How to Measure a Standing Tree- 4 Methods Without Fancy Tools

How to Measure a Standing Tree- 4 Methods Without Fancy Tools

How to Measure a Standing Tree- 4 Methods Without Fancy Tools

Look, accurately measuring the size of a tree before cutting it down can help you avoid a lot of headaches. 

The last thing you want is to fell a tree perfectly in the direction you want it but underestimate its size. 

But how can you tell how tall a standing tree is before you cut it down?

Good News! it’s actually a lot simpler than you may think to measure the height of a tree without climbing. 

Below you will find 4 methods to measure your standing trees. Including using your thumb, a yardstick and simply looking between your legs. 😉

Sound like a plan? Then let's dive in!Measuring the height of a tree using its shadow

Method #1: Measuring Shadows

While at first it may seem impossible to accurately determine the height of the tree from the ground. It’s actually simple.

This is crazy, but the first method we will look at to measure the height of the tree is by using shadows

To measure the height of a tree using shadows you will need 3 measurements:

  • Your Height = A

  • Your Shadow's Length = B

  • The Tree’s Shadow Length = C

With those 3 numbers, you can do some simple math to determine the height of the tree.

Using this equation {(A x C) / B= Trees approximate height.}

  • Example:

    • If you are 72 inches tall (A), your shadow measures 120 inches (B), and the tree's shadow is 300 inches (C):
      • First, multiply your height by the tree’s shadow length (72 x 300 = 21,600).
      • Then, divide by your shadow's length (21,600 / 120 = 180 inches or 15 feet tall).

You can also use a tree height calculator like this one.

Pro Tip! Check on your trees at least once a year to determine if they are safe or not, and plan on removing any dead trees or branches ASAP. This is part of preventing damage to your home from storms such as hurricanes. 

Method #2: Use a Yardstick (Or any stick for that Matter)

Now, I know what you are thinking, no this doesn't involve measuring the tree with the yardstick end over end, while precariously climbing the tree. 

It's simple...

Step #1: Take the yardstick and hold it outright with one hand outstretched, and the 0” marker near your eye.

Using a yardstick to measure tree

Step #2: Measure the distance between your eye and how far out your hand is on the stick. This will give you the distance from your eye to your measuring arm when it is outstretched. This is where you will line up the bottom of the tree.

Stand up yardstick to determine the height of a standing tree

Step #3: Now, hold the yardstick upright with the 0” marker up, and the other end in your hand at the distance you measured. For example 30”. Walk backward or toward the tree until you get to a position where the top of the stick is at the top of the tree, and the other mark you are holding is at the trunk of the tree. 

Laying Tape on ground to measure tree height

Step #4: When you find that balance, mark where you are standing. If needed, measure the distance from that mark to the trunk of the tree and you have the distance. 

Pro Tip! Be sure that you are on even ground with the tree, otherwise, you will not get accurate results!

Method #3: Using your Thumb

There are a few methods that involve using objects to measure the height of a tree. Another method is by using your thumb. 

With your arm outstretched at eye level, stick up your thumb. Walk backward or forward until the top of the tree is at the top of your thumb, and the bottom of your hand is at the bottom of the trunk. 

Rotate your thumb at a 90-degree angle so that your thumb is parallel to the ground. At the tip of your thumb place a marker such as a friend or an object you find lying around. Now measure the distance from the object to the trunk of the tree. And you will have an approximate height for the tree. 


  1. Extend your arm and thumb, aligning the top of your thumb with the top of the tree.
  2. Rotate your thumb to a 90-degree angle, marking the tip position.
  3. Measure the distance from the marker to the tree trunk.

Pro Tip! This method works best with an assistant that can place an object where the tip of your thumb is. 

you can measure a tree by looking between your legs

Method #4: Look between your Legs

This one is an old Native American technique... allegedly. But it works!

Standing with your back toward the tree, bend over and look up between your legs. Walk away from the tree until you can just barely see the top of the tree. Mark where you are standing and measure. 

The distance from the mark to the center of the trunk of the tree, and you have the distance. 


  1. Stand with your back to the tree and bend forward, looking up between your legs.
  2. Move until you can see the top of the tree through your legs.
  3. Mark your position and measure the distance to the tree trunk.

Pro Tip! When working in the yard always wear proper PPE


MethodTools Needed
Measuring ShadowsNoneUtilize the shadow of the tree and a simple mathematical formula to estimate the tree's height.
Using a YardstickYardstick or similar stickMeasure the tree's height based on the yardstick's proportion to the tree's size at a distance.
Using Your ThumbYour thumbEstimate the tree's height by aligning your thumb with the top of the tree and measuring the distance from a specific point on the ground.
Look Between Your LegsNoneUse this unconventional yet effective method to gauge the tree's height from a unique perspective.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can I measure the height of a tree without using any special tools?

Yes, you can measure a tree's height accurately using simple methods that require no special tools. This guide provides four easy techniques, including the shadow method, the yardstick approach, using your thumb, and the unique look between your legs method.

How accurate are the tree height measurement methods mentioned?

While these methods provide good approximations, they are not 100% exact. To play it safe, it's a good idea to consider the tree a bit taller than what you calculate to cover any possible miscalculations.

What is the simplest method to measure a tree's height?

The shadow method is considered one of the simplest and most accessible techniques. It only requires you to know the length of your shadow and the tree's shadow, along with your height, to calculate the tree's height.

Can these methods be used on any size of tree?

Yes, these methods can be adapted for trees of various sizes, from small backyard trees to larger forest trees. However, accuracy might vary with extremely tall or unusually shaped trees.

What should I do if I suspect a tree is unsafe or might fall?

If a tree looks like it might be a hazard, it's important to get in touch with a professional arborist. While these methods are great for estimating tree height, they're not suitable for assessing tree health or safety.

Determining the Height of a Standing Tree

At the end of the day, you can see that there are many simple methods that you can use to determine the height of a standing tree. That way you can approximate where it may fall, and if it is likely to cause any damage to your landscape or home. 

Remember that these methods are only approximations and it's always best to assume the tree is slightly taller than your measurements suggest. Looking for more yard clean-up tips?

See you next time! 😊

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