There is concern that the conifer component of mixed conifer-deciduous forests in the Great Lakes region is on the decline, possibly the result of insufficient conifer regeneration. Limitations on conifer regeneration that occur during the first 18 months of seedling emergence and establishment were examined for Abies balsamea (L.) Mill, and Pinus strobus L. in two mixed conifer-deciduous forest types in northeastern Minnesota. We hypothesized that the removal of potential barriers to regeneration, including forest floor, seed predation, and competition with understory vegetation, will enhance conifer regeneration. We also hypothesized that the importance of the above regeneration barriers, and early regeneration success of each species, will differ beneath deciduous and conifer canopy types. The study was conducted under conifer and deciduous canopy types for two sites of each forest type: Abies balsamea - Populus tremuloides Michx. forest and Thuja occidenlalis L. - Betula papyrifera Marsh. Germination experiments were conducted with seeds of A. balsamea and P. strobus. Experimental treatments included forest floor removal, caging to exclude seed predators and herbivory, and weeding to study the effects of understory competition. Abies balsamea and P. strobus responded differently to experimental treatments at different developmental stages. The best conditions for early regeneration of both A. balsamea and P. strobus included reduction of seed predation (p < 0.0001) and competition with understory vegetation (p ≤ 0.001). Abies balsamea additionally benefited from a conifer overstory (p < 0.0001) and a reduction in thickness of the forest floor (p < 0.01).