Holiday getaway: Cut down your own Christmas tree in Plumas National Forest

Cutting down a Christmas tree is a family tradition that appears in nearly every Hallmark holiday movie. Of course, Christmas tree farms have plenty of Douglas firs and Monterey Cypress, but for those who miss chopping down an imperfect pine in the woods, there’s another option.

The cozy town of Graeagle is located along the Middle Fork Feather River in Plumas County, about an hour north of Truckee. With a population of less than 1,000 people, the small town has all the wintry, holiday charm of a film — you know, the kind where a big city executive falls in love with a lumberjack trying to save his family business.

A $10 permit from the Plumas National Forest, a hand saw, and a sense of adventure are all that is required for the tree-sourcing adventure. A four-wheel drive vehicle is advantageous, especially when the weather is wet. If you look at a map, you’ll see that there are several places where you can get off the main road and cut down your largest holiday decoration. Most are only a short distance from the main stretch, a couple of miles at most up a dirt road lined with tall pine trees. (There are also a few Charlie Brown trees, if that’s your thing.)

The actual tree cutting takes only a few minutes — or, if you’re picky, half an hour. But if you’re driving four to five hours from the Bay Area to save $100 or more on your tree, you might as well make a weekend of it — and this region makes it easy. (And if you’d rather stay at home with your fake tree, come on up and enjoy a lazy weekend in the snowy Sierra.)

Is there going to be snow? Book a guided snowshoe, snowmobile, fat tire bike, or dog sled tour.

sled to explore the rough and wild terrain surrounding Nakoma. For adrenaline junkies, there’s also cross-country skiing and longboard racing.

When you’re hungry, the Middle Fork Bistro and Bar in Altitude offers family-friendly small bites. The real draw, however, is watching the snow fall while dining on high-end cuisine at

The grand Frank Lloyd Wright lodge, built in 2001 according to Wright’s architectural plans from 1923, houses Restaurant Fifty44.

Chalet View Lodge in Graeagle offers a different type of experience, with rustic cabins, modern villas, and two-story lodging with queen and king-sized sleeping accommodations downstairs and couches, twin and full beds upstairs.

When you’re not relaxing in your private six-person hot tub on your back deck,

You can enjoy communal gatherings at Eureka Peak Brewing Co. whether you have a three-bedroom villa or host your own winter barbecue outside. The on-site taproom and restaurant can get crowded in the evenings, but it’s the kind of buzzy fun that makes the vacation worthwhile. Enjoy pizza, light bites, and craft beer before challenging your spouse or children to a game of pool or shuffleboard.

When the weather permits, the party can be moved outside for bocce ball, corn hole, horseshoes, or volleyball. There’s even a small golf course on the property that’s free to use — and open even in the snow.

Aside from the lodges, there is a vast wilderness to explore. The Plumas Forest provides panoramic views of snow-capped mountains and numerous (possibly frozen) lakes. The

The cold air does not deter visitors — or locals — from enjoying the outdoors, regardless of the season.

sledding down a nearby hill or playing winter disc golf at Blairsden’s The Brewing Lair, an outdoor-only brewery.

You’d think that as temperatures drop, the excitement of playing outside would fade, but no — the Brewing Lair’s barbecue pits are popular year-round spots for families who bring their own food to grill and enjoy beer tastings from the small operation housed inside a tiny cabin-like structure. Small wooden buildings provide a place to shop and hang out, but they are exposed to the elements, so dress warmly. Although beer is the Lair’s specialty, they also serve hot cocoa to children.

Shopping is Graeagle’s other favorite pastime, so you’re covered if you need stocking stuffers or other gifts for loved ones. Feathers, a home goods store, and boutiques such as Briar Patch and Queen Bee are housed in charming cottages. All of your outdoor sports needs can be met at Graeagle Outfitters, as well as the Wild Pines gift shop, which is just a short walk down a narrow two-lane road. At Millie’s Ice Cream and Coffee, enjoy scoops of Cascade Glacier and Tahoe Creamery ice cream — perhaps caramel caribou — and affogato, or a glass of Bargetto pinot noir at The Peak wine bar, which has — you guessed it — outdoor seating.

The truth is that when it comes to eating well in Graeagle, you can’t go wrong.

Every restaurant, whether Mexican or Italian, is cute, cozy, and full of small-town charm. But our favorite is in an unexpected place: Sierra Squeeze Burger serves cheese skirt-style burgers from a counter in the back of a nearby Portola gas station. The location may sound sketchy, but those burgers are a hit with this family.

If You Go

Plumas National Forest: Visit for tree cutting maps and details, as well as to order a Christmas tree permit ($10 per tree, plus a $2.50 service fee; two tree maximum).

Rooms at Nakoma Resort start at $184 per night, with some dates requiring two-night stays. 348 Bear Run, Clio;

Rooms start at $175 at Chalet View Lodge, located at 72056 Highway 70 in Blairsden-Graeagle;

The Brewing Lair: 67007 Highway 70 in Blairsden;; open daily at noon.

Briar Patch is located at 7525 Highway 89 in Graeagle.

Queen Bee is located at 7701 Highway 89 in Graeagle.

Millie’s Ice Cream and Coffee is located at 7512 Highway 89 in Graeagle and can be reached at

The Peak is located at 7482 Highway 89 in Graeagle and can be reached at

Sierra Squeeze Burger is located at 287-323 E. Sierra Ave. in Portola and is open daily.

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