Massive, Modern-Day Hippie Gathering in National Forest Gets Shut Down

For the first time since 1972, the powers that be are shutting down the annual Rainbow Family gathering. The Rainbow Family of Living Light is a leaderless group of people who gather each July for communal primitive camping. (Additional gatherings occur throughout the year in other countries.) These modern-day hippies sometimes gather in groups of thousands. In fact, this year’s gathering might have reached up to 10,000, according to the New York Post.

The plan for 2024 was to gather in Plumas National Forest, north of Sacramento, California. The Rainbow Family had already begun descending on the area this week when the U.S. Forest Service put the kibosh on the massive, “unauthorized” camping trip.

In an incident report, the U.S. Forest Service said: “An incident of this size can have significant impacts on traffic, communities, local resources, residents, and visitors.”

On Wednesday, the Forest Service said 561 people were camping in a concentrated area within Plumas National Forest and needed to vacate. That number had dropped to 410 by Thursday, suggesting people had already begun to clear the area. The repercussions for noncompliance are steep—fines of up to $5,000 and/or jail time of up to six months.

Plumas National Forest supervisor Chris Carlton says the concern is that the Rainbow Family gathering will impact “natural and cultural resources and other authorized uses [of the land].”

“Our priority is maintaining public health and safety and the appropriate stewardship of public lands and natural resources,” Carlton said in a statement.

Is It Fair to Shut Down the Gathering?

The idea is a beautiful one—just a bunch of peace and nature-loving people coming together to enjoy the outdoors and fellow free spirits. For land managers, though, the thought of thousands of people camping in the same area seems like certain destruction and disruption.

On the 2024 Gathering’s Facebook page, some make the case that the Rainbow Family always leaves the land better than they found it. Clearly, though, the risk is not worth it for the Plumas National Forest.

Should the gathering be allowed to go on? Share your thoughts below.

Header image is of a 2007 Rainbow Family gathering in Bosnia.