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Here's where you can cut down your own Christmas tree this year in Colorado

Arapaho and Roosevelt National Forests_cutting christmas tree.jpg
Posted at 6:18 AM, Nov 11, 2020
and last updated 2020-11-27 14:11:20-05

Cutting down a Christmas tree is a beloved holiday activity for many Coloradans and despite COVID-19 and wildfires, you can still participate in the tradition this year.

In addition to a state park, several National Forests — both along the Front Range and several hours from Denver — are selling Christmas tree permits this season.

Anybody who purchases one of these permits, no matter where they end up going, should search for an area of tightly-knit, dense trees and pick one from there.

This will in turn give the surrounding trees more space to grow, Hillary Santanez, recreation event coordinator with the White River National Forest, explained.

Thinning the forests in this fashion reduces competition for resources and nutrients so the other trees can grow stronger and healthier, Santanez said. It also helps the trees handle stressful environmental situations, such as drought. In addition, thinning dense forests can help with wildfire mitigation.

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

Golden Gate Canyon State Park

Anybody interested in cutting down a tree at Golden Gate Canyon State Park must fill out an application by Nov. 15. A random drawing will follow on Nov. 16 and 250 people will be awarded a permit. They will be notified by email and their card connected to the lottery will be charged $35.

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 when entering the lottery.

Anybody with a valid permit can cut down a tree on Dec. 5 between 9 a.m. and 3 p.m.

Leashed pets are welcome. Discharging firearms is prohibited. Restrooms will be open.

Arapaho and Roosevelt National Forests

  • When permits go on sale: Nov. 23
  • Where to buy a permit:
    • Local vendors: Country Ace Hardware (627 W. Agate, Granby), Fireside Market and Eatery (78337 US Highway 40, Winter Park), Winter Park Chamber of Commerce (78841 US Highway 40, Winter Park), Murdoch's Ranch and Home Supply (541 Zerex St., Fraser)
  • Price of a permit: $20

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. This year, the wildfire forced officials to delay and reevaluate the Christmas tree permit system for 2020.

The permits will be available beginning Nov. 23 for only the Sulphur Ranger District. The district will have reduced tree cutting areas.

The Red Feather Lakes area on the Canyon Lakes Ranger District was impacted by the Cameron Peak Fire, so permits are not available here for 2020.

The National Forest was impacted by multiple wildfires, said Forest Public Affairs Program Manager Tammy Williams.

"In the past we have had Christmas tree sales on the Canyon Lakes and Sulphur Ranger Districts," she said. "The Cameron Peak Fire is on the Canyon Lakes Ranger District and the Williams Fork and East Troublesome are on the Sulphur Ranger District."

She said she doesn't believe they've ever had to cancel the holiday permit system due to wildfires.

Pike National Forest

  • When permits go on sale: On sale now (opened Oct. 15)
  • Where to buy a permit: Online only at
  • Price of a permit: $20 per tree + $2.50 processing fee

For the first time, all permit purchases to cut a Christmas tree down in the Pike National Forest have moved online. Buyers must provide a specific day and cutting area. National Forest officials are reminding anybody who is interested to not mail permit requests to the district office, but instead visit

Cutting dates run from Nov. 27 through Dec. 13 in various districts. Some are close to Denver and Colorado Springs and others are farther west, like the district in South Park, Leadville or near Salida.

All permits must be purchased in advance.

Fourth-grade students who have a valid Every Kid Outdoors pass can receive one free permit as well. These permits are only available at U.S. Forest Service District offices.

White River National Forest

In an effort to provide the public with ample opportunities to obtain a Christmas tree permit, the White River National Forest added online sales for 2020. Hillary Santanez, recreation event coordinator with the National Forest, said they are encouraging people to purchase the permit online or through the local vendors since the National Forest offices are limited to curbside due to COVID-19.

However, that's the only impact COVID-19 is having on this year's permit system in the White River National Forest, she said.

A few areas of the National Forest are closed due to wildfires, including the Grizzly Creek Fire, but that has not impacted the number of permits available, Santanez said. There is no cap on the number of permits sold each year.

Santanez encouraged all permit-holders to familiarize themselves with the general limitations of where they can cut a tree. This information is available on the brochures that come with a permit purchase in-person and on after buying the permit online.

San Juan National Forest

  • When permits go on sale: Nov. 12
  • Where to buy a permit:
    • Any of the following local vendors: Dolores Outfitters (Dolores), Kroeger’s Ace Hardware (Durango), Cox Corner Store (Lewis), Cox Conoco (Mancos)
  • Price of a permit: $8 + $2.50 fee from, $8 from local 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.

Rules about where to look for a tree and how to select the exact one are available at Participants may only cut white fire, subalpine fir and spruce trees.

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. SJMA cuts about 200 local white fir trees from areas that need thinning every year. Proceeds to go toward public lands stewardship programs and conservation education.

Fourth-grade students who have a valid Every Kid Outdoors pass can receive one free permit as well. These permits are only available at U.S. Forest Service District offices.

Medicine Bow-Routt National Forests

  • When permits go on sale: Nov. 13
  • Where to buy a permit:
  • Price of a permit: $10 + $2.50 processing fee

Permits to cut Christmas trees in the Medicine Bow-Routt National Forests in northwest Colorado (and southeastern Wyoming) went on sale online on Nov. 13. The online option was added this year as an alternative to in-person purchases at National Forest offices, which are closed to due to COVID-19.

After purchasing a permit, print it out and display it on the dash of your vehicle when you enter the National Forest.

Some areas of the National Forest are off limits. For details, click here.

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 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.