How to find a christmas tree in the woods

Cut Down Your Own Christmas Tree in your National Forest

Does your family celebrate Christmas with a decked-out, real, live Christmas tree? Did you know that you can head into your local national forest to cut down your own Christmas tree for just $5? It’s true!

Picking out and cutting our Christmas tree has been one of our favorite traditions since our kids were babies, and for the past 10 years or so, we’ve been trekking into the woods to bring home our own national forest Christmas tree.

We’re lucky to live right next to the Green Mountain National Forest in Vermont, and we were so excited when a friend told us we could cut our own wild Christmas tree in the National Forest for just five bucks. Maybe this is common knowledge, but it was big news to me, so in case the rest of you holiday revelers don’t know this secret, here it is –

For just $5, you can buy a Christmas tree permit online, and then you can choose and cut down your own Christmas tree in your National Forest.  

Christmas Tree Cutting Details from the US Forest ServiceGet outside and cut down your own wild Christmas tree!

The mission of the USDA Forest Service is to sustain the health, diversity, and productivity of the nation’s forests and grasslands to meet the needs of present and future generations.

To achieve their mission, they strive to protect and manage national forests so they best demonstrate the sustainable multiple-use management concept. One of these awesome multi-use management plans is providing American families with Christmas trees they can cut themselves. 

Most, but not all national forests will allow you to choose and cut down your own Christmas tree, but you must have a permit issued by the US Forest Service. The Christmas tree cutting permit is attached to your tree when you transport it home.

How do you get a Christmas Tree Cutting Permit from Your National Forest?

Obtaining your Christmas Tree permit from the National Forest Service is easier than it’s ever been! All you have to do is head over to Recreation. gov and search for ‘tree permit’ and the name of your local national forest.

In certain areas, cutting down national forest Christmas trees is really popular, and the permits sell out, so if you know you’re going to get a wild Christmas tree from the national forest, get your permit early! Note to Vermonters – there isn’t much demand in our national forest, so you should be fine getting a permit at the last minute.

National Forest Christmas Tree Permit Guidelines

Skiing back to the car with our Christmas tree!

Specific tree-cutting guidelines can vary from forest to forest, but here are some general guidelines for cutting down your own Christmas tree in your national forest, taken directly from the US Forest Service website.

  • Your Christmas tree is for personal use only. It can not be sold.
  • You must have your Christmas tree cutting permit on you when choosing, cutting, and transporting your tree.
  • Your forest district office will be able to give you a map and accessibility options, and they can direct you to specific areas for cutting down your Christmas tree.
  • Always check weather conditions and dress properly for winter activities in your national forest.
  • Tell someone you know where you are going and when you’ll return.
  • Check with local district offices before you cut dead or downed trees. Dead trees could provide animal habitat.
  • Don’t cut any trees that are within 200 feet of rivers, streams, lakes, trails, and roads. Check with the ranger district for the proper distance.
  • Select a tree with a trunk six inches or less in diameter, and prepare to cut down your tree no more than six inches above ground level.
  • Never cut a tall tree just for the top.
  • Select a Christmas tree from overstocked areas and thickets. Watch restricted areas. Cut only one Christmas tree per tag.  
  • Attach your Christmas tree cutting permit to harvested tree before placing in vehicle.
  • Bring a rope and tarp to move your tree from the harvest area to your vehicle.

What We Love About our National Forest Christmas TreesOne of the many Christmas Trees we have known and loved.

Sometimes we get Charlie Brown Christmas trees that look a little scrawny when we get them into the house. Sometimes the front of the tree (the sunny side) is full and lush, while the backside is a little scraggly without many branches – all the better to fit into the little corners of our little house.

Our Christmas trees are always beautifully wild, fresh, and unique, just like us.

We usually choose a balsam fir for our Christmas Tree, but occasionally we find a pretty spruce tree. Just depends on the year. Either way, they fill our home with Christmas fragrance and holiday cheer.  

The branches on our wild tree are spread farther apart than farm-raised trees, and there’s lots of room for ornaments. In fact, sometimes the ornaments take over the whole tree, but we love it anyway!

We’ve got our eye on this little tree for a future Christmas Tree. It’s so cute!

