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How To Harvest a Christmas Tree in the Willamette National Forest

The Willamette National Forest is a regional treasure that spans a scenic 1.6 million acres. And while it offers plenty of year-round recreation, one of the national forest's most treasured wintertime offerings is the chance to cut your own Christmas tree and haul it home.

Yes, it's possible: You and your family can head into the (sometimes snowy) forest to find the perfect tree, cut it yourself, and take it home for decoration and seasonal merriment—all for just $5.

To help you enjoy this seasonal tradition, we've put together an easy, four-step guide for harvesting your Willamette Valley tree this year.

Start by viewing U.S. Forest Service maps that show where you can harvest trees in each of its ranger districts.

When figuring out where to find your tree:

  • Steer clear of private land and wilderness areas
  • Ensure you're at least 300 feet from campgrounds, 100 feet from streams or lakes, and 50 feet from trails and paved roads
  • Trees can be up to 15 feet tall

For more rules and resources, visit the Willamette National Forest's Christmas Tree Permits webpage.

A snowy Willamette National Forest / Photo by Hallie White

Once you've figured out where to go and how to get there, purchase a tree permit on or from local vendors throughout the Willamette Valley. Permits typically go on sale in early to mid-November.

The permit costs just $5 and covers one tree. Be sure to print the permit before departing for your trip, as well.

Before setting out, keep these tips in mind to have fun and stay safe:

  • Prepare for chilly weather by layering your clothes with cold-weather gear—including hats, gloves, boots, and a warm jacket
  • Remember a saw and rope for cutting and transporting your tree
  • Visit for the latest road conditions—complete with live webcams, closure information, and other updates
  • Bring tire chains in the event of wintry road conditions
  • Note that Forest Service roads are not plowed—so if a parking area isn't reachable, please do not park along busy roads and highways

Once you're in the forest, here's what to know for making the most of your Christmas tree harvest:

Unmaintained roads: Forest are often narrow and unpaved—and are not plowed in winter. Once you arrive, find a safe place to park, and make sure other vehicles can pass. Once parked, display your permit on your vehicle's dashboard.

What to cut: While searching for the perfect tree, keep a few rules in mind: Trees can be cut down if they're up to 15 feet tall, stumps can be up to 6 inches, and visitors might cut the whole tree. (Also note that cutting whitebark pine, pacific yew, and western white pine is not allowed.)

Transporting your tree: From there, carefully carry your tree back to the vehicle (making sure not to drag it, if possible—needles and bark can rub off when this happens) and work together to safely secure it. The tree trunk should be at the front of the car with the top and branches directed toward the back, and a permit must be visible when loaded.

Sharing the fun: If you're sharing your adventure on social media, we'd love to see the photos! Use the hashtags #FindYourTrail, #IwonderWV, and #WillametteNationalForest on social media—and tag @gowillamettevalley on Instagram.

Thinking of harvesting a tree in the Mt Hood National Forest? Our friends at Oregon's Mount Hood Territory have a handy harvesting guide for you!

Make your Christmas tree harvest part of a larger adventure in the Willamette Valley—which transforms each holiday season into a winter wonderland. The possibilities for a memorable outing are endless, but here are a few ideas to get you started:

Find the perfect addition to your new Christmas tree with our annual Ornament Hunt! We and our partners have hidden Willamette Valley-themed ornaments on roughly two-dozen trails in the Willamette National Forest and Umpqua National Forest—and you're invited to find one. Register your ornament, and you may win a grand prize.

Purchase a piece of the Willamette Valley when you do your holiday shopping this season. Our guide to supporting locally owned shops, boutiques, and stores helps you prepare for the season with gift ideas that include fresh food, acclaimed wines, good books, and more.

Warm up after a day in the woods with a soak in one of our regional hot springs. We've rounded up four mineral-rich hot springs—each fed by geothermal activity under the Earth's surface—to help you relax and unwind. These include long-running resorts, natural hot springs, and more.

Your adventure begins with the official Willamette Valley Travel Guide. Request your complimentary printed guide or download a digital guide today.

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