Deck the Halls

A guide to Christmas tree permits.

For many families, venturing into the Custer Gallatin National Forest to cut a Christmas tree is a treasured tradition carried on for generations. For families creating new traditions, a trip to the forest to cut their own Christmas tree may be a thrilling experience as they discover the joy of hiking in search of the perfect holiday centerpiece. With every tree that is found, cut, and carried home as a holiday fixture, a new story is created. These stories become the precious memories that create traditions worth carrying on, and further connect families with their local forests.

Visitors to the Custer Gallatin can head to and receive their Christmas tree permit online. Permits in the Forest Service’s Northern Region are free this year, but there is a nominal fee for using the online platform. If you have used to reserve your favorite cabin, camp, or picnic site, you will simply need to sign into your account. For first time visitors, you will need to set up an account. District offices and vendors in the Custer Gallatin National Forest will continue offering permits as well later this fall.

Visitors can receive up to three Christmas tree permits, and will need to print and display them on the dash of their vehicle on the day of their visit to cut their trees. Don’t forget to read or print the detailed information, including cutting-area maps and motorized-use maps, before heading out.

All fourth graders, or age equivalent, can also obtain a free holiday tree permit. To learn how, first visit for an Every Kid Outdoors pass, or call your local ranger district office. 

Most areas in the Custer Gallatin are open, but users will want to avoid developed recreation sites such as campgrounds, trailheads, day-use sites, active timber sales, and designated wilderness areas, including the Lee Metcalf and Absaroka-Beartooth.

Know Before You Go

Once you have your permit, be prepared for weather and road conditions that might make travel difficult.

Be aware of the areas that are approved for tree-cutting, which are designated by the local office and part of the information provided when you purchase a permit.
Permits will not be transferred or replaced if stolen, lost, or damaged.
Permits must be printed and displayed on your dashboard during your trip to the forest.

Marna Daley is the public affairs officer for the Custer Gallatin National Forest.