I know that most people put their Christmas tree up right after Thanksgiving, but we always wait until Christmas Eve, when we celebrate with lots of food, music, and tree decorating.

Our Christmas tree lives with us until January 6th, and then it spends the rest of the winter in the back yard as a hiding spot for the winter songbirds. Come March, our tree is nice and dry, and it’s ready to be burned in our backyard maple syrup evaporator.

Tips for Finding the Perfect National Forest Christmas TreeFinding the perfect National Forest Christmas tree

Finding the perfect wild Christmas tree is an adventure, whether you go to the local tree farm or your national forest. Here are some tips for making your tree cutting day the best ever.

  • Wear layers and bring a backpack to keep the extras in. Merino wool is amazing stuff and it makes the perfect base layer for winter. Not only does it keep you warm and wick away moisture, but it never smells funky!
  • Bring a saw, pruning shears, and lots of rope. A sled is really helpful if it’s snowy.
  • Don’t forget your Christmas tree cutting permit.
  • Remember that hiking into the woods is easy — hiking out with your Christmas tree is not. We try not to hike, ski, or snowshoe no farther than a mile looking for our perfect Christmas tree.
  • The best day to cut down your own Christmas tree is one when the ground is covered in snow, but the trees aren’t. This way you can drag your tree back to the car on a sled, and you can ski or snowshoe into the forest. 
  • Bring hot chocolate to drink next to your chosen tree before you cut it. Or, better yet, whip up one of our favorite hot drinks for winter adventures. 
  • To find the fullest Christmas trees, look for a clearing that gets a decent amount of sun.
  • To avoid arguments, let the kids choose the Christmas tree, and be happy with whatever they pick. They won’t be around forever you know.

Do you cut down your own wild Christmas tree?  I’d love to hear about your adventures in the comments below.

We love our National Forests! Here are some more great posts about our favorites!

  • Secret Vermont Treasures: Fall Camping on Grout Pond
  • The Best Lincoln, New Hamphire Adventures for Outdoor Lovers
  • Discover Horsethief Lake Campground: Black Hills National Forest

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Cut your Christmas Tree Down From the Woods like Santa Intended – Ferrin Brook Farm

You know those old stories and children’s books where the family treks into the woods to find the perfect Christmas tree and they actually find it?  No trees shipped in from who knows where, no parking lots to browse through, no sales people.  A tree from the forest near your home. Sounds nice.  I wish we could do that. Oh wait! 

Here’s our spruce tree for 2015!

For the past several years we have hiked into the White Mountain National Forest here in New Hampshire to grab our tree.  There are many spots with decent spruce, fir, and pine to choose from in a variety of sizes.  All it takes is $5 to support the national forest, and you get your permit. 

To give you an arsenal of skill and preparation to show off in front of your family, here is some key information and strategy you can pretend you knew all along:

The two classic Christmas trees you can find around here are varieties of spruce and fir.  Though not entirely necessary, it is fun to be able to tell them apart, and lucky for you, it’s pretty simple.  Here are some basic steps you can easily remember before you head out for your tree:

1. Does the tree have a classic, triangular Christmas tree shape?  If yes, you probably have a spruce or fir on your hands.

2. Now you need to check out the needles.  Here are the key differences between fir and spruce:

Fir needles are flat and more flexible. If you hold a needle between your fingers you won’t be able to easily roll it back and forth.  I think of fir trees as the softer, gentler Christmas tree.

Spruce needles are sharp, firm, have 4 sides, and will roll  fairly easily between your fingers.  Spruce trees have a bit of bite when you handle them!

This is completely up to your taste and your family’s traditions and preferences.   There are many factors to be considered:

Difficulty handling: fir needles are like angel wings gently kissing your skin compared to spruce

Overall appearance: Spruce trees have much fuller looking branches and often a more classic shape

Performance in the home: I’ve read that fir trees tend to hold their needles and color a bit better than spruce, but both have fared well in our experience.

What you can actually find: Sometimes you just can’t find that perfect fir tree you were hoping for and have to settle for a nice, vibrant yet ouchy spruce.

The tree your family actually likes and helps select is always going to be better than the one that fits the ideal tree you have in your imagination, so don’t be too picky and drag everyone through the woods for too long.

