Staying monotonous is always an option. Go ahead and spend $80 at a Christmas tree farm where your uniform tree perfectly compliments your beige living room walls.
Or, you could choose the route of adventure. Sure, the tree won’t be perfect, but it will be yours.
Beginning soon, families can explore Gifford Pinchot National Forest and other locations for a unique tree to pack home after acquiring a Christmas tree cutting permit for $5 each from one of many local stations.
Starting Nov. 17, permits can be bought in person and paid for by card, cash or check. Permits can be bought online with an administrative service charge through recreation.gov.
There is a limit of five permits per household, with each permit only valid for a single use. Permits also come with a map of areas that are closed to cutting and an information sheet with instructions for cutting trees national forests. Permits must be on the tree-cutters person at the time of cutting.
Households with a fourth grade student can get a Christmas tree cutting permit for free. After earning an Every Kid Outdoors pass online, fourth graders simply need to show their valid paper voucher or Every Kid Outdoors pass at national forest offices for a free permit. Fourth graders and their parents should visit everykidoutdoors.gov for more details and to obtain their paper voucher.
To ensure a successful trip, plan ahead and prepare. Ranger district hours vary, so calling ahead to check current office hours is advised. Winter weather in the forest can change rapidly and most forest service roads are not maintained for winter driving.
A news release from the National Forest Service recommends bringing traction devices for cars, a shovel, extra food and water, winter clothing, blankets, a flashlight and a first aid kit. And of course, don’t forget the saw for cutting down the tree and a rope to secure it to the vehicle afterward.
Tree cutting and travel may take longer than anticipated, so it’s always a good idea to get an early start, leave the woods well before dark and share trip itineraries with a friend.
For additional information and a video on successful tree harvesting visit www.fs.usda.gov/goto/gp/treepermit. For more information on current road status and closures, visit www.fs.usda.gov/recmain/giffordpinchot/recreation#conditions.
Visitors can purchase Christmas tree permits at the following Forest Service offices and vendor locations:
Mt. Adams Ranger District
2455 state Route 141, Trout Lake; 509-395-3400
Office hours vary. Call for the current schedule.
Walk-up window service for all sales or by phone/mail.
Cowlitz Valley Ranger District
10024 U.S. Highway 12, Randle; 360-497-1100
Office hours vary. Call for current schedule.
Walk-up window service for all sales.
Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument
42218 NE Yale Bridge Road, Amboy; 360-449-7800
Office hours vary. Call for current schedules.
All Forest Service offices will be closed Thanksgiving Day Nov. 25.
Vendor Locations (Call for hours of operation and information):
Ashford — Ashford General Store, 360-569-2377
Ashford — Ashford Valley Grocery, 360-569-2560
Elbe — Elbe Mall, 360-569-2772
Packwood — Blanton’s Market, 360-494-6101
Randle — Fischer’s Market, 360-497-5355
Cougar — Lakeside Country Store, 360-238-5202
Cougar —Cougar Store, 360-238-5228
Cougar — Lone Fir Resort, 360-238-5210
Kalama — Kalama Spirits and Tobacco, 360-673-4991
Carson — Wind River Market, 509-427-5565
Home Valley — Home Valley Store, 509-427-4015
Trout Lake — Little Mountain (True Value) Hardware, 509-395-2773
Stevenson — Main St. Convenience Store, (open 24 hours) 509-427-5653
Amboy — Chelatchie Prairie General Store, 360-247-5529
Kelso — Sportsman's Warehouse, 360-423-2600
Vancouver — Sportsman's Warehouse, 360-604-8000