How To Cut A Wild Christmas Tree


We decided to venture out into the wild unknown of America’s beautiful National Forests and make a true Christmas memory for the kids by cutting our own wild Christmas tree.

Do you and your family find it a little mundane and a bit low effort to just snag a tree from a big box store parking lot, mixed in with a herd of other people all while masked up and socially distanced? It’s not exactly screaming “Christmas Spirit”. 

So, bundle up, ditch the mask, and embrace the crisp fresh air on this journey to cut your own Christmas tree.

Cutting Wild Christmas Tree’s is a Classic Tradition

Yes, harvesting a live Christmas tree in the woods is a famous tradition. Families are known to trek into the woods, such as the national forest, every Christmas festal to pick out and cut their favorite Christmas tree for several decades. The good news is that whether you live just next to or far away from a National Forest, it cost only a few bucks ($ 5) to get your cutting permit. Once you have this cutting license, you, together with your family, will get a chance to pick and cut your most favorite Christmas tree that you will take with you to your home.

How To Get a Christmas Tree Cutting Permit for a National Forest

The process of obtaining a Christmas tree cutting license is quite easy since all you need is to contact the neighboring forest district officer. However, it is important to note that there could be a slight variation in the exact tree-cutting guidelines from one Christmas tree NAtional Forest area to another. 

New in 2020: Tree Permits can now be obtained online at Recreation.govOpens in a new tab..

According to US Forest ServiceOpens in a new tab., here are the various general guidelines for cutting down a Christmas tree in the national forest.

  • A Christmas tree is for your personal use only. You are not supposed to sell it to anyone else or for other business purposes.
  • You must have a Christmas tree cutting permit to access the forest where you can choose, cut, and transport it to your home.
  • You will get accessibility options, a map, and directions to guide you to a specific area where you can cut down your tree.
  • Ensure to check the weather conditions and always be in proper winter dresses to protect you from extreme cold in the national forest.
  • It is important to let someone you trust know where you are heading to and what time you expect to return.
  • Confirm with your local district officers before cutting your tree to avoid cutting downed or dead trees, which could be an habitant for dangerous animals.
  • Trees within a range of 200 feet from streams, lakes, roads, or rivers should not be cut.
  • Preferably, pick a tree with a trunk measuring six inches in diameter or even less. Do not go beyond six inches above the ground when cutting your tree.
  • Preferably, select your Christmas tree from the overstocked thickets but do not trespass to the restricted areas. Always cut the number of trees paid for, i.e., one tree per tag.
  • Ensure to attach your cutting permit to your harvested tree before packing it for transportation in your vehicle
  • Bring with you a tarp and a rope to help you move your tree to the vehicle from the harvesting area.

What Type of Tree To Locate in the National Forest?

So, you’ve got your gear, your permit, and frankly, you are excited to go cut your own Christmas tree in the wild! You hike out into the National Forest and guess what? There are trees EVERYWHERE, where do you even start picking one?

According to the folks at the National Forest, the following types of trees are perfect for your next Christmas tree:

  1. Balsam Fir: For folks out east, you’ should be on the lookout for the  Balsam fir (Abies balsamea). Also known as “blister pine” due to the numerous resin blisters located on the bark, Balsam fir grows throughout the Forest Service’s Eastern Region.
  2. Douglas Fir: Located all throughout the Forest Service’s Rocky Mountain Regoin, Intermountain, Southwestern, and Pacific Regions, Douglas-fir is a go-too as one of the most common Christmas tree choices for folks out west.
  3. Subalpine Fir: A traditional choice for a Christmas tree. Subalpine Fir’s grow in the high-elevation forests. This is a popular choice as Its evenly spaced branches are ideal for showcasing your ornaments, and the Subalpine’s thicker branches won’t bend under the weight of your 3rd graders 2lb frosting covered decoration that the teacher thought would be a great idea. 

Before venturing out on your Christmas Tree hike, check out this Guide to Essential Hiking Safety Items

Tips for Snagging the Perfect Wild Christmas Tree

  • Ensure to come with pruning shears, a saw, and a strong, long rope. A shed can be quite helpful in case the ground is covered with snow.
  • Use a tape measure to take the various measurements. Ensure you measure your house space (height & width) where you will keep your tree and your vehicle to transport it from the forest to the home.
  • Test for freshness before cutting down your tree. This is achieved through running a branch of the tree on your enclosed hand. Besides, the needles should be firm and not easy to come out.
  • Use a lightweight saw meant for cutting live trees.
  • Ensure to cut low. Cutting should be done as quickly as possible and low.
  • Be careful when transporting your tree to avoid breaking its branches or bending the thin parts.
  • Always ensure to carry with you a Christmas tree cutting license.
  • Remember getting into the woods is quite easy, but coming with a Christmas tree can be quite challenging. Therefore, we do not ski or hike for several miles away, trying to spot the perfect tree.
  • An ideal day to cut your Christmas tree is when snow covers the ground but not the trees. This makes it easy for you to drag the tree to your car using a shed or else snowshoe or ski into the forest.
  • Bring with you your favorite hot drink to keep you warm before you start cutting down your tree.
  • To easily spot the fullest tree, the target an area that receives an adequate amount of sunlight. In case of an argument on the best tree, let your kids choose their favorite tree.

What Are The Benefits of a Real Christmas Tree?

Are you aware that cutting down a Christmas tree is a popular family tradition that gives families a chance to explore and appreciate nature? Cutting down your tree together with your family is a great outdoor activity to enjoy the fresh air. Additionally, once you are done with the tree, the tree can be cut down and used for DIY projects or even firewood. If that’s not your thing, at a minimum, they are recyclable and biodegradable.

That’s a Wrap

Well, folks, let’s be honest, 2020 has been….well… a year. We’ve been cooped up inside, we’ve exhausted Youtube and Netflix, and frankly, it’s time to step outside and truly socially distance with a good ol’ fashioned family adventure. So, gear up, grab a permit, and go get that epic family adventure and bring home the perfect wild cut Christmas tree. 

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