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Want to cut your own Christmas tree in Colorado this year? Here's everything you need to know

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Posted at 2:46 PM, Nov 08, 2021
and last updated 2021-11-08 16:46:38-05

Cutting down a Christmas tree is a beloved holiday activity for many Coloradans and many permits are about to go on sale, with a few already available.

In addition to a few parks, several National Forests — both along the Front Range and deep into the mountains — are selling Christmas tree permits this season so you can enjoy a day outside looking for the perfect tree.

It's a good idea to grab a permit sooner than later, as some locations have limits and they fill quickly. If you get stuck in this position, don't worry though. 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. 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 an hour of Denver while helping a Colorado state park thin overcrowded forests? This spot is for you!

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.

Anybody with a valid permit can cut down a tree on Dec. 4 between 9 a.m. and 3 p.m.

Leashed pets are welcome. Discharging firearms is prohibited. Restrooms will be open. Both two-wheel and four-wheel areas will be open and hiking is typically required.

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.

This area includes Larimer County, Grand County and more. Click here for a map of the area broken down by districts. You must choose which district you will visit when purchasing your permit. Cutting is allowed until Jan. 6 in Grand County and until Jan. 8 in Larimer County.

Colorado’s two largest wildfires — the East Troublesome Fire and Cameron Peak Fire — impacted the cutting areas in 2020 and some areas may not be safe or available for tree cutting.

Pike National Forest

  • When permits go on sale: Varies by district (see below)
  • Where to buy a permit: Recreation.gov
  • Price of a permit: $20 per tree + $2.50 processing fee from website

The Pike National Forest offers multiple districts for you to find your perfect tree. However it varies by district.

Here's a breakdown:

  • South Platte Ranger District: Limited permits available. They are currently on sale
  • Pikes Peak Ranger District: Limited permits available. Permits go on sale Nov. 26
  • South Park Ranger District: No quota for permits. They are currently on sale
  • Salida Ranger District: No quota for permits, which go on sale Nov. 9
  • Leadville Ranger District: No quota for permits, which go on sale Nov. 9
  • San Carlos Ranger District: No quota for permits, which go on sale Nov. 9

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.

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

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

White River National Forest

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. Here are the general limitations of where and how you can cut a tree. This information is available on the brochures that come with a permit purchase in-person and on Recreation.gov after buying the permit online.

Fourth and fifth graders are eligible for a free Christmas tree permit through the Every Kid Outdoors.

Reynolds Ranch Open Space (Boulder County)

  • When permits go on sale: Now through Nov. 14 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. 4-5. Entries are due by Nov. 14 at midnight.

On Nov. 15, they will learn if they won a permit, and then have until midnight on Nov. 28 to pay for it. The following day will open up to people on the wait list.

Each date 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.

For more information and to enter the drawing, click here.

Medicine Bow-Routt National Forests

  • When permits go on sale: Currently available
  • Where to buy a permit: Recreation.gov
  • 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. 14 through Dec. 31.

Six districts are available to choose from on the Recreation.gov website.

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

San Juan National Forest

  • When permits go on sale: Nov. 12
  • Where to buy a permit:
    • Recreation.gov
    • 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 Recreation.gov, $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.

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 about 200 local white fir trees from areas that need thinning every year. Proceeds 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.

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.