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Chop your own Colorado Christmas tree: Permits to cut a tree are becoming available around the state

Golden Gate Canyon christmas tree permits
Posted at 11:28 AM, Oct 26, 2023
and last updated 2023-11-09 15:09:42-05

There is a crispness in the air after the sun goes down, and with dropping temperatures this weekend, it sure will feel more like winter than fall. While December is still far off, permits will soon become available to cut down your own Christmas tree in Colorado.

Several local parks and National Forests participate, meaning Coloradans have many locations to choose from.

Permits for some destinations have limits and fill faster than others, so now is the time to plan ahead with friends and family. However, there are also locations without quotas.

Below is a list of where you can purchase a permit, when they go on sale, the pricing and other details, as of the information available on Oct. 26. This story will be updated. At the bottom of this page, you will find reminders about what to bring with you (ex. remember to print the permit and keep it in your car).

Ready to go find your perfect tree? Here's where you can purchase a Christmas tree permit this year.

Golden Gate Canyon State Park

Want to grab a Christmas tree within 45 minutes of Denver while helping a Colorado state park thin overcrowded forests and reduce the risk of wildfires? This spot is for you!
Anybody interested in cutting down a tree at Golden Gate Canyon State Park must fill out an application online between Nov. 1 and 15. Applicants whose names are chosen will be notified by email during the week of Nov. 15 and they will be charged. On Dec. 2, they can visit the park between 9 a.m. and 3 p.m. to choose and cut their tree.

In total, 250 permits will be available this year. Chainsaws and power saws are prohibited, so bring your handsaw or ax.

Parking is available at the Nott Creek Trailhead. Click here for a map of the park and look for the trailhead on the southeast corner.

All permit-holders must either have a state parks pass or a day use pass. The latter can be purchased for $9 through CPW's online shop. Leashed pets are welcome. Discharging firearms is prohibited. Restrooms will be open.

Arapaho and Roosevelt National Forests

This National Forest is one of the more popular places to cut down a Christmas tree because of its close proximity to the Denver area. Many more permits are available in national forests compared to state and county parks.
The National Forest has not yet announced when the permits will be available, but says 2023 information will be available soon.

There are three districts in the National Forest to choose from: the Canyon Lakes Ranger District, Elk Creek Cutting Area, and Sulphur Ranger District. Click here for a map of the area broken down by districts. You must choose which district you will visit when purchasing your permit.

Bathrooms are not available at any of these locations.

Pike National Forest

  • When permits go on sale: Currently available
  • Where to buy a permit:
  • Price of a permit: $20 per tree + $2.50 processing fee from website

There is no quota across much of the National Forest, so permits — which are available both in-person, via mail, or online — will not sell out. However, that rule is different for the South Platte Ranger District, where all permits must be purchased online and are limited.
The Pike National Forest offers multiple districts for you to find your perfect tree. It varies by district.

Here's a breakdown:

  • South Platte Ranger District: Limited permits available (closest to Denver)
  • South Park Ranger District: No quota for permits (closest to the towns of Fairplay, Jefferson, Como, and Lake George)
  • Salida Ranger District: No quota for permits (closest to Salida and Buena Vista)
  • Leadville Ranger District: No quota for permits (closest to Leadville)
  • San Carlos Ranger District: No quota for permits (closest to Canon City, Westcliffe, and La Veta)
  • Pikes Peak Ranger District: Limited permits available (closest to Colorado Springs)

Cutting dates range from mid-October through the end of December, depending on the district.
Permits in the Pike National Forest specify a certain district — and you must stay within that area. All permits must be purchased in advance.

Try to avoid cutting down bristlecone pine, as they are extra sappy and can be messy to transport.

White River National Forest

  • When permits go on sale: Now online; purchase at district office on and after Nov. 15
  • Where to buy a permit:
  • Price of a permit: $10

The White River National Forest offers six districts where you can cut a Christmas tree: the Aspen-Sopris Ranger District, Blanco Ranger District, Dillon Ranger District, Eagle-Holy Cross Ranger District and the Rifle Ranger District.
Fourth graders are eligible for a free Christmas tree permit through the Every Kid Outdoors program.

