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24 May, 20193 minute read

On the hippie trail: touring the California coast

California is the spiritual home of the 1960’s counterculture movement. Times may have changed since the hippies first appealed for love and peace, but so much of The Golden State still evokes this heady time.

There is no better place in the world to get in touch with your inner Joan Baez than California. Tour the hippie trail with Titan at these five iconic destinations.

San Francisco

San Fran was the epicentre of the hippie movement during the 60s – the home of flower power. As the famous Scott McKenzie song goes, ‘If you’re going to San Francisco, be sure to wear some flowers in your hair.’ Many people did, as they flocked to epoch-making events like The Human Be-In in 1967 and the Berkeley protests in 1968.

Experience the beatnik atmosphere of Haight-Ashbury, the world-famous City Lights Bookstore and the Castro District. It was here, in the 60s, that activist Harvey Milk spearheaded the LGBT liberation movement.


This laidback city on the California coast is a piece of hippie heaven. During 1967, thousands of hippies set up shacks here, some of which still remain today. They arrived to attend the Monterey Pop Festival – an event that was held during the Summer of Love.

The festival saw the first major American appearances by The Jimi Hendrix Experience, The Who and Ravi Shankar. Janis Joplin and Otis Redding also featured on the line-up. Many saw it as a template for the Woodstock Festival, which took place at the end of the decade.

Nowadays Monterey retains its chilled out atmosphere by hosting events like the Monterey Jazz Festival. On your visit enjoy seafood fresh from Monterey Bay, stroll around the aquarium, attend a wine tasting or take a self-guided history tour.

Big Sur

Of all the things to do in California, driving along the winding coastal roads of Big Sur is one of the most thrilling. This rugged 90-mile stretch of coast backs onto an untamed wilderness of redwood trees, hot springs and waterfalls.

During the counterculture years, Beat Generation writers sought seclusion from everyday life here. Jack Kerouac even entitled one of his novels Big Sur, which records the solitude of this wilderness.

It was here, in the swinging 60s, that experimental primal scream therapy was first pioneered by freethinkers at the Esalen Institute as well.

Travellers can enjoy the hiking trails today, and the spectacular scenery. You might even decide to pen that novel you’ve always dreamed about writing.

Los Angeles

Los Angeles hippies were all about beach balls, bathing suits and free love. Venice Beach was a big hippy hangout in the 60s, with famous names like Jim Morrison making their homes there. This is still a popular spot if you plan to travel to Los Angeles.

Today you’ll find tanned yoga lovers, trendy slackers, bongo drummers deep in thought and all kinds of other characters. Dine in high-end restaurants where the rich and famous gather and admire the buildings where trendy tech companies like Google and Snapchat have set up their offices.

Yosemite National Park

Central to the hippy mantra is a love of nature. So, naturally, hippies have always taken a big interest in the wild spaces of California. There is none more impressive and sacred than Yosemite National Park.

During the 60s hippies would decamp from their homes at the beginning of the summer and stay at Yosemite for months, enjoying the simple life closer to the natural world.

Not everybody was so relaxed about all the long hair, beards, beads and medallions that were on show. Park rangers were forever trying to move the hippies along, with varying levels of success.

Since the end of the counterculture years, most of the hippies have migrated from the park.

Are you part hippie? Find out more about travelling in California and the Golden West.

Image of blog author Nicola James

Nicola considers herself very lucky to have had the opportunity to visit a number of places around the world and these experiences usually involve searching for as many kinds of wildlife as possible. Recent highlights include penguins in Antarctica, bears and whales in Canada and Alaska and sea otters in California - but there are always more animals to search for.

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