The Hunt Is On For National Champion Big Trees

By Jim Springer, Public Information Specialist, DFF&SL

Talk about big game, professional and amateur tree hunters are combing the country looking for an elusive trophy, a national champion tree. These biggest-known specimens of their kind are found in forests, parks, and hometowns across America. Every two years the national nonprofit conservation group, American Forests, publishes the official list of champions in the National Register of Champion Trees.

Big tree hunters in Utah have successfully placed six trees on the national register. The largest blue spruce in the nation can be found in Duchesne County, and the largest rocky mountain juniper is found in Logan Canyon in Cache County. The rocky mountain juniper holds the distinction of being one of the few species that has been on the register since its inception in 1940.

“All told, 823 species of native and naturalized trees in the United States are eligible for inclusion in the register,” said Tony Dietz, former urban forestry coordinator for the Utah Division of Forestry, Fire and State Lands. “Right now, there are 136 species which don’t have a champion listed so a nomination for one of them stands a good chance of ending up on the register.”

The following links list champion big trees in Utah and nation-wide. Information about nominating champion big trees is also available at these sites.

How Big Trees Are Measured

The National Register of Champion Trees

Two animated trees to showing how to measure the circumference of a tree


The circumference of the tree is measured 4.5 feet above the ground. If the trunk forks at this point the circumference is measured below the fork. If the trunk forks below 4.5 feet then the largest single stem is measured at 4.5 feet.

diagram showing crown spread of a tree

Crown Spread

This is a measurement of the tree canopy. One measurement is taken of the widest diameter of the crown to the nearest foot and second measurement of the narrowest. The two measurements are averaged together to determine the crown spread.

Diagram of how to measure the height of a tree


This is the distance from the base of the trunk to the top most twig. Height, like crown spread, is measured to the nearest foot.