November means Christmas Tree Permit Season in the Sierra
Calling all Griswolds
Ok all you “Griswold” Christmas tree fanatics, our season approaches. Yes I said our Season, I am a true “Griswold” tree hunter each year. Growing up in the Cascade mountains of Oregon and my dad being a logger, I can still drive you to some of the best natural Christmas trees in Central Oregon.
But I don’t live in Oregon any longer. I now live and enjoy the Sierra Mountains as home. So where do you go to get a great Christmas Tree in the Sierra Mountains?
In Early November each year tree permits started being sold at most National Forest Service offices around the Sierra. With nine national forests in the Sierra you would think that your choices are plentiful. However several national forests in the Sierra are closed to Christmas Tree Hunting.
Christmas Trees in The Lake Tahoe Region
Coming out of the Carson Valley I like to head up to Wolf Creek area for our Christmas Tree. But this area is liked by many and finding your tree takes a little more work. Also the Burn areas out of Markleville have decimated great christmas tree areas over the past few years.
We have found good trees up further towards Ebbett’s Pass near Silver creek Campground area many years but most of the time you have to be willing to cross the river/creek.
Heading up towards Hope Valley on Hwy 88 Christmas Tree seekers often find success on the road up to Burnside lake. The Humboldt – Toiyabe National Forest Land shows trees can be harvested all the way our Blue Lake Highway as well. One note here there is a lot of area around Hope Valley that is off Limit is for Tree Harvesting. Please make certain you follow map boundaries and only cut where open. Alos Burnside Lake and Blue Lakes highway often are closed early because of weather and driving to best areas for trees is not possible.
Lake Tahoe Basin has many spots around the lake to choose from, see their map if you get a chance to grab a permit there. Spooner summit is popular. Often these permits sell out fast around the basin.
If you are new to looking for your own tree here are a few tips to consider before you go:
- Get a permit and a Map from the forest service offices listed below. Permits run $10 and a map is important as you can’t cut in some areas. WFill the car up before you go, it is easy to have a great day out looking for a tree and not realize how many miles you end up driving.
- Make sure you have enough gas for a good trip
- Take a hand saw, Tarp. Gloves and Rope – can’t tell you how many times I have seen people go out and forget the rope to tie the tree to the car. Saw for light weight cutting, you may have to hike a bit to find a tree, chainsaws become very heavy, Gloves to save you from the traditional pitchy hands, A Tarp can be useful for not only covering the tree from wind damage on top of the car, but if there is snow you can place tarp on ground and drag your tree back to the car.
- Bring Hot Chocolate and a few snacks. – Getting a Christmas tree is a blast. It can be a magical family time. One our family favorites is to sit in the woods at the car after we get our tree and drink some Hot Coco and eat out favorite snacks to replenish the energy we just used getting tree back to the car.
- Tape Measure – How tall of tree will your house hold with a tree topper? How big of base do you need on the tree for your tree stand? Both great questions. You are not allowed to cut down a larger tree and just harvest the top. You need to get a good idea of the tree you need before you start looking and decide to cut.
- Dress warm and bring layers – In Nevada, one of the mysteries I see when out getting my tree is the people who did not bring a jacket or are dressed like they are going to the high school basketball game. Winter in the Sierra’s can be brutal, Bring your warm clothes and if you need to peel them off on an unusually warm day you can. Also getting a tree this time a year often will get you wet, it is nice to have a warm dry set of clothes waiting for you int he car.
- Find a friend to go with you that knows the area. – This one is sometimes a little more difficult, because us “Real” Christmas Tree guys, don’t like to share our favorite spots. However it is worth asking, If you are not familiar with the area and if your honest and maps are not your strong suit, you want to get a little guidance. Every year it seems we hear the story of the family who goes out to get the tree and ends up lost or stranded on a backcountry road for days. Have a plan, let people know where you are going and stay on the road if you area first timer.
Here is a list of links to the Forest service stations in your area to determine the best time and locations for trees near you.
National Forest Tree Permit Options
Plumas National Forest | MAP –
Humbolt – Toiyabe National forest | Options for the Carson Ranger District, Bridgeport Ranger District for the Sierra Region.
Inyo National Forest | No Digital Map Available at this time. Maps can be picked up at stations.
Tahoe National Forest | – Tahoe National forest has moved to Recreation.gov for all permits. Tahoe National Forest has maps and permits for the following areas online:
- American River
- Sierraville District
- Yuba River
El Dorado National Forest | – Sell out fast and are available at Recreation.gov only – map
The Following National forests don’t always sell Christmas Tree Permits
Stanislaus National Forest | The Stanislaus National Forest is pleased to participate in this years Christmas Tree Permit. For 2022, permits are ONLY available through recreation.gov, are free (recreation.gov charges a $2.50 fee), and only 5,000 will be made available. Sales begin at 7 a.m., Friday, November 25. Visit Stanislaus National Forest Christmas Tree Permit in California – Recreation.gov to get your permit.
Sequoia National Forest | No Christmas Tree Permits are sold in Sequoia National Forest.
Other Forest Participating in the Christmas Tree Permit 2022
- Eldorado National Forest
- Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest
- Lake Tahoe Basin Management Unit
- Tahoe National Forest
- Plumas National Forest
- Mendocino National Forest
- Lassen National Forest
- Shasta-Trinity National Forest
Where May I Cut A Christmas Tree?
National Forests that do issue Christmas Tree permits.
Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest
Sparks, NV, (775) 331-6444
Lake Tahoe Basin Management Unit
South Lake Tahoe, (530) 543-2694
Tahoe National Forest
Sierraville Ranger Station (only) (530) 543-2600
Plumas National Forest
Lassen National Forest
Susanville, (530) 257-2151
Six Rivers National Forest
Eureka, (707) 442-1721
Inyo National Forest -White Mountain Ranger Station ONLY
Additional guidelines for Christmas trees:
- Most holiday tree permits are issued in November. Know your location, the weather, and your ability to traverse through snow.
- Dress for the season. Always be prepared for the cold and snow, and start tree hunting early in the day to have plenty of daylight hours.
- Bring emergency supplies, including water and food and a first-aid kit.
- Remember to tell someone where you are going. Your cell phone may not work on many forests.
- The tree you choose must be at least 200 feet from main roads, recreation sites and campgrounds, and stay away from areas along the sides of streams, rivers, lakes, and wet areas. Check with the ranger district for the proper distance.
- Select a tree with a trunk six inches or less in diameter, and prepare to cut the tree no more than six inches above ground level.
- Never cut a tall tree just for the top.
- Select a tree from overstocked areas and thickets. Watch restricted areas. Cut only one tree per tag.
- Attach your tree tag to harvested tree before placing in vehicle.
- Bring a rope and tarp to move your tree from the harvest area to your vehicle.
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