Would you like to try cutting your own Christmas tree from the forest? If you’re wondering how to do this near Tacoma, Puyallup, or elsewhere in the South Sound, I have the scoop for you! It will require a bit of a trip, but it’s great fun with a little planning.
I’ll tell you that we’ve done this twice and it was an adventure once and a bit of a misadventure the second time! My tips below will make sure you know just what to do if you want to cut your own tree to keep it safe and fun. Got a 4th grader? You can get your Christmas tree for free! If your kids are older or younger, it will still only cost you 10.00!
1. Keep it legal
First, you should know that it’s illegal to just find a random tree and cut it down (you knew that, right)? If you want to do this, you need to follow Forest Service rules, which you can find here. Start by getting a 2017 $10/tree permit from the ranger station or a retail store that sells them. We got ours at the Enumclaw station. If you’re after a tree that is bigger than 12 feet, the price goes up to $20. Note there aren’t refunds: If all you can find are Charlie Brown trees, you have to make do.
2. Got a 4th grader? Get yours FREE!
If you have a kiddo in the 4th grade, they can get a free tree permit thanks to the Every Kid in a Park program.
I did confirm that this offer is good in the Mt.Baker-Snoqualmie, Gifford Pinchot, and Okanogan Wenatchee National Forests, which I think are all the forests where you’d reasonably be headed from this area.
You can also use your Every Kid in a Park Pass or your Northwest Forest Pass or Federal Interagency Pass at trailheads requiring a fee.
However, once enough snow accumulates and selected trailhead parking areas convert to sno-parks, a valid Washington State Sno-Park permit must be displayed on the vehicle windshield when parking at any Washington State Sno-Park.
If the pass requirements confuse you (You are not alone!), just ask at the ranger station when you get your tree permit.
2. Follow the map
You’ll get a map and directions to the areas where you can cut. Follow them!
Cash, credit cards and checks are accepted at most Forest Service ranger stations with the occasional exception of Skykomish (please call ahead to verify whether cards are being accepted); Glacier and Verlot Public Service Centers only accept cash and checks. Forest Service offices are closed Thanksgiving Day. Forest Service offices may close early Thanksgiving and Christmas Eve; please call ahead for operating hours.
Cutting areas are located within national forest lands in the eastern portions of Pierce, King, Snohomish, Skagit and Whatcom counties. Permits, maps and more information is available at the closest Ranger District office.
3. Go early and leave early
Nearly every road you’ll be using is an unplowed, gravel or dirt Forest Service Road. Try to go early in the season before heavy snowfall.
You’ll also want to start early in the day, so you’re not trying to do this in the dark. As soon as you see an area suitable to pull off and look for your tree, do it! Don’t keep driving up the hillside until you find snow to get stuck in. Ask me how I know
4. Come prepared
Do not try to do this unless you have an appropriate high clearance vehicle. I also strongly suggest you bring chains and a shovel. It’s also a smart idea to bring extra clothes and snacks, the way you’d prepare for a hike. You may also want cocoa and cookies or whatever esle sounds fun. You’ll see a lot of families up there building fires and tailgating after they get their tree. We are not that organized.
If this sounds like a little too much adventure, you might want to try an area U-cut farm. There are absolutely scads of them, and buying a u-cut tree is a nice way to support a local farm. If you’re looking for ideas, check out our Best South Sound U-Cut Tree Farms for Families.
Note-This one is about halfway updated as of this writing.
We’re busy updating all kinds of holiday posts! Keep checking back for all of them!