(credit: CBS)

While families may not be able to cut down trees in the Denver metro area, there are several national forest spaces within a few hours from the city that do allow cutting by permit. From Clear Creek to Colorado Springs, there are plenty of areas to find the perfect Christmas tree growing in our own Colorado soil. Tree cutters are reminded that wild trees are looser and bear more natural branches than tightly compacted, commercially grown trees, something to remember when planning to hang heavy ornaments from the boughs.

How To Cut Down Your Christmas Tree

Permits are required from the National Forestry Service. At $10 per permit, the time-honored tradition of cutting down your own Colorado Christmas tree is a wonderful way to not only save money but also helps keep our forests healthy.

Permits can be purchased at your local ranger district office. The permits are required for cutting down any tree in a Colorado national forest and must be hung visibly from the tree when removing from the park.

Chainsaws are strictly forbidden for these trees. Instead use a hand saw or ax to take down the tree. “Topping” is not permitted, meaning the entire tree must be cut down, and trees must be cut six inches from the base.

Specific dates and times do apply to Christmas-tree cutting, with various areas having different dates and specifications.

Clear Creek Ranger District Pickle Gulch
Information Center
101 Highway 103
Idaho Springs, CO 80452
(303) 567-3000

As a popular Christmas tree cutting destination close to Denver, Pickle Gulch will only issue 500 permits this year. Beginning November 1st, the cutting days for this location will only include the first two weekends of December. Many ideal trees have been downed in this area over the last few years, so finding the perfect tree may take some hunting.

South Platte Ranger District Buffalo Creek
Mailing address:
28718 Redskin Creek Road
Bailey, CO 80421
(303) 275-5610

Christmas tree permits are available for this location at the Morrison Office at 19316 Goddard Ranch Court this year. While searching for the perfect tree in Buffalo Creek, families are asked to be bear aware. While pets are allowed on leashes, it is best to leave them at home. Mail-in permits are available here.

Pikes Peak Ranger District
601 S. Weber St.
Colorado Springs, CO 80903
(719) 636-1602

Trees are available in this park to be cut through December 12th. With many species of trees available, including Ponderosa Pine, Lodgepole, Douglas Fir and others, families are cautioned to allocate up to four hours for their tree-cutting adventure. Chains are required for cars as the roads can be tough and winter conditions are to be expected.

Related: Getaway Guide: One-Tank Trip To Colorado Springs

Sulphur Ranger District Elk Creek
Sulphur Ranger District Office
9 10 Mile Drive
Granby, CO 80446
(970) 887-4100

Near Winter Park, Elk Creek cutting area is another popular Christmas tree cutting area. Many families take advantage of the ski resort offerings and make a weekend of the trip. Permits for this park allow for families to cut down trees nearly anywhere from November 1st until January 6th. Blue Xs on trees indicate trees that are not to be cut down and restricted areas can be recognized by the Ranger District.

Insider Tips

Trekking into Colorado’s national forests always carries some assumed risk. Make sure to go prepared with warm clothing, some food, chains for tires, shovels and axes or hand saws for cutting down the trees. Tarps and ropes will firmly affix the trees to the tops of cars or trailers, and make sure to have your permit in plain sight when exiting the park.

If searching for a family tradition that doesn’t include cutting down a tree, consider creating biodegradeable ornaments such as popcorn garlands and clove-punctured oranges to hang from a tree on your property. Scores of birds, squirrels and other woodland creatures will enjoy the Christmas gift and it is something you and your family can enjoy for years to come, without having to cut down and dispose of a fresh tree year after year. If living downtown, consider enjoying the many light walks and Christmas décor around the city.

Related: Top Adult Hockey Leagues In Denver

Chad Chisholm is an avid globetrotter and brings the best of travel secrets and expert insights to his readership. A Denver-based travel writer and photographer, Chad’s travels have taken him to five of the seven continents in a passionate love affair with the world of travel and the outdoors. His work can be found at Examiner.com.