The Height Of Hippie Power: 55 Photos Of San Francisco In The 1960s

Published April 9, 2016
Updated October 15, 2018

Experience 1960s San Francisco and the thousands who chased drugs, music, and the hippie dream.

In the aftermath of World War II, the United States experienced an unparalleled growth in wealth that facilitated the rise of the American middle class and a rapid increase in the birth rate. However, the generation borne out of this era developed belief systems distinct from those of previous generations, and in many ways, outright rejected many traditional values.

What became counterculture ideals — peace, free love, experimentation, and racial equality — crystallized around the burgeoning hippie movement. Thanks to cheap housing and a relatively open social environment, San Francisco became the nexus of hippie culture in the 1960s.

The San Francisco of this decade was a cauldron of drugs and communal living that fostered an explosive creative environment and became home to tens of thousands of newcomers seeking the hippie dream. Today, we take a glimpse inside San Francisco in the 1960s:

At the center of it all was the Haight-Ashbury neighborhood. After experiencing sinking housing prices in the late 1950s, Haight-Ashbury became a destination for bohemians and beatniks, and soon thereafter, hippies.BuzzFeed

Janis Joplin Haight Street 1967
Musicians and artists that would become national icons took up residence and became immersed in the culture of 1960s San Francisco. Above: Janis Joplin in Haight-Ashbury in 1967.BuzzFeed

Avalon Ballroom 1967
A woman attends a concert at the Avalon Ballroom, a venue that featured some of the most prominent psychedelic rock groups of the 1960s.BuzzFeed

Freak Out
Rediscovered in the early 1960s and popularized by figures like Timothy Leary and Aldous Huxley, LSD became perhaps the most popular drug of the decade. The powerful hallucinogen, along with marijuana, was among the strongest social unifiers of the hippie movement. The Leica Camera Blog

Emptied Van
When apartments weren't available, re-purposed vans and school buses were the favored mode of shelter.CNN

San Francisco 1960s Photos Krishna
The International Society for Krishna Consciousness, better known as the Hare Krishnas, successfully attracted thousands of new followers in the 1960s with a message of enlightenment, peace, and inner-reflection.The Huffington Post

San Francisco 1960s Photos Concert
Writing for The New York Times Magazine in 1967, Hunter S. Thompson wrote "'Hashbury' is the new capital of what is rapidly becoming a drug culture. Its denizens are not called radicals or beatniks, but 'hippies.'"David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library

Human Be In
Perhaps the most famous hippie event in San Francisco was the Human Be-In that featured mantras spoken by Allen Ginsberg, music from the Grateful Dead and Jefferson Airplane, and copious amounts of LSD provided for free by the event organizers.Mother Jones

Psychedelic Shop
Police stings (or "busts") to catch drug dealers and users became a frequent problem for those inclined to experimentation.The Huffington Post


Allen Ginsberg
Allen Ginsberg takes in San Francisco during the Summer of Love.David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library

Grateful Dead 1965
Formed in 1965, The Grateful Dead were revered mainstays of the San Francisco music scene. From left to right, Bill Kreutzmann, Bob Weir, Ron McKernan, Jerry Garcia, and Phil Lesh pose for one of their first band photos in Haight-Ashbury.BuzzFeed

Summer Of Love
Free concerts in Golden Gate Park became a staple and a natural place of congregation of the counterculture scene.BuzzFeed

George Harrison 1967
George Harrison plays for a group at Golden Gate Park during his visit in 1967.BuzzFeed

Hells Angels
Despite their dangerous reputation, the Hells Angels became entwined with the hippie movement. In fact, they were responsible for reuniting lost children with their parents during the Human Be-In.David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library

Hand Outs 1967
Communal-based economies sprung up inside San Francisco, with free clinics and grocery stores becoming central to the lives of those opting out of traditional modes of living.BuzzFeed

A resident of Haight-Ashbury rests aside portraits of Jean Harlow and Marlon Brando.David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library

Kissing In San Fran
"Free love" was the dictum of the decade, which meant hippies often eschewed traditionally monogamous relationships for polyamory.David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library

The Crowd
A crowd awaits a concert in Golden Gate Park in 1968.David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library

San Francisco 1960s
The never-ending show in Haight-Ashbury wasn't enjoyed by the rest of San Francisco's residents. Pressure from civic groups led to San Francisco taking stricture measurements about zoning, giving less opportunity for squatting and group homes.David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library

Haight Is Love Head Shop
While the flame burned bright for much of the 1960s, pressure from the city government along with the increased presence of law enforcement eventually made San Francisco less of a destination for the hippie counterculture.Pinterest

Hippies Dancing Arms Raised

The party could not last forever: by the end of 1967's "Summer of Love," San Francisco was no longer attracting just hippies, but also tourists, criminals, and party-seekers, as well as the unwanted attention of law enforcement and government officials. In October 1967, members of the Haight-Ashbury community held a mock funeral that declared the "Death of the Hippie."

As the organizers proclaimed:

Stay where you are! Bring the revolution to where you live. Don't come here because it's over and done with.


If hippie culture fascinates you, watch the report below on Haight-Ashbury and the hippie movement by IT News in 1967:

Enjoy these 1960s San Francisco photos? Check out our other posts on hippie communes, the history of the hippie movement in America and fascinating Woodstock photos.

Alexander is a Brooklyn-based cofounder of All That's Interesting with an undergraduate degree from the University of Virginia in History and Economics and an MSc from the School of Oriental and African Studies in Economics. He specializes in American history, the Cold War, and true crime.