Cabin Life: Gathering and Cutting Firewood Uinta National Forest

Whether you heat your home with firewood, just burn a few logs here and there when friends are over, or are looking to have tons of firewood for your nights at camp, did you know that you can cut down your own firewood in the Uintas. To be honest, I was shocked how easy the process was. From getting the permits to coming home with over a cord of wood. Each district is slightly different, but overall here is the overview on how to cut your own firewood for less than $8 per cord of wood.

Starting off, a cord of wood is defined as 128 cubic feet of wood, which in normal terms, is truck-bed filled with wood all the way up to the roof. It is 4 feet wide by 4 feet high by 8 feet long.  All that to say, a lot of wood. And you’re required to buy a permit for at least 4 cords! A single cord of wood would last you 25 camping trips, all for only $8, compared to buying a small $5 bundle of wood a the gas station that contains a few pieces of wood.

Getting the permit

In order to be able to harvest any wood, you need to get a permit. This has to be done in-person, which is inconvenient these days, but it’s very easy.  Head to your nearest Ranger Station responsible for the Uinta-Wasatch-Cache National Forest District. Once there all you have to do is tell them how many cords of wood you would like to pay for, and then they will take your information, and give you a permit. It’s pretty easy. Then you’ll just need to have that permit on you whenever you are cutting or gathering wood. 

Locating the Wood

When you get your permit, the Ranger will provide you with a map where it is legal to collect, gather, and cut wood in the Uinta National Forest. To be frank, you can pretty much cut wood anywhere in the Uinta National Forest with the following exceptions. You cannot cut wood in Trailheads, Campgrounds, or Timber Sales areas, which are marked clearly on the map and in person. Additionally, you cannot cut or gather trees within 300 feet of streams or lakes. So most of the main roads in the Uintas, you can collect wood off them. Of course, I won’t be giving away our favorite spot to get wood, but if you drive around you’ll notice plenty of spots for gathering. Off nearly every road, you’ll notice downed trees from the previous winter storms or even the bundles of wood gathered together near fire roads that forestry teams have already piled up for controlled burns. 

Tools Needed to Collect

If you’re coming out to get firewood for campfires, then you probably only need a handsaw to cut a few bigger pieces. But for those of you looking to get cords of wood to heat your home, you’re going to need a few more bits of equipment. For starters, you’ll need a chainsaw. I know very little about the chainsaws on the market, except for the fact that everyone recommends Stihl Chainsaws. I got the MS 250 Chainsaw and it’s treated me very well so far. Additionally, I bought a pair of chainsaw chaps, a forestry helmet, safety glasses, and some leather gloves. In addition to that, you have to pickup chainsaw oil, chain lube, and gasoline. This is the bare minimum you’ll need to get a load of wood that would fill up your truck or trailer in a reasonable time. With two people, one cutting, one loading, it will take you about 2-3 hours to get a cord of wood. 

Cutting Logs

First off, I’d recommend watching countless videos on YouTube about chainsaw safety and operation. There’s nothing I can write here that will keep you safe while operating a chainsaw in the backcountry. Once you feel comfortable using your chainsaw (starting, operating, and stopping), go and cut your logs between 12″-18″ or whatever size will fit in the stove of fire-pit you have. Remember to always look where the tip of your chainsaw bar is, never contact the ground with a running chain, and always have a sharp chain. 

Chopping Firewood

Now that you’ve gathered your firewood, and are probably exhausted, know that you’re not done just yet. The wood you gathered is, in most cases, simply too large to burn by itself. You’ll have to get a Maul, which is different than an axe, to split the wood in to burnable pieces. A maul differs from an axe in the way that it is more like a wedge than an axe which allows it to split the wood after it enters it on a swing. It helps to have the log you’re trying to chop, raised up on another stump. This helps protect your maul blade after it strikes through the log. Unfortunately, splitting wood and then stacking it will take just as long as cutting in the first place, but it’ll all be worth it in the end.

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