Christmas tree hunting

Deanna Briggs and Tena Webb drag a tree out of Bridger-Teton National Forest near Fall Creek in 2007 after a morning of Christmas tree hunting. Recent snows have limited access on backcountry roads around Jackson Hole.

If ski resorts are beginning to open, then it’s a good sign it may be time to stop trying to drive on backcountry roads in the area’s national forests.

Roads in the Bridger-Teton National Forest’s Jackson and Blackrock Ranger Districts are scheduled to close to vehicle traffic for the winter on either Dec. 1 or Dec. 15. However, forest officials are warning travelers that recent snow, rain and freezing temperatures have already made some of the roads impassable.

“Over the last couple weeks, the winter conditions caused some motorists to become stranded, requiring search and rescue and/or resulting in expensive towing bills,” forest officials said Monday. “Wheeled access is very limited across the whole forest in winter, and it is the responsibility of the visitor to know if a road is open regardless of a gate.”

Gated roads include Fall Creek, Mosquito Creek, Granite Creek, Forest Park, Bug Creek and Buck Creek.

“Oftentimes, visitors forget that there is no snow removal on forest roadways,” BTNF Public Affairs Officer Mary Cernicek said in a press release. “As winter progresses, the mountain roads become drifted with snow and unpassable. If not careful, an unsuspecting motorist could get caught on a drifted road or slide off into a ditch, and the vehicle could be stuck there until snowmelt in the spring.”

For those planning to search for a Christmas tree over the holidays, it is especially important to know where it is legal and safe to go, Cernicek said.

“Due to the early-season snow, finding that perfect tree may take more time,” she said.

Tree hunters should plan on snowshoeing, skiing or snowmobiling. Due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, visitors are encouraged to get their Christmas tree permits online by searching “BTNF” at recreation.gov.

Cernicek suggested that visitors contact their district office for the most up-to-date information. Winter travel maps are available at district offices or online for mobile devices.

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