Hunting for the perfect Christmas tree

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Did you know you can harvest a Christmas tree from the National Forest? You can! And in Michigan, the permit is only $5, making this a more affordable alternative to many traditional Christmas tree farms in addition to an amazing family adventure.


Get ready for a fun, family adventure!


This is one of my FAVORITE family holiday traditions! We love the adventure of hunting for our Christmas tree in the natural woods! We pack hot chocolate and marshmallows, and make an afternoon out of it!


We have such a lovely afternoon while hunting for our Christmas tree, with snacks, hot cocoa, and a great sense of adventure!

To be clear, my Christmas tree does NOT look like the $50 version many of us are used to buying from a tree lot. It’s hard to find a small, bushy tree (remember, we’re talking about a natural forest here), but I LOVE the entire experience and wouldn’t trade it for the world.


We often end us choosing a white pine for our wild Christmas tree (compared to the spruce you are likely buying from your more traditional Christmas tree farm). Its not always perfectly shaped (again, because there is no farmer shaping it as it grows) or perfectly bushy, but we fill it with lights, ornaments, and love nonetheless.


By harvesting a tree from the National Forest, I’m contributing to the overall forest health. As highlighted on, “Christmas tree permits are a unique opportunity for citizens to help thin densely populated stands of small-diameter trees – the perfect size for a Christmas tree.”


National Forest Land is marked with small signs like this. Please be a good citizen by following the posted rules and keeping an eye out for private property signs. In Michigan, small parcels of private land are often interspersed within big areas of National Forest.


Visit for more information and to buy your permit online. It’s really quite easy! The website will help you through the following steps.

Choose Your Forest

Choose Your Forest

Determine which participating forest works best for your Christmas tree outing. Each forest will have specific guidelines and season dates for cutting a holiday tree.

Get the Details

Get the Details

Be safe and prepared. Carefully read the details and rules of your permit, and follow the Need to Know suggestions to prepare for your visit.

Buy a Permit

Buy a Permit

Purchase and print your permit so you’re ready to find your perfect holiday tree.



To have a successful Christmas tree hunt in a National Forest near you, I recommend the following preparations:

  • Plan to spend the whole day, don’t rush. Last year, we tried to cram our Christmas tree hunt into an afternoon and ended up hunting well into twilight and hauling our tree out of the woods in the dark! Don’t get me wrong, we still had an amazing time, but I would have enjoyed it even more if we’d had more time for our fireside picnic. And, especially if this is your first time.. it will take longer than you think.


Last year we were a bit rushed in our fire and snack as darkness was quickly falling by the time we found the perfect tree!
  • Review the maps provided by your local organization to make sure you know where you are, and more importantly are not allowed to cut a tree. Be a good citizen and pay attention to private property signs. In Michigan, small parcels of private property and National Forest land are often intermingled. It’s also helpful to review aerial maps (on google) ahead of time to look for heavily forested areas and to identify areas with conifers.


We usually review the maps provided on with our atlas and make a plan ahead of time. We usually choose a couple of promising parcels of National Forest for our adventure before we leave the house. Sometimes our day proceeds exactly according to plan, but more often than not we have to adjust, so be sure to bring your maps along on your adventure!
  • Brush up on your tree identification skills. Your National Forest may limit the specific types of trees you’re allowed to harvest for your Christmas tree. If you’re not 100% confident in your tree identification skills, bring a book along with you!


  • Get ready for a fun family adventure! 



I can’t wait to hear about your experience harvesting a Christmas tree from a National Forest near you! Please share your experience, stories, and recommendations!


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One Comment

  1. Michigan friends! If you’re looking for better maps (than the ones available on, please try these:

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