San Carlos Ranger District

Map of the District

Fall colors of yellow and light green create a tunnel over a forest road.

A fall day on the San Carlos Ranger District.  Photo by Gregg Goodland.

3028 East Main Street
Canon City, CO 81212
Phone (719) 269-8500

Monday - Friday
8:00am - 4:30pm

Our office is currently CLOSED to the public.  Please call 719-269-8530 and leave a message.  Our front office staff will return your call in a timely manner.


Permits may be purchased online through then select "San Carlos Ranger District" to purchase a permit for cutting in the San Isabel National Forest.  

Be aware of the area you are purchasing a permit for.  Each permit has a unique number associated with it so permits purchased through the website MUST be printed to be valid.  Visitors will need to display the printed permit on the dash of their vehicle on the day they visit the forest to cut their tree.

Visitors must establish a account to purchase a permit and may access their permit through their account at any time. There is a reservation fee of $2.50 per transaction for the reservation service and support from the system and staff.  The funds from Christmas tree permits purchased through the system will go back to the participating Forest through Federal Lands Recreation Enhancement Act (FLREA) funding requirements.

Fourth-grade students with an Every Kid Outdoors pass/voucher can apply for a free Christmas Tree permit through the online system with by selecting the option and then entering their voucher or pass number when prompted.

To purchase a permit through the MAIL, please send a check or money order made payable to "USDA Forest Service".  DO NOT SEND CASH.  Please also include a self-addressed, stamped envelope.  Permits purchased through the mail are $10 per tree with a maximum of 2 trees per household.

Address the envelope to:

Attn:  Christmas Tree Permit 
San Carlos Ranger District
3028 E. Main Street
Canon City, CO 81212

Holiday Tree cutting is allowed throughout the San Carlos Ranger District, with the exception of a few restricted areas such as campgrounds, trailheads, ski areas, wilderness areas, and the recreation area around Lake Isabel.  Maps of the San Carlos Ranger District can be found here:

  • Visitor Map (San Isabel National Forest - South Half) $4.99 (through Avenza)
  • Motor Vehicle Use Maps **FREE**
    • Avenza:  San Carlos Ranger District - North Half or (PDF File)
    • Avenza:  San Carlos Ranger District - South Half or (PDF File)

Forest health is important, and by removing these smaller trees you are contributing to the overall wellbeing of the forest and reducing fire danger.  Persons cutting or removing trees from the National Forest without a valid permit are subject to a fine of up to $5000 and/ or 6 months imprisonment.      

Land Base:

San Carlos Ranger District manages the southern half of the San Isabel National Forest.  The District is 50 miles wide and 110 miles long with about 400,000 acres of National Forest in Fremont, Custer, Huerfano, Pueblo, and Las Animas counties.  Mountain ranges include the Wet Mountains, the Sangre de Cristos and the Spanish Peaks.


The Sangre de Cristo and Greenhorn Wilderness areas were both designated as such in August of 1993.  Most of the Sangre de Cristo mountain range (226,455 acres) is designated Wilderness.  The Greenhorn Wilderness Area is 22,000 acres and is located in the Wet mountain range.  The Spanish Peaks Wilderness  is 18,000 acres and the Spanish Peaks have been designated as a National Landmark.


There are 11 campgrounds with 210 fee campsites plus 2 group sites which are reservation only.  These campgrounds are operated by concessionaire (contractor hired by the United States Forest Service). 

Picnic Areas:

There is 1 picnic area at Lake Isabel Recreational Area and 4 small sites in the Cuchara Creek recreational Area.


As part of our National Scenic Byway System, we have two highways to recommend:

  • The Highway of Legends (Highway 12 from Trinidad to Walsenburg). 

  • Frontier Pathways (Highway 96 from Pueblo to Westcliffe and Highway 165 to Lake Isabel and Rye).

Winter Recreation: 

There are snowmobile clubs, who maintain 55 miles of groomed trails and 22 miles of groomed routes for the San Carlos Ranger district.  

Fuelwood Restrictions:

Fuelwood Information and Permits may be purchased at Forest Service offices in Canon City, Pueblo, LaVeta, or Westcliffe. Permits are available between January 15 and November 15.


The district has an average of 15 fires per year, affecting approximately 30 acres per season, (this does not include prescribed fires).

Interesting photos from the lightning caused Medano Fire (June 2010)

Interesting photos from the lightning caused Johnson Gulch Fire(August/September 2009).

Click here for prescribed fire information on the San Carlos Ranger District

Volunteer Programs:  

In past years, there have been sometimes more than 13,500 hours donated by groups and individuals, in just one season!  These volunteer programs include: Search and Rescue, Volunteer Fire Fighters, Campground and Facility maintenance, Trail Maintenance and Reconstruction, Wildlife and Fisheries, Botany, Fencing, Snowmobile and Ski trail Signing and Trash Removal.