Click here for the rules for cutting in this National Forest.

Reynolds Ranch Open Space (Boulder County)

  • When permits go on sale: Now through Nov. 13 at midnight
  • Where to enter the drawing for a permit: Boulder County website
  • Price of permit: $20

Boulder County Parks & Open Space staff will do a random drawing of 100 permits for residents to cut their own lodgepole pine trees at Reynolds Ranch Open Space, located at 11212 Magnolia Road in Nederland, on Dec. 2-3. Entries are due by Nov. 12 at midnight.
On Nov. 13, they will learn if they won a permit, and then have until midnight on Nov. 26 at midnight to pay the $20 fee for it. The following day will open up to people on the waitlist.

Dec. 2 and Dec. 3 will be divided into two time slots, one morning (9-11 a.m.) and one afternoon (1-3 p.m.), with 25 permits for each time slot. The permit holders will be assigned a specific date and time.

The tree cutting will be limited to designated areas on Reynolds Ranch Open Space to thin lodgepole pine trees in specific areas.

Permit holders will need to bring all materials needed to cut and transport the tree. Bring only a handsaw — chainsaws are not allowed. Only one vehicle per permit holder is allowed.

For more information and to enter the drawing, click here. In 2022, more than 1,000 entries were submitted for the drawing.

Medicine Bow-Routt National Forests

  • When permits go on sale: Currently available
  • Where to buy a permit:
  • Price of a permit: $10 + $2.50 processing fee from website

Permits to cut Christmas trees in the Medicine Bow-Routt National Forests in northwest Colorado (and southeastern Wyoming) are currently available. Cutting dates run from Oct. 13 through Dec. 31.
Six districts are available to choose from on the website.

Permits expire on Dec. 31.

San Juan National Forest

  • When permits go on sale: Nov. 12 online and Nov. 13 at direct offices
  • Where to buy a permit:
    • Local vendors: Dolores Outfitters (341 Railroad Ave., Dolores), Kroeger’s Ace Hardware (#8 Town Plaza, Durango), San Juan National Forest Headquarters (15 Burnett Court, Durango), Columbine Ranger District Office (367 Pearl St., Bayfield), Cox Corner Store (18794 Hwy 491, Lewis), Cox Conoco (201 E. Railroad Avenue, Mancos)
  • Price of a permit: $8 + $2.50 fee from, $8 from vendors

Residents in the southwestern part of Colorado can head to the San Juan National Forest to cut a holiday tree from public land managed by the National Forest.
The dates for tree-cutting are not yet available.

Roads in the San Juan National Forest roads are not plowed in the winter and may be icy and snow-packed when you visit. Call the National Forest office closest to your destination to learn more about road conditions.

Can't cut your own tree? You can purchase one from San Juan Mountains Association's (SJMA) Christmas Tree for Conservation Lot. In a partnership with the National Forest, SJMA cuts more than 300 local white fir trees from areas that need thinning every year. Proceeds go toward public lands stewardship programs and conservation education. The Christmas tree lot opens the Friday after Thanksgiving in the Durango and Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad parking lot at the corner of Camino Del Rio and College.

Fourth-grade students who have a valid Every Kid Outdoors pass can receive one free permit as well.

Last reminders before you go

Wherever you decide to go to cut a Christmas tree, keep in mind that the weather will likely be cold and possibly windy and snowy. If possible, try to start the day early to avoid getting caught in the woods at sunset. Cell service may be spotty at and around the parking lots.

Remember to bring a few essentials:

  • A printout of your permit to keep in your car
  • A full tank of gas in your vehicle
  • A handsaw
  • A tape measure if you are planning on transporting the tree inside your car and need to measure it out on the trail
  • Items required to bring the tree home (tarp, twine, blankets, bungee cords, etc.)
  • A plastic sled or similar equipment, if you plan to drag the tree back to your vehicle (dragging it through the snow may rub off its bark and needles)
  • Expect wintry weather and bring lots of layers
  • Snacks and extra water

Once you're home, cut the bottom of the trunk off and place the tree in a stand with water.