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Where can I find a nearby western U.S. National Forest where I can (legally) cut my Christmas Tree on National Forest land?

There are National Forests all over the U.S. where you can legally cut down and take a Christmas tree home, for as little at $5 or $10. There are some rules and requirements, most importantly getting a permit well in advance. Very often, the forests allow only a limited number of trees to be cut, so you generally need to get your permit as soon as they allow it; that is usually early to mid November.

Click the links below for Christmas tree cutting permits in your area

  • Alaska
  • Arizona: northwest Arizona, northeast Arizona, southwest Arizona
  • Californa: El Dorado County,
    Northern Cal:
    Klamath - (530) 842- 6131 - Supervisor's Office, Yreka
    Lassen - (530) 257 - 2151 - Supervisor's Office, Susanville
    Mendocino - (530) 934 - 3316 - Supervisor's Office, Willows
    Modoc - (530) 233 - 5811 - Supervisor's Office, Alturas
    Plumas - (530) 283 - 2050 Supervisor's Office, Quincy
    Shasta-Trinity - (530) 244 - 2978 - Supervisor's Office, Redding
    Six Rivers - (707) 442 - 1721 Supervisor's Office, Eureka
    Humboldt-Toiyabe - (760) 932 - 7070 Bridgeport Ranger District, Bridgeport
  • Colorado: Pikes Peak Forest District, Denver area, northeast Colorado, Northwest Colorado, southeast Colorado, southwest Colorado,
  • Idaho: Northcentral Idaho, eastern Idaho
  • Michigan,
    • Hiawatha National Forest Christmas Tree Permit - Christmas trees-you choose and you cut,
      820 Rains Drive, Gladstone, MI 49837. Phone: 906-428-5800. This permit allows you to cut a Christmas Tree within designated areas of the Hiawatha National Forest. To purchase a Christmas tree permit online ($5 + small processing fee), either setup or login to a Recreation.gov account. Next, visit Hiawatha National Forest Christmas Tree Permits. It is important to carefully read the overview and need-to-know information prior to purchasing the permit. Select the type and number of Christmas tree permits desired. If a family member has the "Every Kid in a Park" pass, enter the voucher or pass number in the appropriate box. This will apply a discount for one free tree. Once the transaction is complete, you can download/print the permit. Downloadable/printable cutting area maps are also available for your convenience.
      In-Person: - To obtain a permit, in the form of a "tree tag" ($5), call your local Ranger District office. Along with your permit you will receive tree cutting guidelines, information regarding cutting areas, and suggestions for flame-proofing your tree. For more information, contact the US Forest Service at Munising (906) 387-2512; Rapid River (906) 474-6442; or St Ignace (906) 643-7900. Maximum of 3 trees at $5.00 per per tree
    • Huron-Manistee National Forest Christmas Tree Permit - Christmas trees-you choose and you cut,
      1755 S. Mitchell St, Cadillac, MI 49601. Phone: 231-775-2421. Open: We will be selling Christmas Tree permits from November 1 until the last day offices are open before Christmas, so you have plenty of time to come in and get one..
      You can also buy the tree permit online here. This permit allows you to cut a Christmas Tree within designated areas of the Huron-Manistee National Forests!
      Maximum of 3 trees at $5.00 per per tree.
  • Minnesota,
    • Chippewa National Forest Christmas Tree Permit - Christmas trees-you choose and you cut,
      Supervisor's Office, 200 Ash Avenue NW, Cass Lake, MN 56633. Phone: 218-335-8600. This permit allows you to cut a Christmas Tree within designated areas of the Chippewa National Forest! Christmas tree cutting on the Chippewa National Forest has been a holiday tradition for many years. Many families begin their holiday season by cutting their own Christmas tree from the national forests. All you need is a $5.00 permit, sharp axe, thermos of cocoa and a little patience. Away from the holiday rush, families discover the peace of the forest surrounded by winter white. Buy permits online here.
  • New Hampshire,
    • White Mountain National Forest Christmas Tree Permit - Christmas trees-you choose and you cut,
      71 White Mountain Dr, Campton, NH 03223. Phone: (603) 536-6100. This permit allows you to cut a Christmas Tree within designated areas of the White Mountain National Forest! Lifelong memories are built during these special times and we are happy to help with any information gathering you'll need to make this trip a safe and enjoyable one. Please be sure to read and agree to all the tips and guidelines when selecting your tree.
      You will need a permit to cut any Christmas tree in the National Forest. These can be purchased for $5 at any of the Forest offices beginning the Friday after Thanksgiving Day. Please call the specific Forest office to verify business hours. Need to know about Christmas tree permits:
      Tree permit can be purchased for $5.00 with cash or check.
      Trees are for personal use only, not for resale. One permit per family; one tree per permit.
      Use only hand tools to cut Christmas trees, such as an ax or handsaw. Chainsaws are not permitted.
  • Vermont,
    • Green Mountain National Forest Christmas Tree Permit - Choose and cut Christmas trees
      231 N Main St, Rutland, VT 05701. This permit allows you to cut a Christmas Tree within designated areas of the Green Mountain National Forest! Lifelong memories are built during these special times and we are happy to help with any information gathering you'll need to make this trip a safe and enjoyable one. Forest Products permits must be purchased at one of our offices.Green Mountain Offices in Vermont and Finger Lakes Offices in New York. The Green Mountain offers Christmas tree permits. Cutting Christmas trees on a National Forest makes an excellent winter tradition. However, due to the Forest's geography, Christmas tree permits are not issued on the Finger Lakes National Forest. This permit allows you to cut a Christmas Tree within designated areas of the Green Mountain National Forest! Christmas tree permits are issued under the following conditions:
      Permit cost $5 and is non-refundable.
      Only 1 permit issued per household per year.
      Trees obtained under the Christmas tree permit may not be resold.
      Permits can be purchased online through recreation.gov.
      Rules for Harvesting
      Trees over 20 feet tall are not covered by the permit.
      The tree must be cut at a point no higher than 6 inches off the ground.
      ​Christmas Tree Cutting Area Maps: Manchester District and Rochester-Middlebury Districts
  • West Virginia
  • Monongahela National Forest Christmas Tree Permit - Christmas trees-you choose and you cut,
    200 Sycamore St, Elkins, WV 26241. This permit ($5) allows you to cut a Christmas Tree within designated areas of the Monongahela national Forest! Lifelong memories are built during these special times and we are happy to help with any information gathering you'll need to make this trip a safe and enjoyable one. Buy permits online here.
    Where to Cut Your Tree - Do not cut on private land, in wilderness areas, designated campgrounds, or existing tree plantations. Do not cut in active timber sales or areas that have been planted with new trees. Do not cut in active timber sales or areas that have been planted with new trees.
    Selecting Your Tree - Each forest has limitations on the size of the tree you can cut and the species of trees that are permitted. See below to help you measure and choose a tree that meets your permit's guidelines.
    Tree Height: 12 feet maximum
    Take the whole tree. Do not remove the top of the tree; cut down the entire tree
    If snow is on the ground, remove it from around the stump so you can accurately measure the stump and tree height.
  • Wisconsin
    • Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest Christmas Tree Permit - Christmas trees-you choose and you cut,
      Forest Headquarters Offices, 500 Hanson Lake Road, Rhinelander, WI 54501. Phone: 715-362-1300. This permit allows you to cut a Christmas Tree within designated areas of the Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest!
      $5.00 per tree (limit of 5 trees per person). A transportation tag will be issued for each tree, which must be attached to the tree prior to loading and hauling. The permit must be in your possession when cutting the Christmas tree. Trees must be cut as close to the ground as possible, at least within 6 inches of the ground. Any debris or branches from the cutting should be removed from the cleared portion of roads and trails. The maximum height of trees allowed for cutting will be twenty (20) feet, unless otherwise specified on the permit. Trees may be cut along roads and trails, although harvesters are asked to consider aesthetics and safety. Trees cut under a Forest Product Permit are for personal use and are not to be sold for commercial purposes. You can buy the permits online here.
      No Northern White Cedar or Hemlock may be cut.

