Establishing family traditions, especially around the holidays, is one of my favorite things about being a mom and having a sweet family. There is something so special about knowing my children will remember these moments for decades to come, and they may even pass our traditions on to their families someday. Our absolute favorite tradition is to cut our own Christmas tree in Pike National Forest.
WHY WE LOVE TO CUT OUR OWN TREE:
- It is $20 for a tree permit — TWENTY DOLLARS! You can choose a big tree (which we love for our two-story great room) or a small tree (we always get a second for the kids to decorate). You can experience a true Colorado tree for much less than the real trees sold in the tree lots.
- It could be FREE if you have a 4th or 5th Grade Student: Every Kid in a Park initiative is offering one free Holiday Tree permit to fourth and fifth-graders that have a valid 4th Grade Interagency Pass. These free Holiday Tree permits are only available at U.S. Forest Service District offices. Learn more here.
- It is a true bonding experience. This day is hands down always one of our favorites of the whole year, and we always come home with stories (read below in WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW!)
- We are helping the health of our Colorado forests AND our trees stay SO fresh! Being married to a firefighter, and watching my In-Laws and many other families lose their homes in the Waldo Canyon Fire and the Black Forest Fire, this is important to me. It is a small act that can contribute to the overall well being of the forest and reduce fire danger.
WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW
- It does take some work and you will have more challenges with small children. We prefer to go with another family so there are several adults to help. You may have to hike in a bit to get the perfect tree, so carrying it out can be tough (and we always seem to have to carry it UPHILL). The tree is much heavier than you expect (especially if you also have to carry a toddler!)
- The tree will be more Charlie Brown style. These are not the perfectly grown and groomed trees that you may see in a tree lot. I personally love this about the trees. The branches are sturdy and you can see all the ornaments on them. And I enjoy taking a tree that is a bit sparse and turning it into a beautiful centerpiece.
- Leave early in the day, and head out of the forest by at least 3 pm. Plan for at least 4 hours if you are traveling from Colorado Springs, and be sure to prepare for winter weather. 4 wheel drive or chains are required.
- Go with a full tank of gas, and bring a handsaw (chainsaws are not permitted). Bring food, extra water, a shovel, a blanket, a first-aid kit and a warm drink. Leave pets at home or have them on a leash at all times. Take a rope and tarp to pack your tree home.
THE NITTY GRITTY DETAILS (CLICK HERE FOR THE OFFICIAL WEBSITE)
- Permit Sales: You can purchase your 2020 permit ONLINE ONLY from Friday, November 27th – Wednesday, December 16th. There will be no onsite permit sales in Colorado Springs or Woodland Park in 2020 due to public health concerns. The Pikes Peak Ranger District will not sell out of permits.
- Cost: Permits are $20.00 per tree, with a limit of 5 permits per person. Be sure you are purchasing a permit for the Pikes Peak Ranger District and ensure you print your permit, map and cutting information from the website.
- Cutting Dates: Trees may be cut any time after the purchase of permit through December 16, 2020. REMEMBER TO CLEARLY DISPLAY YOUR PERMIT ON THE DASHBOARD OF YOUR VEHICLE AS YOU LEAVE THE AREA. (Removing trees without a valid permit is subject to a fine of up to $5000 and/or 6 months imprisonment)
- Cutting Your Tree: Cut trees no greater than 6 inches in diameter and as close to the ground as possible. Remove the entire tree, PLEASE do not cut just the top of the trees.
- Area: Trees may be cut on National Forest System lands northwest of Woodland Park, Colorado in the North Divide area and northwest of Woodland Park off Forest Service Roads 339 and 342. Be sure to print the map when you purchase your permit and use it to navigate to the tree cutting areas. Signs will be posted.
- Other Forests in Colorado: Click here for information statewide.
If you have any additional questions, you can also call 719-477-4221.