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Christmas Tree Picking Season Begins Today In Stanislaus National Forest

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Sonora, CA — Today is when permits are now valid for anyone heading into the Stanislaus National Forest to pick out a Christmas Tree.

For the second year in a row, the Forest Service is offering free permits for those wishing to cut down a tree this holiday season. They are limited to two per household, and there is a $2.50 processing fee through

Those interested could start acquiring the permits on November 9, but the cutting date was delayed until December 1st, at the request of local Christmas Tree farm owners who make most of their money in the week immediately following Thanksgiving.

The number of permits is limited to 7,500, and they are still available this morning. Click here for more information. The cutting period closes on December 31.

Click here to view a map of where trees can be harvested.

Tips from the US Forest Service are below:

Where to Cut Your Tree

  • Permits are non-transferable. No refunds. Permit must be in possession when cutting and transporting tree(s).
    Permit holders are not to trespass onto private property when cutting their tree. Please do not cut within campgrounds or special use permit areas.
  • Motorized vehicles are only allowed on existing roads and trails that are open to the public. No off-road travel is allowed (unless by snowmobile in open-riding areas). Refer to the Christmas Tree Cutting Map provided on this webpage.
  • Observe seasonal road closures and be prepared to hike to the cutting area to find a tree. On December 15 many forest roads are closed to motor vehicle use (MVU), please check the MVU map (MVUM).
  • Permit holders are reminded to park safely off the roadway and do not block gates.
  • You must print and bring your Christmas Tree Permit with you or have a picture of you permit on your phone. There is limited cell phone service throughout the forest.

Selecting Your Tree

  • Tree Height: 20 feet maximum
  • Stump height: 12 inches maximum
  • Stump diameter: 6 inches maximum
  • Do not cut isolated trees growing in the open.
  • Select Pine, fir, or cedar. Do not cut any hardwood such as aspen or oak.
  • Take the whole tree of correct size for your home.
  • Do not cut a larger tree and remove the top of the tree.
  • If snow is on the ground, remove it from around the stump so you can accurately measure the stump and tree height.

How to Plan Your Trip

  • Before you leave home, be sure to measure the space where you plan to place the tree in your home (height and width), and measure the space in your vehicle where you will be transporting the tree.
  • Cell service may be spotty or unavailable. Be sure someone knows where you are and when to expect you back. Bring plenty of food and water with you as well as an overnight survival kit in case you become stranded. Start your day early. Be sure to find your tree and leave the woods before dark. Dress warmly and take extra dry clothes. Expect winter weather, including cold temperatures, snow and winds.
  • Check the latest weather conditions, forest warnings and road closures before you leave on your trip.
  • Bring a map with you. Don’t rely on GPS because it may not be up-to-date with forest service roads.
  • Roads may not be plowed. Carry tire chains, shovel(s) and a tow chain. Bring a spare key and give it to someone else in your party. Don’t get locked out of your car! Park in areas so that traffic can get by safely, and do not block gates. Be sure your vehicle has a full tank of gas.
  • We don’t recommend bringing your pets but, if you do, they must be on a leash.

Helpful Cutting Tips

  • Carry your tree carefully out of the woods. Dragging the tree will rub off needles and bark.
  • Tools to bringing with you include a measuring tape; handsaw to cut your tree; gloves to protect your hands; boots to protect your feet; a tarp to sit on and/or to move your tree once it’s cut; and rope or straps to secure your tree to your vehicle.
  • Choose a tree from a dense forested area, which will give the remaining trees more space to grow.
    Cut the leftover branches from the stump and scatter them.
  • If storing your tree outside for a few days before putting it in the house, keep it in an area protected from the wind, such as the north or east side of your house or under a shaded tree.