Hundreds of Utahns line up early for Christmas tree cutting permits

Utah -- More than a thousand Utahns got up for an early start for a chance to get their hands on permit to cut down their own Christmas tree.

The annual tradition draws crowds from all over the state, and, since permits are limited, folks begin lining up early.

Wesley Marriott and Stephanie Lyon were among those in line.

“We got here at 4:50,” Marriott said. “We actually had a disagreement cause we’re neighbors. And she was like, ‘I’m leaving at 4 a.m.’ and I’m like, ‘No, no, no, we don’t need to leave that early!’”

Equipped with lawn chairs, tents and propane heaters—and huddled in layers of beanies, gloves, coats and blankets—these Utahns were on a mission.

Dozens of people spent Friday and Saturday mornings in the frigid cold to get their hands on one of 2,000 permits that allowed them to cut their own tree from the Heber-Kamas Ranger District.

“They’ll be handing wristbands out, and they’ll have a thousand of them out before 6:30,” said Kevin Arnold, one of those who lined up. “I mean, that’s how quick it goes.”

Jess Clark, acting district ranger for Heber-Kamas, said many people make the event a part of their holiday traditions.

“I can see the excitement of people,” Clark said. “They’ve been doing this for so many years. They like it. It’s a family tradition. It’s kind of fun to be a part of that in a small sense.”

The rules are simple. Once you have your permit, you have until December 24 to pick out your tree. The Forest Service says it must be a sub-alpine fir that is 20 feet tall or shorter.

Once you've cut it down, you place a tag on the tree before you drive it home, to indicate you have a permit.

“We try to get a group going, and we get some hot cocoa and get some sledding and stuff, so there’s a little bit of snow and stuff and it makes it more of an experience,” Marriott said.

Arnold said they also make an activity out of it.

“It’s not summer, it’s not a picnic, I mean, you can make it a picnic,” he said. “Like, I’ll take my family. We’ll sit there and roast hot dogs out there and put a fire out and stuff you know. We make a day of it. It’s a fun adventure.”

No matter what your family traditions are, the forest service says safety should be the number one priority.

“They need to dress appropriately for the situation,” Clark said. “The right footwear, the right coats, right gloves, that kind of stuff. And be careful when you’re out there.”

Click here for more details on permits for cutting Christmas trees in Utah's national forests.