Christmas Tree Permits
Personal use Christmas tree cutting permits
Keep the family tradition alive this year—or start a new tradition—by cutting a Christmas tree within the Mendocino National Forest. Christmas tree cutting in the National Forest is managed as a recreational experience. It is a chance to head out into the woods and cut a tree the old-fashioned way.
A permit must be purchased, limited to one permit per household. When you purchase online at Recreation.gov, you have the option to purchase up to three trees. The cost for 2023 is $10 per tree, and there is a $2.50 transaction fee for online purchases. The number of permits is limited and will be issued on a first-come, first-served basis.
Once you make a purchase on recreation.gov, you will need to download, print and bring your permit with you. If you purchase online, you will NOT be getting a colored tag to attach the tree. It is important that you print your permit and have it visible on your car dashbaord.
You will also need to download the Christmas tree cutting map from recreation.gov. The best way to use the map is to download it to your smartphone for offline use. The permit does not allow cutting on any private lands, Wilderness areas, or in late successional reserve areas (to protect wildlife habitat).
Fourth graders with a valid 'Every Kid in a Park' Voucher or Pass are entitled to one free Christmas Tree Tag.
In-person and mail order options also available
Permits can also be purchased by mail or in person at one of the locations listed below. To purchase a permit by mail, please use the Mail Order Form and include the name, mailing address, phone number, and a check or money order for each permit purchased. Checks should be made out to USDA Forest Service. The cost is $10 per permit. Mail the form and check to either the Willows or Upper Lake office (see address listed at the bottom of this page). Write "Christmas Tree Permit" on the outside of the envelope. Mail order requests received after December 14 will not be fulfilled. Please note: If purchasing in person, individuals can purchase one permit per household and one tree per permit. They will receive the permit and map packet and a tag to attach to a tree. The tag will need to be signed by permittee to verify that they read the rules and requirements of the permit.
Persons must be at least 18 years old to purchase the permit. All Christmas tree permit sales are final; no refunds will be made. Christmas tree cutting will be allowed only in specific areas in the Mendocino National Forest. Permits may be used to cut a tree in any authorized area within the Mendocino National Forest.
Permit holders who will be having another person cut and transport their tree must provide a Third Party Authorization. The person cutting and transporting the tree must have your permit, tree tag and the third-party authorization form with them when they are in the forest cutting your tree.
Prevent the Spread of Sudden Oak Death
Federal and State quarantines designed to prevent the spread of Sudden Oak Death are in effect for Lake and Mendocino Counties. Any Christmas tree cut in Lake or Mendocino County can only be transported within the Sudden Oak Death quarantine counties (Alameda, Contra Costa, Humboldt, Marin, San Francisco, Monterey, Napa, San Mateo, Santa Clara, Santa Cruz, Solano, and Sonoma).
Christmas Tree Safety
To ensure that your visit to the Mendocino National Forest is an enjoyable experience, please follow these important tips:
- Plan your trip: check the weather forecast, bring plenty of warm clothes, water, emergency food, tire chains, shovel, a saw or axe to cut your tree, and a tarp and rope to bring it home. Make sure you have a full tank of gas when you leave and are prepared for changing conditions in the mountains! Also, let someone know where you are going and when you plan to be back.
- Keep vehicles on designated roads and be aware of changing weather and road conditions. Wet dirt roads can quickly turn to mud, making it possible to get stuck and causing damage to road, soil and water resources. If there are puddles in the road, mud flipping off the tires or you can see your ruts in the rearview mirror, consider pulling over and taking a hike to look for a tree, or turning around and finding a different area to cut your tree. Be aware of safety hazards when travelling through a burned area.
- Cut the tree early in the season before higher elevations become snowbound.
- Make sure you are cutting a tree on the Mendocino National Forest and not on other federal, state or private lands.
- Cut the tree as close as possible to the ground and leave as short a stump as possible.
- Attach the permit on the tree where it will be easily visible with the tree packed or tied on your vehicle for transport home.
- To help keep your tree fresh, cut at least one inch off the base when you get home and stand the tree in a container of water in a cool, shaded area, checking the water level daily.
Locations to Purchase Christmas Tree Permits (in-person)
If you choose not to purchase a Christmas tree permit online, there are several options for in-person purchases. Please call the location where you plan to purchase your permit BEFORE you leave to check hours and availability. Christmas tree permits are available from the following forest offices and vendors.
Mendocino National Forest Supervisor’s Office
825 N. Humboldt Ave.
Willows, CA 95988
Upper Lake Ranger Station
10025 Elk Mountain Rd.
Upper Lake, CA 95485
Covelo Ranger Station
78150 Covelo Road
Covelo, California 95428
Upper Lake Grocery
160 E. Hwy 20
Upper Lake, CA 95485
74540 Hill Rd.
Covelo, CA 95428
Keith’s Family Foods
76201 Covelo Rd.
Covelo, CA 95428
Covelo Volunteer Fire Department
75900 Covelo Rd.
Covelo, CA 95428
Sacramento River Discovery Center
1000 Sale Ln
Red Bluff, CA 96080
It is important to note that not all national forests offer the opportunity to obtain Christmas trees for personal use, and each national forest has different sale dates. Please check with the national forest in which you are interested to learn about the specifics of their program.
For more information, please call (530) 934-3316.