Enjoying the fresh air while hiking the forest in search of the perfect Christmas tree, can be a wonderful way to begin the holiday season. Create special memories by bringing your family to the Shawnee National Forest to cut your own Christmas tree. For families interested in creating new traditions, a trip to the Shawnee forest to cut their own Christmas tree is the perfect opportunity to discover nature, while enjoying time together in search of the perfect holiday tree. A permit is required to cut a Christmas tree off national forest land. To purchase a Christmas tree permit go to recreation.gov.  The permit allows one eastern red cedar to be cut. Permits cost $5 plus a $2.50 online transaction fee. Permittees must harvest the Eastern Red Cedar on Shawnee National Forest land and chainsaws may be used for cutting the tree. Permittees must also follow Forest Service motor vehicle restrictions in removal and hauling of their Christmas tree. Trees cannot be cut from any restricted areas listed on the permit.   Be sure to read the detailed permit information at recreation.gov prior to purchasing your tree permit. Cutting a Christmas tree can also help improve forest health. The permit system helps to thin densely populated stands of small-diameter trees. Removing some cedar trees allows more available nutrients and extra space to grow for the trees that are left standing. Opening up groves of cedar trees can also improve foraging habitat for a variety of wildlife species.

There are over a half-dozen tree farms and nurseries throughout the southern Illinois region that specialize in the pick-your-own tree experience. Two of those tree farms can be found in Bond County; Randy’s Country Barn sits north of Greenville, while Daniken Tree Farm is near Pocahontas. If you’re looking for a shopping opportunity while you’re picking out a tree, Randy’s Country Barn is the place to go. They have a great selection of gift items, including t-shirts and Holiday themed knick-knacks. Daniken Tree Farm has become a popular place for folks to meet Santa Claus before or after they head out to the field for their trees. Santa visits the first three weekends after Thanksgiving from 10am to 4pm on Saturday and Sunday. Another staple in the southern Illinois Christmas tree scene is Alfeldt’s Tree Farm & Nursery in Washington County. Alfeldt’s has been growing trees since 1964 – and has about 40 acres worth of choose and cut trees to choose from, ranging in height from 10 feet tall on and smaller. A very popular place to walk among rows and rows of lush white pines is Eckert’s in Belleville. Eckert’s also has a great Country Store to shop at, and a fantastic restaurant to order carry out from. They also have an opportunity to take a socially distant photo with Santa this year, but be sure to visit their website to book your time to do so! In our eastern region, Dahnke’s Pine Patch near Martinsville brings in people from several counties around. This place is an absolute blast, not only do they offer patch pick trees, but they also have a picture patch, reindeer tours and a flight school, barn ball, a snowball arena and more! Dahke’s has been a go-to place for Holiday tradition in Clark County for 36 years! 

Some of these establishments have implemented safety procedures to help protect visitors from the current pandemic, so we encourage you to call ahead or look each place up on Facebook before travelling – so you know exactly what those procedures are. Happy tree hunting!

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