It's officially that time of year. Now that Thanksgiving is behind us, we'll be gearing up for Christmas. A lot of folks in Montana have already began decorating and putting up Christmas lights. After all, we could definitely use a little more joy in 2020.

It's safe to day that Christmas will be different for many this year due to COVID-19, especially with large gatherings put on hold. Starting a family tradition of cutting down your own Christmas tree is a great way to spend time together outdoors, and create lasting memories with your loved ones.

Christmas tree permits are available now, and the fee has been waived for 2020. Once you have a permit, you can cut down a Christmas tree anywhere in the Custer Gallatin National Forest except for designated Wilderness Areas, Recreation Areas, or a developed recreation site, like a campground. This year, permits will not be issued for BLM land. A permit can also be purchased for gathering personal-use boughs.

Normally, Christmas tree permits are available at various businesses in the Bozeman area, but due to COVID-19, permits must be obtained online. Click here to get yours.

Before you head out to get your tree, make sure you're prepared. Weather conditions in Montana can change rapidly. Dress warm, and make sure you have proper footwear that will give you traction and keep your feet dry. I had to learn that lesson the hard way.

The Custer Gallatin National Forest offers motor vehicle use maps that will help you plan your trip. To view the maps, click here.