Also, if you have a holiday Christmas tree remember to retain the thick lower branches for other wood working projects beyond making hiking sticks. Fir and pine tree wood are great for quick wood whittling projects such as making wooded spoons, wood carved knives (my favorite), or practice wood carving eagle heads. The main part of the holiday tree can be uses to carve wind spirits or spend some time making the thick part of the trunk thinner for a walking stick. Yes, it takes some time because the Christmas tress tend to be very thick but with a little patience they will make great future walking and hiking sticks.
If you plan to retain the whole tree, I would take off the bark right after the holidays before it gets too dried out and and whittle 50% of the wood away. Then set aside the wood for a few months to dry out before continuing the hiking and walking stick making project.
If you self collect wood I prefer firs over pines for walking stick and carving projects. On firs collected (2" diameter) I usually leave the bark unit I'm ready to make the walking stick.