National Forest Foundation

Four Things to Know When Cutting Your National Forest Christmas Tree

Trees, Hiking and Backpacking


For many families, cutting down a Christmas tree from their backyard National Forest is a wonderful holiday tradition. Before you head out to the woods though, keep a few things in mind.


$5 or $10 permits are required for each Christmas tree cut from a National Forest. Good news, starting in 2020, permits are now available to purchase online through

Do you have a 4th or 5th grade student in your family? Through the Every Kid Outdoors Program, each 4th and 5th grade student can obtain a voucher for a free Christmas Tree. Then redeem that voucher at

For more information about permits, contact your local Forest Service office with questions.

Winter Conditions

Check with your local Forest Service office to ensure your driving route is clear and passable. Be sure your vehicle has the means to access your cutting site: high clearance, four wheel drive, snow tires, and chains.

Tree Selection

Do not cut trees within 200 feet of main roads, developed recreation areas, or campgrounds. Stay away from areas along the sides of streams, rivers, lakes and wet areas. Check with your local Forest Service office for the proper distance you should keep from the water's edge.

Choose a tree that is less than 12 feet tall and has a trunk diameter less than six inches. Look for a tree in an overcrowded stand to help thin the area to support healthy forests.

Removing the Tree

When cutting your tree, leave less than a five inch stump. Do not cut the tops out of trees. Try for a flat, even cut to help your tree absorb water once at home.

Attach the permit to the tree from the cutting site and do not remove until the tree is in your home.

If possible, recycle your real tree after the holiday season rather than putting it into the landfill – some cities and organizations turn the trees into mulch or use them for other environmentally friendly purposes (i.e. creating habitat for aquatic species).

Learn more in the Forest Service video below.

Contact your local Forest Service office for permits and regulations for the National Forest near you.

Want to support the next generation of Christmas trees on our National Forests?

Plant trees with the National Forest Foundation. Each dollar donated plants a tree.

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