Two trees look like one tree

Don’t get your hopes up from a distance. Sometimes a tree will look amazing from 50 yards away, but when you get closer you’ll realize it has a dealbreaker flaw, like it’s two trees growing into each other, both with good branches only on one side.

Consider cutting down a taller tree and using the top portion.  This is often very reliable because the strongest trees poke up above others and are able to grow more fully in the upper space.

Make a point to look for bare spots.  Sometimes you look at so many trees and just want to finish, and overlook a major bare spot that is going to drive you crazy for the next few weeks.

Don’t be afraid to trim awkward branches at home. All trees you would get in a tree lot have been trimmed to perfect triangles. If this is something your family enjoys, plan on trimming branches at home. No tree in the wild is going to look like trees from a farm that were trimmed to fit the standard expectations.

There are really only two options for cutting down a wild Christmas tree: a hatchet or a hand saw.  A full blown ax will be awkward to carry and you may not have enough room to get good swings in. Not to mention the tree is only going to be a few inches in diameter at most, and an ax would be way overkill.

I think a handsaw is harder to actually take a tree out with, since you have to hold it sideways which will feel awkward and wear you out fast.  But we bring a hand saw along anyway so we can make sure to cut the remains of the trunk low to the ground after the tree is removed. It’s much easier to work with a handsaw when the bulk of the tree is gone!

For either tool, the method is simple:

  1. Make sure you follow the guidelines by not cutting down a tree that is too large or in a restricted type of area. Review the rules!
  2. Once you’ve found your tree, plan two escape routes in case the tree falls in a direction you didn’t plan for.   Make sure there aren’t any obstructions in the way if you have to make a run for it.
  3. Cut a small wedge, about 1/3 of the way through the tree, on the side facing the direction you want the tree to fall.
  4. Cut in from the backside of the trunk at a point slightly higher than the inside of the first cut.  When the tree starts to fall, play it safe and move quickly down one of your escape routes. This is probably not necessary with a small Christmas tree, but always better to play it safe in case something unexpected happens.
  5. Before heading home, make sure to clean up the remains  of the tree you leave behind by cutting them up the branches and trunk and scattering around on the forest floor.

  • Before you set the tree up, trim an inch or two from the trunk to expose fresh wood and to ensure a level base for your tree stand.
  • Give the tree plenty of water. Check the water after the first couple of hours, and then again every day to make sure it doesn’t run dry. A dry tree is a sad tree, and will make a mess and lose color.
  • Keep the tree away from heat sources and electricity (other than Christmas lights).  Always play it safe!

Complete info on getting a tree from the White Mountain National Forest is available here: Christmas tree permits.  

We recommended googling around for permits and regulations for other forests near you if you don’t live in/near NH. Never cut down trees that aren’t on your own land without permission!

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Where St. Petersburg residents can cut down a Christmas tree for free

Photo: Petersburg Diary

There is less and less time left before the New Year, and it is already time to think about the main symbol of the holiday - the Christmas tree. For those who want to please the household with a living New Year's beauty, "PD" found out where in St. Petersburg you can get a Christmas tree for free.

Choosing a Christmas tree is a whole ritual. Many people buy a Christmas tree in the markets, but you can get it for free.

This can be done on the territory of one of the forestries of the Leningrad region. And if earlier it was allowed to cut down a Christmas tree only under a sale and purchase agreement for a symbolic cost, then, starting from 2016, this opportunity is provided absolutely free of charge.

Petersburgers can go for the New Year tree as early as December 1st. To do this, you must select the forestry in which you want to cut down a spruce or other coniferous tree, and take your passport with you.

A contract will be concluded with you on the spot, and a forestry worker will allocate a plot where you can cut down a Christmas tree.

No more than one tree, up to 3 meters high, is allowed per person. Also, during the preparation of the Christmas tree and during its transportation, you need to have a concluded contract with you so that the employees are sure that you are acting legally. You can come for a festive tree until January 10, 2020.
Of course, it is much easier to buy a Christmas tree at the market, but Anatoly Petrov, director of the Vsevolozhsk forestry, noted that for many residents of St. Petersburg and the Leningrad Region, a joint trip to pick up a Christmas tree has already become a good family tradition.
“About seven thousand people come to us every year to buy Christmas trees. At the same time, it is not necessary to agree on a visit in advance - come for a Christmas tree, like in a store. Only be sure to have a passport,” Anatoly Petrov explained.
In the Uchebno-experimental forestry in the village of Ulyanovka, there are slightly fewer people wishing to cut down the Christmas tree - about 1.5-2 thousand annually.

