The district generally encompasses the neighborhood surrounding Haight Street, bounded by Stanyan Street and Golden Gate Park on the west, Oak Street and the Golden Gate Park Panhandle on the north, Baker Street and Buena Vista Park to the east and Frederick Street and Ashbury Heights and Cole Valley neighborhoods to the south.
The street names commemorate two early San Francisco leaders: Pioneer and exchange banker Henry Haight and Munroe Ashbury, a member of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors from 1864 to 1870. Both Haight and his nephew as well as Ashbury had a hand in the planning of the neighborhood, and, more importantly, nearby Golden Gate Park at its inception. The name "Upper Haight", used by locals, is in contrast to the Haight-Fillmore or Lower Haight district; the latter being lower in elevation and part of what was previously the principal African-American and Japanese neighborhoods in San Francisco's early years.
The Haight-Ashbury district is noted for its role as a center of the 1960s hippie movement. The earlier bohemians of the beat movement had congregated around San Francisco's North Beach neighborhood from the late 1950s. Many who could not find accommodation there turned to the quaint, relatively cheap and underpopulated Haight-Ashbury. The Summer of Love (1967), the 1960s era as a whole, and much of modern American counterculture have been synonymous with San Francisco and the Haight-Ashbury neighborhood ever since.