Share This Post

Activities / Children / Denver Fun / Family Travel / Holidays

The Great Colorado Christmas Tree Hunt

The Great Colorado Christmas Tree Hunt

If you celebrate Christmas, the holiday season shows what kind of person you really are: the real or fake Christmas tree kind of person. I see the benefits in being a fake tree person, I suppose. You make only a one-time purchase, and no traipsing through 5 feet of snow or having your eyes frozen shut à la Audrey Griswold. My husband and I were even fake Christmas tree people for the first few years of our marriage, but last year we were won over again to becoming “real tree people.”

Throughout my childhood, our family and another family went Christmas tree hunting together every winter at a snowy Pennsylvania tree farm. We would bet on who could find the best Christmas tree and “tag” our options with crumpled up tissues my mom and her friend had stuffed in their jacket pockets. Once we found our perfect family Christmas tree, we went to a local restaurant for lunch and to our respective homes to decorate, filled with Christmas cheer.

After we had our son and bought our first house, I knew I wanted our family to have those same memories, but when we moved to Colorado, we only found urban Christmas tree lots in grocery stores. A couple of friends told us that you can cut down your own Christmas tree in some of the Front-Range area national forests. All we needed was to acquire a tree-cutting permit before we went for $10. 

A group of four couples that we know went together the Sunday after Thanksgiving to get our Christmas trees in the Pike National Forest. Three out of the four of us couples had children under two. So with babies in their carriers and thermoses of coffee in tow, we went in search of the Perfect Family Christmas Tree.  Rangers checked our permits, gave us bright orange tags to put on our trees, and let us go into the “cutting area.”

After about an hour of looking, we found our “Perfect Family Tree.” Actually, it was more like a Charlie Brown tree: a scrappy looking thing that looked as if it wouldn’t stand up to our heavier ornaments (it didn’t). The families who went farther into the woods looked like they found more normal looking Christmas trees. But our babies were getting tired, and it was more about the experience and the simple act of being together that mattered more anyway.

That night, as we strategically placed the tree so the barest spots wouldn’t show and strung our lights, I was thankful for the new memories we were making while the old ones stayed so close, too. I traded the Fraser Firs of the Pennsylvania countryside for this sparse Ponderosa Pine of the Colorado Mountains, and the tags made of tissues for a real “tree hunting” orange tag.  But there was something so familiar about that Christmas tree smell, the way it took forever to cut down the tree with the dull blades of our saw, and the laughter of dear friends as we shared the memory.  Last year, I became a real tree person again. I hope it stays that way.

What traditions from your childhood do you recreate with your family?

If you’re looking for a classic Colorado Christmas experience, you can’t beat cutting down your own tree in the National Forest. You can find out information for cutting your own Colorado Christmas Tree here. The cutting dates are from November 29th– December 15th this year. You will need a permit beforehand. The permits sell for $10 and they sell quickly. Don’t forget a saw and ropes or bungees to tie the tree to the car. You may want to venture out farther into the forest than we did last year. J


Allie Rasmussen is a Denver-area wife, mother, and naptime writer. She blogs about life, books, and Colorado family outings at Days Like These ( 

Mile High Mamas
Author: Mile High Mamas

Share This Post


  1. I’ve never done this but have always wanted to, even if we ended up with a Charlie Brown Christmas Tree. Such fun!

    • Yes, it’s more about the experience than anything! Hope you get a chance to do it this year 🙂

  2. Their website says they never run out of permits. Is this true? Why did you mention that permits are selling quickly? Just want to make sure we get one.

    • Hi Christine! Last year, they were sold out of permits for the first day we looked at and had to choose another. Maybe it also depends on which area you pick. If you click the link and see the map of the cutting areas, we chose Buffalo Creek because seems to be the closest to Denver. Maybe the other areas don’t tend to sell out? Anyway, the FAQs for the Buffalo Creek area say if the day you want is sold out, you need to pick a different day. Hope that helps!

  3. Fake tree! I never remember to water the real tree so we end up with needles EVERYWHERE. However, I figured as long as we’re going fake, we would go really, really fake, so we got a white prelit tree. It’s totally kitschy and fun.

  4. The HUNT ends here!

    There is no better place to get that Christmas tree than in Evergreen Colorado at “Luckylure Holiday activity center”/ Fresh Cut Trees from all over Colorado all in one easy place. They even have Pinion trees and there is no place that has those.
    They have all the fun of the hunt without all the hard work and ending up with a bad tree.
    A mountain meadow ,LARGEST wreath in the USA,photo ops, wildlife, Gift shop, free refreshments,camp fire with marshmellows and a dozen elves with Santa on the weekend.
    Check out their web site at old fashon traditional fun for all.
    You will not be sorry you found them.

Leave a Reply