You don’t need to have lived downtown for thirty years to see that Austin is rapidly becoming more urbanized.

According to Forbes’ 2015 list, Austin ranks as the number two fastest-growing city in the United States. The race to claim the title of “tallest building in town” is always burning hot, with The Independent, a 685-foot Jenga-style condominium, slated to top The Austonian‘s mere 683-foot frame upon its completion. And Hotel Granduca just announced that it’s bought a sweet little spot along Loop 360.

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However, unlike other fast-growing cities in Texas — and thanks to generous nature-lovers like Andrew Zilker and J. E. “Pete” Smith — Austin has largely proved unwilling to sacrifice its natural spaces on the altars of metropolitan progress. For locals and visitors alike who are looking to breathe fresh air and walk off some of that nine-to-five stress, Austin trails come in all varieties. Some are paved and easy, while others are much more rugged and challenging. While each is loved and appreciated, particularly by their neighbors, we have some strong opinions about which ones are best.

Seriously, these Austin trails are so gorgeous and so readily accessible, you’ll feel like you’re being bear hugged by Mother Nature herself. If you’re feeling stressed out, anxious, or just need to burn off some energy, this is where you need to be.

1) Our Favorite Austin Trail By Far Is Barton Creek Greenbelt

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A section of the Barton Creek Greenbelt Trail. Photo: Flickr user Brandon Turner, CC licensed

The first and most obvious trail network on our list of amazing hiking trails in Austin is the Barton Creek Greenbelt system. Boasting nearly eight miles of crushed gravel and dirt trails along its main trail, the Barton Creek Greenbelt network stretches from the Zilker Hillside Theater‘s and Barton Springs Pool‘s parking lot out west and under Mopac and Loop 360 to the Hill of Life* on Camp Craft Rd. There are also a number of non-loop side trails included in the trail network, some of which lead to beloved swimming holes, such as Twin and Sculpture Falls and Gus Fruh, and rock climbing walls. The greenbelt welcomes cyclists and leashed dogs as well as hikers, so brush up on your trail etiquette before you go!

* Expert Tip: Don’t attempt to mountain bike Hill of Life unless you know what you’re doing.

512-477-1566. Open daily sunrise to sunset. Free. Bikes, dogs on leash OK. Main Trail Overview Map. Detailed Trail System Map.

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Photo via Wikimedia Commons.

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