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Cut your own Christmas tree from a northern Wisconsin state forest

evergreen tree branches
Irina Iriser
People can cut down their own Christmas trees at many of northern Wisconsin’s state forests.

Christmas tree farms aren’t the only place to get a real tree this season.

People can cut down their own Christmas tree at many northern Wisconsin state forests — you just need to have a permit and follow a few rules.

A variety of coniferous trees — such as balsam firs — can be found throughout the state’s forests, explains Teague Prichard, the state forest specialist with the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources.

“I call [balsam firs] the classic Christmas tree,” he says. “It's got the great smell and the short needles. Other folks like the pine species, they have a little bit longer needles, but it's to each and everyone's own individual preference.”

Prichard says people can get permits for as little as $5 per tree by visiting each forest's headquarters onsite or by calling the headquarters ahead of time. He adds that people can purchase their permits at any time.

“This [activity] has been going on for decades,” Prichard says. “And for some families, it's a long generational tradition to go out to a state forest and gather their own Christmas tree.”

Before taking a trip up north, Prichard says there are rules that tree harvesters should be mindful of:

  • Cutting down a tree is prohibited within 100 feet or visual distance of roads, trails and water 
  • You can not harvest from campgrounds or day-use areas
  • Trees must be cut at ground level with a maximum height of 30 feet
  • Trees taken from state forests cannot be resold

Cut your Christmas tree at one of these northern Wisconsin forests

Holiday tree cutting is limited to the northern state and national forests, it’s not offered at state parks or other WDNR properties. Prichard says tree cutting is also prohibited in southern forests where forest area is smaller and impacts can be greater.

“Harvesting these trees [from northern forests] have minimal if any effect on the forest,” Prichard says. “It's an opportunity to get Wisconsin citizens out in the forest to enjoy their natural resources.”

Black River State Forest: W10325 Highway 12, Black River Falls, WI 54615,715-284-4103

Brule River State Forest: 6250 South Ranger Road, Brule, WI 54820, 715-372–5678

Flambeau River State Forest: W1613 County Road W, Winter, WI 54896, 715-332-5271

Governor Earl Peshtigo River State Forest: N10008 Paust Lane, Crivitz, WI 54114, 715-757-3965

Governor Knowles State Forest: 325 State Rd. 70 W Grantsburg, WI 54840, 715-463-2898

Northern Highland-American Legion State Forest: 4125 Forestry Headquarters Rd., Boulder Junction, WI 54512, 715-356-3668

Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest, northern Wisconsin: 500 Hanson Lake Road, Rhinelander, WI 54501, 715-362-1300

County forests: Find contact information for your county forest office and ask if they offer permits to cut down for the holidays.


Xcaret is a WUWM producer for Lake Effect.
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