When I go out exploring in and around Pittsburgh, one of the things I like to do is look at the map and see what kind of public parks and spaces are near me. More often than not these turn out to be simple playgrounds or parklets that do not warrant an article, but every once in a while I discover something amazing that I never knew was there.
The Thornburg conservation area is one of those places, and after visiting this one I can safely say that I look forward to returning many times in the future.
What You Can See at the Thornburg Conservation Area
The Thornburg conservation area is located just outside of Pittsburgh's city limits near the Fairywood neighborhood on the southwest side. Surrounded by an industrial park, this one is quite out of place from what you'd expect- yet the park is there all the same.
As this park is a conservation area, the vast majority of the grounds are set for the natural vegetation to grow without interference. Apart from a few cut paths it is just you and wild nature in any given direction.
Our favorite part about this park is not the vegetation, but rather that Chartiers Creek passes by on two of the four sides. Unlike other creeks and rivers in the city, this is one of the few instances where there is no man made constructions nearby whatsoever. There is no sidewalk, no power lines, and even no signs. It is just you, the creek, and nothing else.
If you want to be absolutely alone in nature without having to drive a far distance from the city, this one is certainly a stop to consider.
Walking at the Thornburg Conservation Area
Out of all of the parks we've featured on this site, the Thornburg conservation area is by far the easiest to navigate. To put it simply, this park is set on a giant grid, with one large square perimeter (roughly 1.5 miles long) and several dissecting paths crossing in between. Even better, the paths are well maintained and quite wide, making this one easily accessible for all skill levels.
You enter the park in the northwest corner, and can either head south or east on the outside of the grid. Head in either direction and you will hit the Chartier's Creek which wraps around on the east and south sides respectively as you make a giant loop. A few internal trails are also present, so you can easily make a hike that includes creek views as well as foliage views- perfect for any outing.
We recommend heading south (straight) as you enter because the only potential area where you could get lost is to the southwest as a secondary trail continues down quite a bit along the creek towards Carnegie and signs are not readily available to stop you. All you have to do is turn left (east) when you reach the creek and you'll loop back around with ease.
Thornburg conservation area is an easy trip from Pittsburgh; however, keep in mind that dogs are not allowed on the trail on Wednesdays and Sundays and require a permit to be on the grounds (more info here).
Looking for more hikes in and around Pittsburgh? Check out the amazing book “60 Hikes Within 60 Miles: Pittsburgh Edition” that we are working through as a part of this series. If you are interested in day hikes near the city we highly recommend picking this one up!