Rocky Mountain Regional Christmas Tree Program
Be a Coloradoan: Go up into the mountains to cut your own Christmas tree
Cutting a Christmas Tree near Colorado Springs
If you want to cut your own tree in the forest, you’ll need to go to the designated cutting areas in Pikes Peak Ranger Forest up in Woodland Park.
I know what you’re thinking. “But I don’t want to cut down a piece of nature for my enjoyment.” I really do understand where you’re coming from. By participating in this program, you are taking an active role in managing the forest BY cutting down the trees. This program helps thin out the trees and reduce fire hazards while keeping the forest healthy. It is very carefully regulated with strict areas and rules for cutting down trees. Please comply to keep Colorado pretty for everyone.
You might also be thinking, “Why in the world would you want to go out into the cold, hike through the woods, and cut your own Christmas tree that you then have to drag to your car or truck and tie to your car?” It does sound like a lot of work for what will probably be an imperfect Christmas tree. The trees tend to be a bit (or a lot) lopsided, have empty spots, and are just not as tight as the trees from the lot.
But this program gives you an opportunity to spend time with friends and family during an otherwise busy season. Additionally, forest health is important. By removing these smaller trees you are contributing to the overall well being of the forest and reducing fire danger.
Need more ideas for holiday fun? >> Check out our Top 10 Christmas Activities Near Colorado Springs post.
Where can I cut a Christmas Tree?
You can cut your Christmas tree in dedicated Cutting Areas. The 2022 season added a new huge area east of Hwy 67. You can see a full map here: Christmas Tree Cutting Area Map. Most of my information in this post is about the Christmas Tree Program in the Pikes Peak Region. Find links to other regions in Colorado or in the Rocky Mountain Region at the bottom of this post.
2023 Details and Tips
- $20 per permit. Click here to purchase online once the permits are released.
- Permits are available November 24-December 17.
- Get a free permit if your child has a 4th grader Interagency Pass via the Every Kid Outdoors Initiative
- Limit 5 permits per person
- Area Entry Hours: 8:30 am to 2:30 pm
- Cut trees no greater than 6 inches in diameter or taller than 15 feet. Cut the tree as close to the ground as possible. Leave as little of the tree as possible
- Your permit must be visible on your dashboard prior to leaving the cutting area.
- Do not cut blue marked trees
- Do NOT top trees
- Pack out your trash
- Check road conditions on the Colorado Department of Transportation website or call the closest Ranger District office to the area you want to cut in
What do I need to know about cutting down my own Christmas Tree?
- Your permit! ($5000 for cutting trees without a permit).
- Map of cutting area.
- Some trails require 4WD.
- Handsaw/axe and work gloves. Chainsaws are prohibited.
- Dress warmly for winter weather.
- Have a full tank of gas.
- Bring food, extra water, a shovel, a blanket, a first-aid kit, and a warm drink.
- Leave pets at home or have them on a leash at all times.
- Take a rope or bungee cord and tarp to pack your tree home.
You will need 4WD or chains are required! They have had quite a bit of snow so be prepared to really use those chains.
The evening and cold temperatures start early in the back country. Make sure you are done and heading out no later than 3pm.
Should you go and cut your own Christmas Tree?
This program might be for you if:
- You don’t need a perfect Christmas tree.
- You don’t mind taking your (hopefully 4WD or AWD) vehicle through the backcountry. In fact, you’ve always been looking for a reason to really test it out.
- You think you can handle almost any kind of weather.
- You like adventures.
- You love Colorado and the outdoors….or would like to learn to like it 🙂
- You like great family time.
- You want to make cutting your own a Christmas tree a tradition.
Related Reading: 2023 Colorado Gift Guide
What to Expect when you cut your own Christmas Tree in the Mountains
When you go with small children
It has always been a family tradition and sometimes even a family adventure! When the kids were little, we kept the tree hunt pretty short. If it was very cold, the little ones would play in the snow only for a short time. I would stay with them while my husband, Tim, went to look for a tree for us. By the time he came back, I had all 3 of the kids cuddling under blankets in the back of the Suburban while sipping on hot cocoa and eating cookies. The doors of the truck were open and they watched (maybe laughed at us parents) as we loaded the tree onto the roof. Happily, we packed up and drove home while singing Christmas songs.
When you go with teens
Once the kids were older, we went as a group with other friends and their kids at similar ages. As we hiked through the woods, the kids would have a fun time just being kids. Who would find the best Christmas tree? Bigger? Better? Hot cocoa was still a part of the event. And we still sang on the way home.
The tree isn’t perfect
I don’t think we ever had a PERFECT tree. In fact, one year we stapled a few small branches from the bottom of the tree into some bare spots toward the top. We made it work! You know, it really didn’t matter. This was about us, the season, and being together. Mission accomplished. Try it.
Trees you can find
Once You Have The Tree At Home:
Create your own fire retardant solution for your tree.
Other Areas for Tree Cutting:
- Front Range
- Buffalo Creek
- Winter Park
- Red Feather Lakes
- RCTP: Front Range/Denver Metro Christmas Tree Cutting Areas Map
- RCTP: Nebraska Christmas Tree Cutting Areas
- RCTP: South Dakota Christmas Tree Cutting Areas
- RCTP: Wyoming Christmas Tree Cutting Areas