My favorite Christmas tradition with my little family is going up to the mountains and cutting down our own tree. We make it a whole day event with hot cocoa and having lunch up there. It is the perfect way to kick off the holiday season!
The drive from Denver to Red Feather Lakes is about two hours, depending on road conditions and traffic. We (ok I ) belt out classic Christmas songs the whole way up. (My boyfriend is extremely patient!)
Make sure you look at your maps/gps before heading up, there usually is little to no cell service up there. It’s quite easy to find because once near Livermore, there are a few signs pointing you in the right direction.
I love Red Feather Lakes because you don’t need to get a permit prior to going if you go on the weekend. It’s just $10 a tree with a limit of five trees per car. For 2017, cutting dates are Dec 2-10th.
This weekend was the first weekend they were open, so it was quite busy. But even still, the line to get in and out of the park went quickly.
Everyone is in a great mood when going to cut down a Christmas tree, so be ready to wave and say hello to everyone you see !
Before heading up, make sure you have everything you need ! Some necessities (and some luxury items) that we always bring :
- A sharp hand saw is an obvious tool you will need. We have a Husky 2-in-1 bow saw/hack saw
- Some rope or a netting to hold the tree to your car
- A tarp to wrap the tree in if you are putting it on top of your car (you do NOT want that sap getting on your vehicle – it will eat away at the paint)
- Old gloves for carrying the tree. Again, that sap gets everywhere and you don’t want to ruin a nice pair of gloves !
- LAYERS LAYERS LAYERS. With unpredictable weather conditions, it’s better to take off layers if you are warm than to be freezing your butt off up there. Last year it was SO cold and windy I couldn’t stop shaking. This year it was sunny and beautiful ! I still wore long johns under my clothes, warm wool socks, waterproof boots and a hat. It can still get very windy out of nowhere up there so having something to cover your face is nice. We put a neck scarf around Liam because his little face was so red!
- Hot cocoa is not necessary, but so delicious after you have been hiking in the woods hunting for a tree! I still use my old Stanley thermos I got a thrift store years ago. Hours later our cocoa was still piping hot!
- Stopping at Johnson’s Corner (off of I25 exit 254) on your way up there to get a famous cinnamon roll is a must. These things are massive and just heavenly. (Note: grab a fork ! We forgot them and had some issues trying to eat them haha )
- OK, tunes are not “necessary ” but still awesome. We had our Waterproof Wireless Bluetooth Speaker in the back of the truck while we had our cocoa and then our phones with our favorite Spotify playlist going while we were tree hunting.
- Snow boots are usually necessary, though there was barely any snow there this weekend. My favorite boots are the Sorel Waterproof Premium boots– your feet will stay warm and dry for HOURS.
- A measuring tape is helpful if you are not that great at eyeballing length. (Ehem, ME.) you want to make sure you can fit it on your car/ in the back of your truck of course . But also that you can fit it in your house ! Last year we could barely get our tree through the door which resulted in sap EVERYWHERE and a not so happy mama. The trees look so much smaller than you think when compared to the giant evergreens around them !
If you have little ones, you must go see Smokey the Bear while you are at Red Feather Lakes ! My son was in total bliss when he saw him because we read the comic book of Smokey at least once a week. He could not stop smiling and was very shy and nervous because he really thought he was the true Smokey the Bear that survived the huge forest fire of 1950! The kids get to pick out a little toy and get your photo with him.
After all this hiking and photo taking, you are going to be hungry! You can stop at either Potbelly Restaurant and Lounge which is right across the street from the exit of the tree cutting area. Or you can drive down Red Feather Lakes Road a bit and eat at The Forks, which is a connivence store/deli. They have a small section of gifts there that you can send to family and friends or just buy for yourself. This year we ate at Potbelly and I had the best tuna melt of my life. Try to grab a table near the fire place in the cabin and you’ll be living the true Colorado life.
A few things you should know:
- Cut trees with a stump diameter of six inches or less and within six inches of the ground, below any live branches.
- Don’t cut any tree marked with blue paint
- Your vehicle should have 4WD
- Entrance hours are 8:30-2:30 and it closes at 4:00PM.