This study used an affordable ground-based portable LiDAR system to provide an understanding of the structural differences between old-growth and secondary-growth Southeastern pine. It provided insight into the strengths and weaknesses in the structural determination of portable systems in contrast to airborne LiDAR systems. Portable LiDAR height profiles and derived metrics and indices (e.g., canopy cover, canopy height) were compared among plots with different fire frequency and fire season treatments within secondary forest and old growth plots. The treatments consisted of transitional season fire with four different return intervals: 1-yr, 2-yr, 3-yr fire return intervals, and fire suppressed plots. The remaining secondary plots were treated using a 2-yr late dormant season fire cycle. The old growth plots were treated using a 2-yr growing season fire cycle. Airborne and portable LiDAR derived canopy cover were consistent throughout the plots, with significantly higher canopy cover values found in 3-yr and fire suppressed plots. Portable LiDAR height profile and metrics presented a higher sensitivity in capturing subcanopy elements than the airborne system, particularly in dense canopy plots. The 3-dimensional structures of the secondary plots with varying fire return intervals were dramatically different to old-growth plots, where a symmetrical distribution with clear recruitment was visible. Portable LiDAR, even though limited to finer spatial scales and specific biases, is a low-cost investment with clear value for the management of forest canopy structure.