Cut Your Own Christmas Tree: What to Know

I’ve always thought that it would be a special family experience to cut down our own Christmas tree. But I wasn’t sure how to go about doing it. A couple of years ago our neighbors cut down their own Christmas tree for the first time. And, the following year they let us tag along. Here’s what you need to know to cut your own Christmas tree successfully!

The smell of pine needles in our living room always makes me so happy. There is something about having a fresh tree with twinkling lights that brightens the home. So, what better way to bring that tree into your home than directly from the forest?

There really are two ways that you can cut your own Christmas tree. The first is to head to a Christmas tree farm. Today I am not talking about how to do that. I am talking about getting a permit, hiking into the woods, picking out your tree and carrying it home. This is the family experience that I want to talk about.

family cutting own christmas tree and hiking it out of the forest
Heading down from a winter hike to choose and cut down a Christmas tree.

Our family lives in Colorado. This is what to expect of cutting your own Christmas tree in our home state. I would expect the process to be similar on other states where the forest service permits. But you will want to check your local forest service station.

Where to Get a Permit to Cut Your Own Christmas Tree

First you need a permit. These cost somewhere between $5 to $20. We paid $10 for ours. A permit can be purchased from your local forest service station, as well as often from any place that sells hunting and fishing licenses. Call before you go to find out the details.

When you purchase your permit you will be given a map showing you where you are allowed to cut your tree, and other rules to follow. There will be height restrictions and also some types of trees that you cannot cut down.

Load up your tree and take in the views at the trailhead where you parked to cut your own Christmas tree.
Load up your tree and take in the views at the trailhead where you parked to cut your own Christmas tree.

What you Need to Cut Your Own Christmas Tree

You will need to bring along a hand saw, a tarp and twine. A hand saw should be enough. The trunks of the trees that you find growing wild in the forest are much smaller than those on farmed trees.

A sled is a bonus. Also, consider your method of transportation. Either a truck or car with a rack on top can easily transport the tree. But if you will be heading out into the wilderness you may want to make sure you have four wheel drive or good snow tires.

You will want to be sure to dress warmly, and bring an emergency kit and flashlights. With the shorter days of winter it is best to head out earlier in the day so that you can be back to your car by dark.

a fun family tradition can be to cut your own christmas tree and then decorate it
Decorating a fresh cut Christmas tree is a wonderful holiday tradition.

What is a Christmas tree from the forest like?

A tree you cut yourself is likely going to be a Charlie Brown tree. It may be tall. But it won’t be full like the farmed Christmas trees. If you really want a perfectly sculpted Christmas tree, this may not be for you.

Our family is still on the fence as to the look of the tree. It isn’t what we are used to. But everyone loved the experience. We got out into the beautiful, snowy Colorado forest land and breathed fresh mountain air. We were even able to socialize a bit with friends which was so missed during COVID times.

The kids brought their sleds and had some sledding adventures along the way.

And, it was great exercise. That day was almost a 20,000 step day for me.

How else can I cut my own tree?

As I mentioned earlier, there are tree farms where you can go out and choose your tree and then cut it down.

where to cut your own christmas tree: ymca of the rockies snow mountain ranch in colorado
Snow Mountain Ranch is a beautiful place, both in summer and winter. Photo courtesy Snow Mountain Ranch/ YMCA of the Rockies

But perhaps the one other tree cutting experience that sounds fun to me is at Snow Mountain Ranch, YMCA of the Rockies.

Starting on November 26, 2021 through December 20, 2021 you can set out on an adventure through the Snow Mountain Ranch forest to find the perfect Christmas tree.

Snow Mountain Ranch will provide hand saws and twine so you can cut down your tree, then strap it to your car. You’re welcome to bring your own tools, however chainsaws and other electric tools are prohibited.

Snow Mountain Ranch is one of our favorite Colorado cabin rentals for families. The property is beautiful and there are so many fun activities.

If you don’t want to make a weekend of it then make it a day trip. You can either receive a tree cutting ticket upon lodging check in or upon the purchase of a $25 tree cutting ticket. The $25 ticket also is a day activity pass.

This is an activity that will get you in holiday spirit while helping Snow Mountain Ranch sustainably manage their forests!

Do you cut down your own Christmas tree? Tell us about it in the comments!

cut your own christmas tree

Cut Your Own Christmas Tree: What to Know

Liana Moore

Liana Moore is a third-culture kid with a hangover from those days that is a severe case of wanderlust. She is more comfortable driving the cliffs of Amalfi, Italy or the dirt roads of Costa Rica or attempting to decipher the street signs of Osaka, Japan than navigating the theme parks of Disney World. But she loves it all. She doesn't believe a vacation is complete without an adventure. Her husband and kids know well that "adventure" often is code for mishap or challenge and it usually results in a good story. They seek outdoor experiences whether in the mountains, on a beach or in the jungle of a tropical country. Her favorite vacation is... all the ones she hasn't yet taken, as well as those she plans on taking again. And, that list is so, so long. But she continues to extensively explore her home state of Colorado, spends lots of time wandering Texas, California, New Mexico, Costa Rica, Mexico, Norway and has even explored Kazakhstan.

One thought on “Cut Your Own Christmas Tree: What to Know

  • December 14, 2020 at 4:05 am

    Sounds like a fun experience for kids.


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