Winter Play on Mt. Rainier


Harvesting a Christmas Tree

Have you ever thought about heading into the woods and cutting your own Christmas tree? If you haven’t considered it, you should!

This was our first year cutting our own tree, and it was a great learning experience!

How Much Does it Cost?

A tree permit costs $5 in all of the forests listed below EXCEPT Snoqualmie-Baker – tree permits there are $10.

Do you happen to have a 4th grader? Then your tree permit is FREE! This is made possible by the Every Kid in a Park Initiative, which you can learn more about here.

Gifford Pinchot NF dusted in snow

Where to Harvest:

Forest locations:

Ranger Stations:

Gifford Pinchot National Forest Headquarters 
1501 E. Evergreen Blvd, Vancouver, WA 98661
Hours: Tues-Sat 9:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. (360) 891-5001
Mt. Adams Ranger District 
2455 Highway 141, Trout Lake, WA  98650
Office Hours: Mon to Fri 8:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. (closed for lunch) (509) 395-3400
Cowlitz Valley Ranger District
10024 US Hwy 12 – PO Box 670, Randle, WA  98377
Office Hours:  Mon to Fri 8:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. (closed for lunch) (360) 497-1100
Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument  
42218 NE Yale Bridge Rd., Amboy, WA  98607
Office Hours:  Mon to Fri 8:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. (360) 449-7800
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Christmas Tree Permit 

Buy Your Tree Permit:

You can buy tree permits from either a ranger station located within the forest you’ll get your tree from (they’re location specific and nonrefundable) or you can pick one up at one of the vendors listed below:

  • Amboy: Amboy Market (360) 247-5421
    • Chelatchie Prairie General Store (360) 247-5529
  • Ashford: Ashford General Store (360) 569-2377
    • Ashford Valley Grocery (360) 569-2560
  • Carson: Wind River Market (509) 427-5565
    • Lakeside Country Store (360) 238-5202
  • Cougar: Cougar Store (360) 238-5228
    • Lone Fir Resort (360) 283-5210
  • Elbe: Elbe Mall (360) 569-2772
    • Elbe Junction (360) 524-7707
  • Home Valley: Home Valley Store (509) 427-4015
  • Kalama: Kalama Spirits and Tobacco (360) 673-4991
  • Kelso: Sportsman’s Warehouse (360) 423-2600
  • Packwood: Blanton’s Market (360) 494-6101
  • Randle: Fischer’s Market (360) 497-5355
    • Randle One Stop (360) 497-3261
  • Stevenson: Main St. Convenience Store (open 24 hours) (509) 427-5653
  • Trout Lake: Little Mountain (True Value) Hardware (509) 395-2773
  • Vancouver: Sportsman’s Warehouse (360) 604-8000
Our tree!

Picking a Tree

  • Search for your tree at least 150 feet from lakes, streams, ponds, or any wetland area
  • Avoid developed areas such as campsites or buildings
  • Choose a tree under 12 feet in height, and less than 6 inches in diameter
  • Try to find your tree in a crowded area, so one area does not become void of trees
  • Leave as short of a stump as possible (no more than 6 inches above the ground)
  • If you dig your tree out of the ground please remember to fill up the hole

Anything Else?

Yes! Be prepared for snowy conditions! Chances are that you’ll be encountering snow while on the hunt for the perfect tree. As always, this means you’ll want to take some precautions:

  • Tell someone where you are going
    • There is often no cellular service in these areas
  • Bring plenty of warm, water resistant, and snow specific clothes
  • Check that you have the 10 Essentials
  • Double check the weather and leave early to maximize daylight
  • Bring a vehicle that is capable of handling snowy conditions
    • Chains and a shovel are always a good precaution
  • Don’t forget warm drinks and extra food!
Drive with Caution


Northwest Avalanche Center: Check the avalanche conditions

USDA Forest Service Guide to Cutting a Christmas Tree

USDA Guide [PDF]

NOAA: Check the weather



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Little Mashel Falls

“Little Mashel Falls” is actually three different waterfalls in one area. They are all located within the Pack Forest and, fortunately, there are no passes or fees required to enjoy this trail!

Location: Southwest WA, Eatonville
Roundtrip: 5 mi.
Difficulty: Easy to Moderate
Gain: 500 ft
Rating: ★★★


  1. Once you arrive at the Pack Forest park in the designated parking area (located between the trailhead and the greenhouse).
  2. Begin by walking down “1000 RD North”
    – You’ll pass a gate that includes signage stating the only further access for visitors is “hike in only”
    – Don’t be confused by the fact that this road does not appear to actually head North. Eventually, it does a loop around to the North, but you’ll turn off before then.
  3. Watch for the “1050” sign the right and the “1060” directly to the left of 1050. The next intersection (1070) is the one you will take – it’s a Y junction and unmarked. Head left onto road 1070 once you get there.
  4. Continue on until you see a rock on the left-hand side of the road with the word “Falls” and an arrow painted on it.
  5. Continue through the forest and down a hill to the tree with 2 yellow diamonds. These will point you in the directions to the Upper and Lower Falls.
  6. Explore the Falls before hiking back out the way you came.

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The Pack Forest is located about 10 minutes outside of Eatonville. Thus, you can typically get cell phone reception here. Still, it may be a good idea to take a screenshot or print directions to the falls as the trails here can be a bit confusing without guidance.

IMG_7305.jpgPictured Above: Rd 1000 North

That being said, it is a rather easy hike that’s perfect for a cool autumn or winter day (the trail is open all year). You won’t need to pay to access the trail and you’re welcome to bring a leashed pet along, but please be respectful of the land and pack out any trash you bring in.

Pictured Above: Upper Mashel Falls

There is generally a porta-potty located at the trailhead for public use, but you may wish to make a stop in town to take care of your bathroom break as there are no other public facilities here. This is true for water as well. Bring some with you!

Pictured Above: Middle Mashel Falls

A good portion of this trail does follow a forest road, but it is an enjoyable hike none the less. Once you turn off of Rd 1000 North you’ll pass through some lovely meadows before descending into a more traditional hiking area near the falls.

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Pictured Above: Meadows on Rd 1070


It is imperative that you wear proper footwear here. The hills around the falls are steep and can be slippery.


Are There Toilets? : There is one porta-potty located at the trailhead.

 How about Picnic Tables? : No.

 Do I Need a Parking Pass? : Nope!

 Are Dogs Allowed? : Yes. All dogs are required to be on a leash.

Can We Camp Here? : There are some campgrounds in the general area, but we suggest you make this a day hike from home.

 When is the Best Time to Visit? : The trail is open all year. In spring the spray from the falls may obscure pictures and in the fall and winter, the hills and inclines can be especially slippery.

Still have questions? Don’t hesitate to send us a message via the contact tab on the main menu!



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