Our Great Christmas Tree Adventure

Cutting a tree down in Chequagamon National Forest

It has always been a dream of mine to hike into a forest and cut down my own perfect Christmas Tree. I never thought it was possible without having access to private land. However, It turns out that not only is it possible but H and I just did it.

Beautiful National Forest Scenery
Beautiful Forest

Every year the Chequamegon National Forest reserves 500 Christmas Tree permits that allow families to hike into the forest and cut down their very own wild Christmas Tree.  It turns out that selectively cutting down Christmas Trees helps the forest by encouraging new growth.  There are a few rules and guidelines but they aren’t hard to follow. It costs five dollars to process your permit.

Rules and Guidelines for cutting a Christmas Tree in Chequagamon National Forest

Where You are Allowed to Harvest a Tree

  • Know where you are. MAKE SURE YOU ARE NOT ON PRIVATE LAND.
  • Can harvest on all National Forest land except for: Wilderness Areas, Research Natural Areas, Developed Recreation Areas, Administrative Areas, the Argonne Experimental Forest, or within 100 feet of a lake or pond.
  • Gathering is not allowed within 100 feet of hiking trails that are within one half mile of developed camp grounds. 
  • Trees may be cut along roads and trails, although harvesters are asked to consider aesthetics and safety.

Selecting Your Tree

  • Your tree can be no taller than 20 feet.
  • Cut your tree as close to the ground as possible. The left over tree stump should be no taller than 6 inches.
  • Take the whole tree. Do not remove the top of the tree; cut down the entire tree. Clear any debris or branches from the cleared portion of roads and trails. If snow is on the ground, remove it from around the stump so you can accurately measure the stump and tree height.
  • Do not cut Northern White Cedar or Hemlocks. 
  • Balsam firs are not as abundant on the Washburn District, and, as a result, red and scotch pines are preferred. 
  • Trees cut under this permit are for personal use and are not to be sold for commercial purposes.
Future Christmas Trees
Deep in bush

Safety Advice

There are more tips on the website for planning your trip, how to cut down, and remove your Christmas Tree.  I will say, experienced hiker or not, make SURE you have a map and compass with you even if you know the area.  It is super exciting trying to find your perfect tree and subsequently not very hard to get turned around. It’s super SUPER easy to get side tracked and/or lost.  So please PLEASE be careful. Wild forest often looks the same regardless of location. I also recommend hiking poles as the “off the beaten path” hiking through dense forest is rough and the footing is very unsteady so be careful not to twist an ankle.

You will be cutting your Christmas Tree down during gun or bow deer hunting season.  Enjoy your tree cutting experience but always remember that you are sharing the forest with deer hunters. Nearly all of Chequamegon National Forest is considered public hunting land. H and I saw well over 100 hunters when we went up to cut our tree last weekend. Safety is key here. If you and the rest of your party don’t wear some blaze orange you will be putting everyones safety at risk.  It’s as simple as getting an inexpensive blaze orange hat. They are great to have around during fall hiking season anyway as there are numerous hunting seasons throughout the fall.  I’m sure you are going to have a great time and make this a family tradition so investing a little bit into protective gear makes sense.

Looking for the perfect Christmas Tree
Looking for the perfect Christmas Tree

Our Christmas Tree Adventure

We found our spot, which I can’t share, as we plan to be back again year after year and I swore to keep it a secret (which is the fun part right) and started to hike in. I actually told you about our spot in this blog post. Keep it a secret though, okay?  We found quite a few trees that we liked.  We always say a prayer before we cut our tree to to thank the land for it’s bounty before we cut it down.  It was sad and I cried a little. I know taking her home meant more trees could grow but I still felt a little guilty cutting a tree down in my favorite forest  

Dead Christmas Tree
This was a very big Christmas Tree

Carrying her to the Jeep was an adventure.  H is super strong so I’m lucky because I am not. He dragged our Christmas Tree through some serious bush. Then we had to secure her to the Jeep. Three rounds of rope wound around the trunk twice in the front, middle, and back. We ran the rope through the doors of the jeep and she was secure.  Off we went.

Tree on top of jeep
The tree is all tied up and ready to go

The spot we found was so amazing. We ended up sitting around and enjoyed the outdoors a while longer. We eventually ran into some other hikers on the trail along the creek. The forest brings me joy and peace each time I visit.  It renews my soul and fills me up in a way that my home and my day to day life can’t.  I can’t explain it.  If you feel the same way then you understand!  I can’t put it into words.

Once we got the Christmas Tree home

When we got home we trimmed it up a little more and made sure to cut it to length. We failed at measuring and still had to cut more when we brought her inside the house. The Christmas Tree was still to tall……. It must be my inner Clark Grizwald coming out again, jeez.  

The small beaver cut H removed to square up the base showed 11 rings. This tree survived 11 harsh years of weather to become our Christmas Tree. It really is quite humbling.  She is a glorious force of nature and now fully decorated. I love this tree.  She is a ray of hope in our home in a terrible year of loss, sickness, and death.  This Christmas Tree is what makes me love the holidays so much.  She reminds me that Christmas is because He was born and He looks out for us every day. He loves us all and was born to save us and He will lead us through this terrible time.  He is the light and the reason that we will survive and He will lead us home.

Merry Christmas from the Heindl’s.  May this season bring you peace and joy and also give you hope.  Hope for a brighter future and hope for a more simple time with less sickness and more companionship that we all long for.  May you stay safe and keep your family safe and see 2021 healthy and renewed.  May you find the beautiful gift of Christmas in the forest and enjoy her or him for the season at hand.  Finding her made my season that much brighter.  This Christmas Tree has 1000 LED lights on her and sings to me every night I come home………….

Lit up Christmas Tree
  1. […] I’ve been told I need to do a “how to” or give away some secrets so….I’ll give you a few of my big impact simple tricks. I’ll start by saying you should go to the forest and cut your own tree down. […]

  2. […] You can also read all about last years Great Christmas Tree Adventure and get more tips on the specifics, along with your permit, maps and more here! […]

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