Dreaming of a White Mountain Christmas

Christmas is by far my favorite time of year. I love the lights, I love spending time with family/friends, and I love the traditions. This year is my first Christmas with Anton, and as a result we are setting lots of new traditions. Example, cutting down a Christmas tree in the White Mountains. It reminds me of both my childhood and Anton’s. I remember my dad planted a bunch of spruce trees in the backyard so when I was a kid he would cut one down every year until they got too big. Dad must have put a lot of effort into cultivating them them, because they were beautiful. When Anton was a child in Russia his grandfather would take him into the forest and they would cut a wild tree down. It’s been my dream to do that in the White Mountains for a very long time so you can imagine my excitement when I found out that you can indeed cut your very own tree down with a $5.00 permit. Here I thought that was illegal! 

For the record we actually have three trees already (one real, two fake), but we have some leftover ornaments to use up so it seemed like a great option.

I know it seems odd, an organization devoted to the protection of our public lands allowing people to destroy it. What must be understood is that this is on the contrary extremely healthy for the forest. The White Mountains do not get prescribed burns as a result of so much nearby human population. The risk is enormous and one the US Forest Service won’t take. Prescribed burns help sustain the forest and take away dead/dying trees to allow for new growth. This is the solution for no burning of the forest, and the most fun you will have all holiday season. Here’s a recipe:


  • Ax or Saw
  • Clippers
  • Christmas Tree Permit
  • Twine or Rope
  • A vehicle with a roof rack or large interior
  • Tarp (optional)
  • Sled (optional)
  • Holiday Spirit

STEP ONE: Obtain your Christmas Tree cutting permit.

Go to your nearest WMNF ranger station or the visitor’s center (open Saturdays) to pick it up and pay $5 cash or check. The ranger will also educate you on the rules and give you pointers on where to find the best selection. 

STEP TWO: Find a trail within the WMNF. 

Tread carefully here. Your tree can only be cut within the boundaries of the National Forest. That means no, you cannot cut a tree in Franconia Notch STATE Park or near private property. Don’t worry, this National Forest takes up about 15-20% of the state of NH. We researched where to find evergreens ahead of time by looking on Google Earth and decided on the Hancock trail located a few miles down the Kancamangus Highway. 

STEP THREE: Take a hike.

Yes, you have to hike a little ways out. According to the rules you cannot cut a tree within 100 feet of the road. Keep in mind that you get what you pay for, these trees are wild and therefore super scrawny. 

STEP FOUR: Identify your tree.

We chose a lovely silver spruce just off trail. Yes it was 30 feet, but so long as the trunk is less than 6 inches in diameter at chest height you are okay to cut. The trunk on this beauty was only 4 inches in diameter at chest height. Do I feel kind of bad about taking down a 30 ft tree to remove 6 ft off the top? Nope, I followed all of the rules. 

STEP FIVE: Put some sweat into it!

Okay, here’s where you really need to prepare. All we brought was a flimsy metal saw. If we brought a wood saw or an ax this thing would have been down in two minutes, but poor Anton was exhausted by the time it went over. We didn’t bring a sled, but I would suggest you do. This will make it easier to drag your tree back. 

STEP SIX: Tag it and pack it.

This was a huge pain in the butt. We had some twine which we twisted and spiraled around the tree until it was more compact. After we were able to throw a tarp around it and put the sticky permit on so we could prove that we did this legally! The tree was small enough to fit in the back of the car. 

STEP SEVEN: Decorate and enjoy. 

Get creative and have fun! We chose to highlight the simplicity of the tree with simple soft white lights and glass ball ornaments. 

This tree is by far my favorite of all time. It’s special, meaningful, and the memories associated with retrieving it will last a lifetime. I can’t wait to take my kids out for their White Mountain Christmas tree someday.