What do you need to cut your own Christmas tree?​

In order not to become the next Clark Griswold, you will eedthe following:

  • Permit $5 or $10 obtained from the foresty office. Christmas tree cutting dates are always set at the last minute (usually announced in late November) and take place in early December. Some areas allow cutting as early as Thanksgiving and some allow cutting until the end of the year.
  • GPS
  • Forest cutting areas map (when you get your permit)
  • Rope to tie the tree down in your car or truck
  • Tarp to reduce the wind blowing your tree to bits as you drive down the road
  • Emergency flares - not to use in the forest, just in case you have breakdown while driving
  • Work gloves, waterproof boots - good tough ones
  • Eye protection - from splinters and shrapnel when cutting
  • Saw or Axe (power saws are usally NOT allowed in a national forest (remember the Donner Party)
  • Water or other, ahem, non-alcoholic drinks
  • Food - well, you do hear of people getting lost and starving in National Forests.
  • Extra clothing and blankets - again for emergencies

Tips

Be safe,

  • Always travel with a companion. Preferably someone plump and tasty in case you trapped in a blizzard
  • Always tell someone who will not be coming along when and where you are going on a forest, and let them know approximately how long you will be gone; make contingency plans in case you don't contact hem by certain time.
  • Always make sure to have an updated GPS and even an old fashioned compass before leaving
  • Be sure to check weather conditions - as the weather can change rapidly during the winter months
  • Always have emergency supplies, including food, water and flares.
  • Bring an extra set of clothing and blankets - just in case you get wet or stuck

Tree Cutting Tips:

  • Do not cut a tree near administrative sites, campgrounds or day sites, or within view of roads or trails
  • Make sure the area you choose to cut is clear of obstacles, including power lines and vehicles
  • Trees should be cut at the base, near the ground. Never take the top off a larger tree.
  • Make sure you securely place your permit tag around the trunk of the tree after you load it into your vehicle.