Tips for cutting a Christmas tree in Summit County |

Tips for cutting a Christmas tree in Summit County

Local public lands offer plenty of opportunities to find a locally sourced evergreen

Tracy Ross
Sky Hi News

It’s the time of year when millions of Americans will drive to parking lots across the country to procure an evergreen tree to fill their homes with the fragrant scent many associate with winter, skiing, caroling and sipping hot cocoa.

Christmas trees are grown on tree farms in all 50 states, but they also grow wild in Summit County and are available to be harvested, as long as you obtain a permit and adhere to the rules, on lands owned by the White River National Forest.

Christmas tree cutting has been a treasured tradition at the White River National Forest for many decades, and tree-cutting regulations have been established to maintain a healthy forest environment and sustainable forest management program. Forest officials report that thousands of permits are sold annually.

Getting prepared

To obtain a permit that will allow you to legally cut down your own tree and to read the full list of rules and regulations, visit and find the ranger district that is in the area you wish to remove a tree. Purchasers are encouraged to carefully read the overview and need-to-know information prior buying their permit.

Each permit costs $10 and allows for the cutting of one tree on National Forest System lands, with a five-permit limit per household. A $2.50 processing fee is applied to each online transaction.

Some areas of the both forests are off limits to tree cutting or may be difficult to access. Area-specific regulations are available online, and local ranger district offices are often open and able to provide additional information on the local region, including road status and area restrictions.

The Forest Service emphasizes that cutting trees is prohibited in all wilderness areas and developed recreation sites. Forest visitors are also reminded to pay attention to weather forecasts, avoid areas with beetle-killed or fire-weakened trees on high wind days, be aware of their surroundings, and check maps to know their location. Weather conditions can change quickly, and visitors are advised to be prepared by dressing appropriately and having your vehicle equipped adequately with a winter vehicle kit, which includes things like a first-aid kit, emergency blankets or sleeping bags, a flashlight, extra hats and gloves, an ax and shovel, a stove with fuel and extra food.

Fourth graders with an Every Kid Outdoors pass are also eligible for a free Christmas tree permit. That can be obtained by entering the pass or voucher number with the permit purchase. Fourth graders can get an Every Kid Outdoors pass at

Tips from the Forest Service

Whitney McMurry, a spokesperson for the Arapaho & Roosevelt National Forest, also offered a few additional tree-procuring tips:

Get creative when choosing your tree. Know what species of tree you are interested in. If you want that classic Christmas tree look, go for a spruce or a fir. If you want something a little more unique, look for a pine tree. Also, get creative. Harvesting a tree from a national forest is not like getting a tree from a Christmas tree farm. No tree is perfect and sometimes wonky trees make a great Christmas tree that will bring lots of joy through the holidays.

Keep Christmas tree cutting safe. Avoid standing under dead or burned trees. Stay out of recently burned areas. Be sure to look up and be aware that a tree can fall at any time. While cutting, watch your head and step back to give the tree space as it falls.

Keep the resource in mind. Don’t cut the top off a tree. Take the whole tree. Cut it as close to the ground as possible. Try not to cut near other trees that have already been removed by other visitors. Do not cut within 100 feet of any road, trail or all bodies of water. Some people choose a Christmas tree from a densely forested area to give the remaining trees more space to grow. Follow all road closures, and only cut in permitted cutting areas.

Watch for wildlife. Moose can be a concern — be sure to keep your dog on leash. Be aware of your surroundings.

Extend your Christmas tree’s life. During travel the base of the tree will dry out. Before placing the tree in its stand, be sure to give it a fresh cut at the base to prolong its life. Continue to provide fresh water.

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