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.
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!
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.
By harvesting a tree from the National Forest, I’m contributing to the overall forest health. As highlighted on recreation.gov, “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.”
Visit Recreation.gov 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
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
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
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.
- 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.
- 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!
Please join my upcoming workshop… Kickstart Your Sustainability Journey! This 6-week online workshop will change the way you think about sustainability, flipping your mindset so that sustainability becomes a natural part of every decision you make and creating easy sustainable habits. Find more information and register here!
Michigan friends! If you’re looking for better maps (than the ones available on recreation.gov), please try these: