in partnership
(Image: Gretchen Bossio / Seattle Refined)

Skip the Tree Farm: Harvest your own Christmas Tree from a National Forest

Are you on Team Real Christmas Tree?

If so, you probably love real trees for many of the reasons I do: the scent, the character of its size and shape, and probably most of all, the adventure of cutting one down.

For years our family went to a Christmas tree farm to get our signature tree. They had beautiful trees and made the occasion extra special with hot cocoa to warm us up after our hard work in the field. I thought we’d get our tree there for years. But last year my husband proposed a new idea...

“Do you want to go out into the forest and find our own tree?”

Honestly, I didn’t even know you could do that! I mean, of course, if you have property, but just the regular ol’ forest? Turns out, you totally can! You can skip the tree farm and harvest your own Christmas tree. What an adventure!

Of course, there are a few steps to do it the right way. But Washington’s national forests are ready and waiting for your family to get a tree the old fashioned way. Ready, set TIMBER!

First things first, research which national forest is closest to you. Washington has six where you can harvest a tree:

  1. Olympic National Forest
  2. Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest
  3. Gifford Pinchot National Forest
  4. Colville National Forest
  5. Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest
  6. Umatilla National Forest

Next, secure a Christmas Tree permit. For some forests you have to visit a ranger station, others are available online. If you’ll be Christmas tree hunting in the Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest, the Alderwood Mall REI sells them! Most permits are $5 (in the Mt Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest they are $10 for a tree up to 12 feet and $20 for trees over 12 feet).

With a permit you can cut down your own Christmas tree between November 13 and December 24. Before you head out be sure to confirm road conditions. A call to the forest’s ranger station is usually the easiest way to determine if your route is passable.

Once you find your perfect Christmas tree, follow the guidelines to properly cut it down and attach your permit to the trunk so it’s visible while in transit.

All Christmas trees are a joy, but just imagine if you marched into the forest and found your own unique tree? Those ones hold extra special memories. If you can’t do it this year, be sure to put it on your holiday bucket list for a coming year. It’s truly a wonderful experience! And, if you have a 4th grader thanks to the Every Kid in a Park initiative, their tree is free!