Your guide to local Christmas tree farms
Published by Los Gatos Magazine | 2015
By L. Clark Tate
Few things conjure the holidays like wandering wooded hillsides to find the tree tailor-made by nature (and artful pruning) just for you. Chilled mountain air, warm cups of cocoa, an intrepid overland search and the thrill of discovering the one: a holiday tradition awaits in the Santa Cruz Mountains, where a smattering of Christmas tree farms lie along crooked roads with breathtaking views.
The hardworking folks at these farms will hand you a saw, give you the lay of the land and send you on your way. They welcome slow-strolling adults, hide-and-seek–playing kids and picnics. Many offer concessions and complimentary beverages, but consider upping your game with a delicious homemade spread, complete with thermoses of hot chocolate. You will not regret it.
This magical experience is popular, so avoid showing up midday on the weekends (except on game days). Early mornings and weekdays are the best bet to catch the mountain melodies of windblown branches, birdsong and silently grazing deer.
Here are some things to know before you go:
• Many locations accept cash or check only.
• Most farms encourage leaving several whorls of branches behind when cutting trees to allow them to regrow. It’s the essence of sustainability.
• To keep your tree green, make a fresh, straight cut after transport (even a few hours of exposure to the air can damage the tree’s tissue). Then keep it cool and in water at all times.
• It’s not fun to think this far ahead, but West Valley Collection and Recycling will collect trees from Dec. 26 to Jan. 15 as long as they are cut into 5-foot lengths, all decorations are removed and they are a foot away from collection carts.
Listing all the tree farms tucked away above Los Gatos would be like typing an inventory of your Christmas ornaments. Think of these as the sentimental favorites.
Black Road Tree Farms
(408) 354-8472; christmas-tree-farms.com
With five types of trees at three farms, Black Road offers a variety of choices and atmospheres: Farm 1 offers easy access, Farm 3 is well loved for its wilder/hillier nature, Farm 2 is somewhere in between.
TREES: Largely Douglas Fir, but also Grand and White Fir, Sierra Redwood and Scotch Pine.
EXTRAS: Stroller and wheelchair-accessible, fresh wreaths, mistletoe, dog-friendly, and free firewood at Farms 1 and 3.
OPEN: Starting Nov. 27, seven days a week, 7am to dark.
FIND IT: 20259, 19749 and 20070 Black Rd., Los Gatos
Crest Ranch Christmas Tree Farms
(831) 423-8733; crestranch.com
Linger beneath 100-year-old oaks and madrones at the farmhouse for an old-fashioned family holiday—complete with playground and playhouses—before heading out on the hunt for pretty, pine-scented views.
TREES: Over 20 varieties including Atlantic Cedar, Arizona and Leland Cypress, Douglas and White Fir, Coastal and Sierra Redwood, as well as Scotch, Austrian and Sugar Pine. $46 to $51 for 5-foot trees, $6 per additional foot.
EXTRAS: Firewood, mistletoe, tree stands, wreaths, holly, greenery, hot cider and cocoa, tree carts available, dog-friendly.
OPEN: Nov. 21 until at least Dec. 21, seven days a week, 8am to 5pm.
FIND IT: 12200 Empire Grade, Santa Cruz
Four Winds Christmas Tree Farm
(408) 399-9020; four-winds-ranch.com
True mountain views accompany a true mountain experience: walking through the woods to cut down your very own tree. This is what treasure hunts are all about.
TREES: Largely Douglas Fir but also Noble, White and Silver Tip Fir, Blue Spruce and Sequoia Redwoods. $55 each.
EXTRAS: Mistletoe and fresh wreaths for sale as well as tamales and salsa on the weekends. Hot cocoa, cider, coffee and candy canes provided. Leashed dogs welcome.
OPEN: Thanksgiving until Christmas. Thanksgiving Day, 8am-2pm. Friday after Thanksgiving 8:30am-4:30pm. Then: Mon-Fri 11am-4pm; Sat and Sun 8:30am-4:30pm.
FIND IT: 19679 Skyline Blvd., Los Gatos
Lone Star Farm Trees
(408) 395-0337; bayareachristmastreefarms.com/lonestar.asp
This tree farm focuses on the trees and lets you BYOE (everything)—families, thermoses of cocoa, picnics, leashed and friendly pups and Christmas cheer.
TREES: Douglas and White Fir. Call for pricing.
EXTRAS: Fresh wreaths and local honey; call to check on mistletoe availability.
OPEN: Thanksgiving Day 9am to 1pm. Then 9am-4:30pm weekdays and 8am-4:30pm weekends until Dec. 24.
FIND IT: 20514 Gist Rd., Los Gatos
(408) 867-5693; mckenzietreefarm.com
A laid-back vibe complements the lovely views at McKenzie Ranch. Beat back the chill with a campfire and cheery Christmas music before heading out on the hunt for that perfect-for-you fir. Tailgating is encouraged.
TREES: Douglas and Grand Fir, $55 for all sizes. White Fir, $65 for all sizes.
EXTRAS: Well-behaved dogs allowed on leash.
OPEN: Nov. 27 until Dec. 20, 10am-5pm Mon-Thurs, 8am-5pm Fri-Sun.
FIND IT: 19970 Skyline Blvd., Los Gatos
Mountain Charlie Ranch
Old-as-the-hills oaks and a 300-foot tall redwood greet visitors at the homestead of the Santa Cruz Mountains pioneer and famed grizzly wrestler Mountain Charlie. (Be sure to ask for the full story.)
TREES: Douglas and White Fir, Monterey Pine and local varieties. $50 each ($5 coupon on the website).
EXTRAS: Decorated and plain wreaths, mistletoe and dog treats. So bring Fido.
OPEN: Nov. 27 until Dec. 24, 9am-5pm weekdays and 8am-5pm weekends.
FIND IT: 23100 Mountain Charlie Rd., Los Gatos
Patchen California Christmas Trees
(408) 353-1615; patchencalifornia.com
Not only a full-service tree farm (they’ll cut and haul your tree), this is a full-service Christmas experience, with two locations in the charming ghost town of Patchen.
TREES: Douglas Fir, Sierra Redwood, Monterey Pine, Cedar and Cypress.
EXTRAS: Bonfires, free wine and hot mulled cider, lavender, fresh wreaths and garlands, firewood, photos with Santa and biodegradable products to keep your tree green (e.g., a tree “bio-stand”). Credit card-friendly.
OPEN: Thanksgiving Day to Christmas Eve, 7 days a week, 7am-7pm
FIND IT: 22217 Old Santa Cruz Hwy., and 17430 Old Summit Rd., Los Gatos