“Usually, a month before the New Year, we start issuing contracts. But the main excitement begins about two weeks before the holiday. We are working hard, including weekends. In a word, the closer to the New Year, the more queues,” said Dmitry Lyubimov, director of the forestry.

You shouldn't worry about the damage that lovers of live Christmas trees can cause either - forestry workers allocate for this purpose only those areas where cutting is necessary.

“The law provides for the felling of fir trees on the sections of the routes of linear facilities, gas pipelines, oil pipelines, along the canals of the roads. These facilities do not provide for the cultivation of forests, so the trees there will be cut down sooner or later anyway,” explained Dmitry Lyubimov. - If you cut down Christmas trees according to the law, then this does not cause any harm to the forest. The main thing is in no case to cut down spruce trees in areas where reforestation is being carried out.”

Photo: Petersburg Diary

Addresses and telephones of forestries:

Boksitogorsk forestry

Address: Leningrad region, Boksitogorsk, per. Oktyabrsky, 11
Phone: 8-813-66-21-463.

Volosovskoye forestry

Address: Leningrad region, Volosovo, Terpilitskoye highway, 1st km
Phone: 8-813-73-24-223.

Volkhov forestry

Address: Leningrad region, Volkhov, st. Vokzalnaya, 8
Phone: 8-813-63-23-958.

Vsevolozhskoye forestry

Address: Leningrad region, Vsevolozhsk district, Toksovo village, Gagarina street, 22
Phone: 616-25-87, 616-62-37, 616-25-83, 616- 25-89.

Gatchina forestry

Address: Leningrad region, Gatchina, Krasnoselskoe highway, 6
Phone: 8-813-71-939-21, 8-813-71-32-718.

Kingisepp forestry

Address: Leningrad region, Kingisepp, st. Dorozhnikov, 37
Phone: 8-813-75-21-844, 8-813-75-40-170.

Kirishskoye forestry

Address: Leningrad region, Kirishi, the mouth of the Black River
Phone: 8-813-68-72-077.

Kirov forestry

Address: Leningrad region, Kirovsk, st. Kirova, 41
Phone: 8-813-62-22-449.

Lodeinoye Pole forestry

Address: Leningrad region, Lodeynoye Pole, Zheleznodorozhnaya, 11
Phone: 8-813-64-212-44.

Lomonosov forestry

Address: Leningrad region, Lomonosov, st. Chernikova, 20A
Phone: 423-03-37, 423-06-20.

Luga Forestry

Address: Leningrad Region, Luga, per. Petergofsky, 9a
Phone: 8-813-72-20-601.

Lyubanskoye forestry

Address: Leningrad region, Tosnensky district, Lyuban, Seletskoye highway, 16
Phone: 8-813-61-71-631.

Podporozhye forestry

Address: Leningrad region, Podporozhye, Isakov str., 19
Phone: 8-813-65-219-34, 8-813-65-219-92.

Priozerskoye forestry

Address: Leningrad region, Priozersky district, settlement Sosnovo, st. Akademicheskaya, 7
Phone: 8-813-79-616-98, 8-921-568-50-89, 8-813-79-61-60.

Roshchinskoye forestry

Address: Leningrad region, Vyborgsky district, Roshchino settlement, st. Circular, 10
Phone: 8-813-78-64-475.

North-Western forestry

Address: Leningrad region, Vyborg, st. Pesochnaya, 1-a
Phone: 8-813-78-519-07, 8-813-78-519-27.

Slantsy forestry

Address: Leningrad region, Slantsy, st. Station Slantsy, 42a
Phone: 8-813-74-362-88, 8-813-74-363-11.

Tikhvin forestry

Address: Leningrad region, Tikhvin, st. Socialist, 10
Phone: 8-813-67-51-371.

Educational and experimental forestry

Address: Leningrad region, g.p. Ulyanovsk, Moscow highway
Phone: 8-921-768-78-20.

