The Best Tips to Experience the King of the Hammers

January 26, 2023
Categories: Events
Tags: Johnson Valley

Here is what you need to know to enjoy KOH

King of the Hammers is an annual event that typically runs for 9 days, starting at the end of January. If you have never heard of the King of the Hammers before, it is a weeklong off-road festival that some would consider “the toughest one-day off-road race in the world.” 60,000 people gather in Johnson Valley, California, to partake in or watch the action. Why is it called King of the Hammers? The race is named after the famous trails known as Sledge HammerJack Hammer, and Claw Hammer.


The Most Important Things

Ticketing: First and foremost, this is a paid event, and you will need a ticket to spectate. You can purchase tickets online and pick them up along Boone Road, near Waypoint 4.

Hammertown: The main action occurs in Means Dry Lake, also known as Hammertown, ground zero for the event! It is fashioned into a settlement for the days before, of, and after the event. Streets are named, vendors set up shop, temporary garages are fashioned for the drivers, and If you want to meet everyone and anyone, make your way to Hammertown.   

Bring Cash: KOH is known to have hundreds and hundreds of vendors. Credit card devices can sometimes be problematic with poor cell signals, so cash is advised. As well, we all know that cash is king and money talks!

Cell Service: Cell connection can be non-existent, but Verizon works very well. Couple the poor connection with the 60,000 people all using data; you might as well give up. If you are on AT&T, not to worry; look for the only bush standing on Means Dry Lake near Waypoint 4 for that extra boost of cell service.

Weather: The weather out there can be rough during that time of year. It could range from 80 degrees in the day to teens at night. Plan for the very cold and hope for the warm. Temperatures are not the only thing to worry about; the wind is notorious at that time of year, and the area can experience wind gusts over 80 mph in the right conditions. Watch the weather closely, use Lucerne Valley or Johnson Valley as a reference and bring an extra layer to be safe.

Food, Fuel, Water, Bathrooms: The nearest fuel location is 20-miles away in Landers, California. While porta-potties will be set up, there are no food vendors or water stations, so bring your own!

Camping: Camping can be found literally anywhere but in Hammertown. The Trails Offroad Crew finds good spots for tent and vehicle camping on SW side of Morongo Basin, while RV camping is excellent on the Means Dry Lake and on Boone Road just after the Bridge (Waypoint 4)

Chocolate Thunder.jpg

What to Watch

If you can only make one event:

The 4400 or Ultra 4 is the original unlimited class event with purpose-built vehicles. These are vehicles doing 100+ mph across the desert floor and seem to skip off the rocks on the hard trails. If carnage is your thing, this is the race where you will see the most incredible crashes and rollovers.

If you can only make two events:

Don’t miss the Shootout! You might be thinking of two men in Pioneertown drawing revolvers, but that’s not the case! This race is typically the hardest obstacle on various trails, and contestants compete for a cash prize. This event has the most exciting nighttime action of the entire event. If you want to have the best view of the action, get there early as the best spots to fill up fast. The location is usually announced the day of, and the event starts at 6 pm. Bring everything you need to be there a few hours, including warm clothes, food, and drinks.

Nighttime Activities:

They say nothing good happens after midnight unless you are at the Hammers! Nighttime events are a great way to socialize and watch or enjoy the action on the trails. Many people head over to Chocolate Thunder and watch from the side of the trail as folks make their attempts up this Severe rated trail. This area is not hard to miss as you will see a ton of light across the lake bed against the hill. Sit back, watch, or try it yourself!         


How to Watch

Best Place to Spectate:

Fissure Mountain is a great place to spectate and is only one of the moderate trails in Johnson Valley. The location isn’t an up-close view of the action, but it does allow you to see for miles in every direction, including down both hammer trails. Other areas to watch all the action are from the rock piles on Cougar ButtesChocolate Thunder, and of course, Hammertown. You can even watch plenty of non-official fun from Turkey Claw. Don’t forget to head over to Back Door and watch the rigs attempt it.

Using the Trails Offroad mobile app:

We are very proud of our one-of-a-kind application with all of the King of the Hammer Trails that list obstacle information and each trail’s difficulty. Be sure to download the Trails Offroad App, and if you have taken a moment to try our All-Access Membership, you can enjoy a 7-day free trial right from the app store. On the app, you find many obstacles that would be worthwhile staking a claim at and watching the show.

Take your Camera:

While at the event, you will see a ton of the big names in the offroad industry, don’t be afraid to say hi and ask to take a photo.

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Josh Noesser
Josh grew up in Southern California but has lived in different parts of the country. At 16 he purchased his first Jeep a CJ-7, by 17 was putting his first locker in it, and has been wheeling ever since. Josh is the owner and CEO of Nybble, an IT solutions company based in Orange County, CA. As Josh likes to say, he offers the only IT company that can provide services in extreme locations. "If you want a server at the top of The Hammers, we will take care of that for you."

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