First Timers Guide – King of the Hammers
What: The King of the Hammers is an offroad race that takes place in February from Means Dry Lake bed in Johnson Valley, California. This race week includes events for UTV, modified stock and Ultra 4 rigs. The highlight of the week is the main event held on Friday (Ultra4 racers). The King of the Hammers events combine open desert racing with hard core rock crawling. The main event is 140 miles of racing around the valley floor with something like 60 race teams.
King of the Hammers was started in 2007 and has grown in popularity and sophistication. The first year it was run with 13 vehicles in complete obscurity. In 2012 there were qualifying races across the country and 25,000 people on the valley floor to share in the live experience with real-time internet feeds and helicopters filming the action for the world to witness.
When: Historically it has been held the first week of February. Check out the official King of the Hammers site for this year’s schedule. Official Site. During the week are qualifiers, everyman’s race and UTV race. The main event is on Friday with the Ultra4 rigs.
Where: The race activity is held throughout different obstacles in Johnson Valley. The base for all of the activity is in “Hammer Town”. Hammer Town is the collection of vendors, race pits and guests that collect on Means Dry Lake bed in the heart of Johnson Valley.
Johnson Valley is straight east of Los Angeles, southeast of Barstow, north of Joshua Tree National Park.
Climate: Expect typical desert weather. Daytime highs can reach the 70’s in the sun, but chills quickly in the shade. Evenings can get into the low 20s, high teens. The racers kick up tons of dust, so be prepared to get dirty.
Plan for dry camping. Bring your own water, pack out what you bring in. Most people coming out for the races are in motor homes or campers. The road into Hammer Town is well graded and the floor of the lake bed is suitable for large campers and trailers as long as you stay out of the soft sand. In past years the company that maintains the portable potties offered tank service on RVs.
If you are going to tent camp then expect some wind and cold overnight temperatures. The wind is not as bad as Pismo or Panamint, but any time you are in the desert wind, can be present. Gain some shelter by ringing your vehicles.
In past years there have been vendors selling firewood. Bring what you can, if you need more, you can buy it there.
The event planners provide portable potties in downtown Hammer Town as well as several food vendors. Including an ice cream truck (or two). You can bring your own food or “eat out” for every meal.
In some years there has been an RV company that lets you rent RVs on the lake bed. Check with the official KOH site for more information.
If 20 degrees in a tent is not your idea of fun, then there are some hotel choices 25 miles away in Yucca (Joshua Tree). Accommodations are limited and advanced reservations are recommended.
Plan ahead by bringing extra tanks. Fill up in Lucerne Valley (28 miles to the west) or Yucca Valley (15 miles to the south).
Following the Race
The race takes off from Hammer town and ends (for the folks who finish) at Hammer Town. That is the place to see the lineup and the start of the race. Once the race gets going you will want to head out to the obstacles to see the crawling part of the competition. Always be mindful that while you are on the desert floor you are on an active race way. Look out for fast moving vehicles with lights flashing. Best places to watch the race are from Backdoor, Aftershock, Chocolate Thunder or on the jumbo-tron in downtown Hammer town. Obstacles are accessible via motor bike, quad, car or rig. As long as you stay on the beaten path, anything works. Do not try to walk. They are much farther than you think they are. Get a program when you get on site. It will highlight the race route and where spectators are allowed.
To get the most out of your race experience consider buying or bringing your race radio. By following the action on a race radio you will better be able to understand who the leaders are and where they are. If you don’t get one, then stand next to someone who has one.
Please follow the direction of the race volunteers and BLM. The event is on BLM land and if spectators are jerks and don’t follow direction then it puts the whole race in jeopardy. The rules are for your safety and those of the racers.
Cal4 collects a donation at the entrance to the grounds. In the past it has been $20. All money collected has gone to Cal4 legal fund to fight to keep lands open to vehicle recreation. This has to be the best value for your offroad dollars.
- Official 2013 Schedule – http://ultra4racing.com/the-inside-line/2013-king-of-the-hammers-week-schedule
- 2012 King of the Hammers Highlights video http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=0jWMQYEx_gs#t=0s
- Save the Hammers – http:// www.savethehammers.org
- Why save Johnson Valley – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h95bN9EMTCs
- DVD from 2012 King of the Hammers – http://www.kohthemovie.com/product.php?productid=78&cat=0&featured=Y