Are you ready to embrace the holiday season with a real Christmas tree this year? Do you desire that special family bonding experience as you choose (or argue) over the “perfect” tree to cut? Are you the kind of person who loves to smell the fresh scent of pine indoors for a few weeks before Christmas? If so, you need a real, living tree — a cut your own Christmas tree.
Minnesota’s North Shore has conifer trees. Lots and lots of conifer trees. From wild pine trees you can hunt up on a hike through the woods and cut yourself, or perfectly shaped farm-grown spruce trees you can find and cut a little closer to home. Let’s be clear, holiday revelers: anyone can buy the exotic fir trees all bagged up in the neighborhood grocery store parking lot. It takes an adventurous soul to find their own and bring it home.
From the most wild to the most tame, here are some classic North Shore Christmas cut-your-own tree options. If you haven’t done so before, start the tradition this year — it’s fun!
Grown-in-nature wild trees for harvesting
Superior National Forest. Stop in the Forest Service office in Duluth, Tofte, Grand Marais or Ely and pick up a $5 permit to cut your own Christmas tree. Then head up the Sawbill Trail or the Gunflint Trail with a good map. You can cut a tree in most places on National Forest property outside the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness, just stay out of campgrounds and other obvious recreation areas. Complete information on cutting in the SNF can be found on the Superior National Forest’s website. (Or use this link to a handy PDF download with complete SNF cut-your-own information.) Two Christmas tree permits are allowed per household per year, and balsam is the preferred harvest type (white pine and cedar are not allowed to be cut).
You can also get a $20 personal use permit to gather balsam boughs for making your own wreaths or for decorating. For this permit, it’s easiest to contact or visit the SNF Ranger District office closest to the area where you plan to collect greens.
Boulder Lake, north of Duluth. You’ll find Boulder Lake Environmental Learning Center a half hour north of Duluth off of County Road 4. Early each December, the Center holds their annual Christmas Tree Cut and the cost is usually under $15 per tree. Not only do you get to pick out and cut your own Christmas tree, you’re helping to manage the forest at Boulder Lake. Get a cup of chili to warm up, or splurge on a pre-made wreath. The event typically runs one full day, and in 2017 it is scheduled for December 2. Find Boulder’s calendar of events and details here. Boulder Lake ELC also offers wreath-making workshops before the holidays. Again, check their website for details and schedule.
Cut-your-own, farm-grown trees
Herb Sellin’s farm on Homestead Road, off Highway 61. Herb’s cut-your-own tree farm is 2.5 miles up (north) the Homestead Road from the Highway 61 Expressway. This is our family’s favorite place and we’ve come here for years. Homestead Road is about halfway between Duluth and Two Harbors. Trees are $25-$30, any size you want, and Herb will help you load them up on top of your car. Bring your own saw, though. (We use our small Sven Saw, which hangs in our garden shed.) Herb has spruce, fir and pine trees of all sizes.
You can read about the Slade family tradition of cutting trees at Herb’s farm here.
Hill Top Tree Farm on Highway 2 in Brookston. This cut-your-own or pre-cut tree farm is 25 miles west of Duluth on Highway 2 at mile marker #235. Saws provided. Besides trees, you’ll find wreaths, boughs, decorations, winter hay rides, free hot coffee, free hot chocolate, free hot cider, a gift shop and restrooms. Open every Friday, Saturday, and Sunday from 9am-4pm until Dec. 23. Call 218-453-5625 for more information.
Do you have a favorite cut your own Christmas tree farm? Please share in the comments below. Minnesota Christmas tree farms are updated each year at this web link; search by county or region. Or you could check the Minnesota Christmas Tree Association for listings.
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