panhandle Trail extension into Carnegie. I’ll keep you posted on this project because I’m highly intrigued! Johnson’s Trail is a simple out and back but I found it to be quite beautiful and extremely peaceful. It was surprisingly remote for being in the middle of suburbia and I just felt like a weight was lifted off my shoulders while walking along the water. 

I especially recommend this park to locals of the Crafton, Thornburg, and Carnegie areas. It’s so great to get out in your own backyard! But of course, this is a great place for anyone wanting to explore the greenways of Allegheny County. Afterwards, may I suggest a trip to our favorite local brewery? 

THE BEER: Insurrection AleWorks

Address: 1635 E Railroad St, Heidelberg, PA 15106
Distance from Trail Head: 4.8 miles, 12 mins 
Food?:  Full Menu
Details: Covered Patio, No Pets
H&H Rating: 5/5

Insurrection AleWorks has been our local brewery ever since it opened in 2015! They’ve now got two locations, the original taproom with a full menu in Heidelberg and the weekend taproom in the Strip District. I’ve been to both locations, but I will always love the original taproom. Fair warning though, it’s a VERY popular little place and tables can be hard to come by! Although their menu is delicious, we usually just grab a corner to have some beer instead of waiting for a table. 

I know I say this all the time, but Insurrection makes exceptionally good beers. They are for certain in my top 5 favorite Pittsburgh breweries, if not my top 5 overall! They always make a really wide range of beers, but I feel that their pale ales and IPAs are really where they shine. I have to give honorable mention to their dark beer offerings too. They don’t make a whole lot of dark beers, but their Dark Star Crashes has got to be one of my all time favorite oatmeal stouts. On this particular visit, my favorite beer of the night was actually the ONIP. This was originally a Russian Stout but to show support for Ukrainians, they re-named it the Ukrainian Anti-Imperial Stout and are donating $1.00 from every beer sold to Red Cross efforts in Ukraine. Way to go Insurrection! Nothing like supporting a great cause while also having a delicious beer. 

Overall, Insurrection is a fantastic local brewery where you’ll feel like family. They’ve got a cozy taproom with good food and good beer! And if you’re just in for a beer, might I suggest grabbing some takeout from Brick N Mortar just down the street. These guys make some of the best sandwiches ever and you have to try their homemade tortilla chips. Insurrection and Brick N Mortar is honestly my favorite date night combo!

Our Beer:

  • Casting Hypnotic – NEIPA- 6.5%
  • Buddha’s Intelligent Design – Imperial Stout – 8%
  • Finsternis – Bavarian Dark Lager – 5%
  • ONIP – Ukrainian Anti-Imperial Stout – 9%

SUM UP: Thornburg Conservation Park is a large greenspace located just outside of the city limits, off of Route 60 in Thornburg Borough. It’s open for hiking, birdwatching, and leashed pets, although pets do need a permit and are not permitted on Wednesdays and Sundays. The wide, grassy paths make this a great spot for families or an easy nature walk. Off the park is Johnson’s Trail which meanders along Chartier’s Creek for a peaceful hike. Afterward, grab a beer and food at Insurrection AleWorks in Heidelberg which always has some high quality brews. If you go soon, try the ONIP Anti-Imperial Stout which they’re donating some proceeds toward Ukrainian relief.