Recapture the magic of the Summer of Love with Walk SF

Unless you’ve been out of town for the last few months, you know this year marks the 50th anniversary of the epoch-making Summer of Love. Across The City, exhibits, openings and happenings are celebrating this cultural marker, from the De Young Museum’s “Summer of Love Experience: Art, Fashion and Rock & Roll” and the GLBT Museum’s “Lavender-tinted Glasses: A Groovy Gay Look at the Summer of Love” to the new Haight Street Art Center’s “The Art of Consciousness,” which features 90 seminal posters from 1965 to 1967.

The Summer of Love launched an international cultural and social phenomenon centered in San Francisco and celebrated across Golden Gate Park. The nearly 100,000 college and high school students, artists, poets and musicians who flowed to The City identified themselves as “hippies.” This was a broad label for an eclectic group who generally opposed the Vietnam War, consumerism and authority, and enthusiastically supported communal living and “free love,” mind-expanding experiences (whether spiritual or psychedelic) and the heady mix of folk, jazz and blues-inspired electrical music that would become the San Francisco sound.

On Saturday, Aug. 26, join Stuart Watts, of SF Native Tours, as he leads a nearly 3-mile exploration of the ’60s counter-culture movement’s “ground zero.” Enjoy a mostly flat walk, though some stairs and trails are included, highlighting the history of the surrounding neighborhoods before, during and after the Summer of Love.

Take a trip back in time that began with the Human Be-In, famous for Timothy Leary’s generation-defining call to action: “Turn on. Tune in. Drop out.” See points of interest and stories behind the arrival of the flower children whose contrarian roots started in the 1950s, tracing back to influences of North Beach’s Beat Generation writers.

Walk San Francisco’s August monthly walk will start at the Panhandle, a place also born from civic protest and experimentation. In the late 1800s, the eastern edge of the Panhandle was originally planned to extend to Divisadero, but a group of squatters forced city officials to scale back the boundary to Stanyan Street.

The park itself became an outdoor greenhouse and fertile testing ground for plantings in Golden Gate Park. Among the dozens of trees and plants that arrived from around the world, the Eucalyptus from Australia are now among the oldest in San Francisco.

From the Panhandle, you will head west toward Haight-Ashbury, stopping by famous and lesser-known sites, before making your way back east to the hills of Buena Vista and Corona Heights to take in beautiful city skylines.

After descending from these peaks, wander the neighborhood streets of the Castro to learn about what was once an agricultural region for The City and trace its evolution into a cultural icon and symbol for sexual freedom. The Castro’s rise as a mecca for the gay community was a direct result of the Summer of Love, when the influx of hippies led to an exodus from the Haight over Buena Vista Park and into a (then) affordable neighborhood. Many of those fighting against conformity, including sexual identities, settled in Eureka Valley to establish the Castro as both a forerunner and center of LGBTQ activism.

From the Castro, walk south to the newly renovated Dolores Park. End the walk with an optional local beer at Cerveceria, or local ice cream at Bi-Rite.

Your walk begins at the William McKinley Monument. Stops will include Janis Joplin’s and the Grateful Dead’s house, Huckleberry House, and a treat from Hot Cookie!

The walk ends at Mission High School on 18th Street, between Church and Dolores streets.

About Stuart Watts: A fifth generation San Franciscan, born and raised in the Richmond District, Watts is a strong supporter of the community and has become an active member of the local neighborhood and citywide efforts to promote a more walkable urban environment. Stuart loves exploring, enjoys BBQs, local pubs, camping, snacks and lives with his cat, “Killer.”

IF YOU GO: A Stroll through the Summer of Love
When: Saturday, Aug. 26, 1–3:30 p.m.
Where: William McKinley Monument (Baker Street, between Fell and Oak)
Info: Walk space is limited; $10 minimum donation to Walk SF; RSVPs required at

Natalie Burdick
Published by
Natalie Burdick

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