Trip Report    

Day Hike - North Bend Ranger Station

Fun search for Christmas trees in the Mount Baker Snoqualmie National Forest.

  • Snow and ice on road
  • We drove I-90 eastbound to exit 47. From there, we turned right from the off-ramp, then immediately right again. I.e., we were doubling back heading west. About a mile and change down this road - Tinkham Road?- which runs parallel to I-90, we turned left onto forest service road 5510, and climbed up that road until we reached the spot that the rangers at the North Bend Snoqualmie ranger station had indicated was an appropriate tree-cutting area. This spot was after 2 sharp bends in the road, where the map shows an intersection with road 140 and the rough trail to Noble firs. Tinkham Road was suitable for all cars with some careful driving, and had no snow. Road 5510 grew progressively rougher and had snow and ice higher up but you didn't need extra high clearance to negotiate it (AWD/4WD and some greater clearance was helpful though).

    • Here is the map that the US Forest Service has published about where cutting a tree is allowed in winter 2018-19. Note: the rangers said that this map has been in use for nearly 10 years, so the Noble firs are no doubt larger.
    • And here's the general information from the USFS about harvesting a Christmas tree for this winter season.

After stopping at the Snoqualmie ranger station in North Bend for the $10 permits and information we drove to exit 47 then onto 5510. Drive time to where we parked: about 25 minutes.

After parking we found an obvious trail to follow (as well as another rough trail that looked narrower and steeper), then after a brief hike, bushwhacked around merrily searching for Christmas trees. There was fresh snow on the ground, but not that much. We made due without microspikes.

Xmas tree permit for 2018-2019 winter season

We did not find any Noble firs-- we may have been on the wrong trail for that as the map was sort of zoomed out-- but everyone did eventually locate an appropriate tree in accordance with USFS regulations. We wandered around for an hour to 90 minutes looking and then cutting trees. The younger, wild trees we saw aren't as full and bushy as trees you find at a Christmas tree farm... but they were fun to gather. The consensus was that everyone wants to return next year for another Christmas tree. I'll be hiking this summer with Christmas trees in mind...!

Note: the rangers said that tree harvesting is permitted along Tinkham Road from exit 42 to exit 47, with the exception of a section (marked on the map) which is not part of the national forest lands. Apparently this year from exit 38 to road 9021 there were a lot of visitors already (by 11/25/18, the date of our trip); so the rangers didn't think that there would be a lot of good trees available up there...

North Bend ranger station with Xmas tree sign

Gear list: work gloves, a tarp, bungee cords (if putting tree on car roof), a saw, backpack to carry odds & ends. Wear old clothes as you'll be bushwhacking. You WILL get wet since the trees and bushes shed snow as you are bushwhacking and cutting down your tree. We used fluorescent surveyor tape to mark our route away from the beaten path so we'd stay orientated and to mark potential trees (I removed all of the tape afterwards).