Whose trees are in the forest. How to legally get yourself a New Year's beauty | Society

Victoria Levkovskaya


"Arguments and Facts" in Belarus No. 51. Be healthy! How not to get sick on holidays 18/12/2018


Is it possible to go to the forest and cut down the Christmas tree you like? How to prove that you bought a Christmas tree, and did not cut it down in the forest? These and other questions of "AiF" were answered by in the Forestry Department of the Ministry of Forestry of the Republic of Belarus.

Buy or cut down?

Is it possible to go to the nearest forest to cut down or dig up a Christmas tree? What is the responsibility for violating the law?

Felling (withdrawal, removal) of trees on the territory of the forest fund is carried out only with a permit.

In accordance with article 15.22 of the Code of Administrative Offenses of the Republic of Belarus for illegal logging or damage to the extent of cessation of growth or destruction of trees and shrubs in nature conservation, recreational and health-improving and protective forests, a fine is imposed in the amount of 5 to 50 basic units, on for an individual entrepreneur - from 20 to 200 base units, and for a legal entity - from 50 to 300 base units.

The same acts committed in production forests are subject to a fine of up to 30 basic units, for an individual entrepreneur - from 10 to 150 basic units, and for a legal entity - from 20 to 200 basic units.

Are there special places where it is allowed to cut down a Christmas tree?

The current legislation does not provide for the possibility for citizens to cut (harvest) Christmas trees on the territory of the forest fund.

Is it possible to break spruce branches in the forest? It is legal?

The Forest Code establishes that citizens have the right to freely be on the territory of the forest fund and, without permits, harvest tree branches to meet their own needs free of charge. Harvesting of tree branches is carried out from felled trees at logging sites; from dead and fallen trees; from growing trees, designed by the forest management project for logging, no more than two years before their logging.

Harvesting of branches from felled trees in logging sites is allowed during the period of use of forest fund plots provided for logging. Harvesting branches from dead trees is allowed throughout the year. Harvesting of branches from growing trees is allowed throughout the year, and should be carried out no more than one third of the tree crown.

Is it possible to pick up a fallen Christmas tree in the forest?

Logging of dead wood by individuals in forests is carried out in accordance with the Forest Code of the Republic of Belarus on the basis of a warrant. In the absence of a warrant for the harvesting of dead wood, a citizen will be held administratively liable.

Monitoring violators

Will the forestries carry out raids? Where and how can they catch with a Christmas tree?

Every year on the eve of the New Year and Christmas holidays employees of the State Forest Guard intensively patrol the forests. On special control - forest areas located near settlements, young coniferous forests. As practice shows, it is here that trees are most often illegally cut down.

For more effective suppression of illegal felling of New Year trees, their transportation without appropriate permits, as well as suppression of other violations, the state forest guard, together with traffic police officers, will set up checkpoints on public roads.

Since 2015, photo and video cameras have been used in the system of the Ministry of Forestry to identify violators of the law.

Do forest guard officers have the right to inspect citizens and vehicles? How to prove that the Christmas tree was bought officially?

In accordance with subparagraph 1. 2 of article 100 of the Forest Code, officials of the State Forest Guard check the documents on the basis of which the right to use forests arises, for this purpose they stop vehicles in the prescribed manner.

To prove that you bought a spruce tree, and did not cut it down in the forest, you must present a document confirming its purchase in the forestry, forestry or Christmas tree market. Legal harvesters must have a permit (forest ticket) for harvesting Christmas trees.


For the first time this year, the Ministry of Forestry invites Belarusians to join the campaign “Save the symbol of the holiday,” Anastasia DOKUCHAEVA, press secretary of the Ministry of Forestry, told AiF . The campaign will take place from 21 to 31 December in all settlements with more than 30,000 people. As part of the action, the forestries will offer Belarusians to choose a New Year tree in a tub, pot or box as the main attribute of the holiday. And after the holidays - take it out to the balcony or take it to your dacha and keep it until spring. In April, as part of the Forest Week, Belarusians will be able to plant their New Year trees in their small homeland and thus contribute to the greening of our country.

New Year's Eve Tree Forest Ministry of Forestry

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