Christmas is a magical time of year, and there’s something even more special about finding your very own perfect Christmas tree in the forest. If you’ve never done it before, or need a refresher on the rules and precautions while on public land, we’ve compiled the details for you here.
It all starts with a Christmas tree permit.
Anyone with the proper Christmas tree permit can venture into our National Forests to discover their perfect tree. It’s especially fun for families and pets!
What: Christmas Tree Permit
Permits are issued for cutting a personal Christmas tree. This means trees harvested under these permits cannot be sold, and the permits must be in your possession at all times while in the Forest.
The forest district offices issue the permits. They can be purchased directly from the forest district office, or at local vendors. Most Murdoch’s stores sell these permits for neighboring forests. You can also ask a cashier to see a copy of the instructions before buying the permit.
Each Forest has different rules affecting dates, maps of where cutting is allowed, and accessibility. When you buy your permit, you will also be given a list of instructions and rules for the specific Forest that your permit is valid for.
Where: National Forests
As a general rule of thumb, stay away from cutting trees at campgrounds, trailheads, Wilderness Areas, areas where trees have been planted for reforestation purposes, and other high-use areas. Forests exclude these areas from cutting. Forests also exclude a radius around streams and other water sources, and around roads. These exclusions will be listed on the instructions you receive when you buy your permit.
Use the National Forest Locator Map if you aren’t sure which National Forest is closest to you.
(When using the Locator Map, when you click on one of the shield icons, you will get a pop-up with a link to that Forest’s homepage. Visit the specific Forest’s homepage to find specific info about Passes and Permits. Limited information is usually listed under Forest Product Permits, but most direct you to call their office for information.)
If you live in Region 2 (Colorado, Wyoming, Nebraska, South Dakota, or Kansas) your district’s information is really easy to access.
When: Permit Sale Dates
Permits for Christmas trees generally go on sale in November. Each Forest determines how long the permit is valid for, but they generally expire between Christmas Eve and the end of the year. Check yours.
It’s a fun family activity to keep cabin fever at bay during the cold winter months. It’s also fairly inexpensive for a Christmas tree permit. Prices vary by Forest, but in Murdoch’s store locations, permits range between $5 – $8 each, which isn’t bad for a full day of entertainment and a tree.
How: Christmas Tree Cutting Checklist
Check your Forest’s instructions, but there will usually be a maximum tree height restriction of about 12-15 feet. This is because the Forest issues Christmas tree permits as a way to help thin areas where smaller trees are prevalent. Using this height as a guide, here is a list of tools to take along with you.
Saw: You don’t need to haul a power tool into the woods because the trunk of a 12-15 foot tree is rather small. Grab any saw that’s already in your tool shed, or try a folding saw that makes hiking around easy.
Tarp: Put down a tarp in your pickup bed if you’re the tidy type, or use it to protect your vehicle if you’re strapping the tree to your car roof.
Straps: Secure your tree to your vehicle for safe travel. TitanStraps are specially designed to remain flexible in cold temps. You won’t regret having these on hand.
Buckle Straps: This is a 6-foot strap and comes in a two-pack. The weight capacity of 750 lbs. is more than sufficient.
Rubber Tarp Straps: This 10-pack is economical if you’ll likely only use straps once a year for your tree. We also like it because you get a variety of sizes.
Tow Rope: When you’re headed into forest service country in the middle of winter, it’s always a good idea to have a tow rope. Select one with a weight rating of 20,000 lbs or more to pull light duty vehicles out of the ditch. You want this higher weight rating because deep snow can add hundreds of pounds of resistance. Also, choose one with hooks if your vehicle doesn’t already have a spot to attach the rope.