Every winter, thousands of off-roaders descend on the Johnson Valley with their toys for the nine/ten-day-long King of the Hammers race. Within days, the Means Dry Lakebed is transformed into Hammertown, a population of around 60,000.
Thousands of toy haulers and motorhomes arrive to create a makeshift city with just one purpose; they are here to participate in the fastest moving, most hardcore off-road race in the country.
The Area for the King of Hammers
The Johnson Valley, which includes the Means Dry Lakebed, encompasses 53,000-acres of public use land, managed by the Bureau of Land Management. It’s in San Bernadino County, California, north of Highway 247 in the Mojave Desert. The closest town is Landers, to the east. The OHV Area used by the King of Hammers race is bordered by Interstate 40 at the north, and by Highway 247 at its western edge.
The off-road vehicles used to race the King of the Hammers are extreme Ultra 4 vehicles; these are extreme side-by-sides capable of going more than 100 miles per hour on the flat sections of the track, but have gear ratios of 100 to 1 or lower for rock crawling. In fact, every one of the vehicles in this race is custom built by each team. They have custom suspension, 40” wheels, and engines that can rev up to 800 rpm. To put it mildly, these are not your grandparents side-by-side.
How Did King of the Hammers Start?
The King of the Hammers race was masterminded by Dave Cole and Jeff Knoll way back in 2007. While enjoying a few brews, Dave and Jeff sketched out the original racecourse on a bar napkin. The first race featured only 12 teams at the invitation-only, private race. These trailblazers are known as the OG13 and are always invited back to race every year.
The first official race we know today was launched in 2008 as a non-spectator race. There were around 50 drivers in this first official race. Today, the race features 400 teams, and 60,000 spectators flock to this obscure location, deep in the forbidding Mojave Desert.
Will You Be There Next Year?
The King of The Hammers kicks off every year in February on a Friday, with five races in the series. The races include the Can-AM UTV Race on Sunday, The Every Man Challenge on Wednesday, The Toyo Desert Invitational on Thursday, which features Unlimited Trophy Trucks, and the ULTRA4 vs. Rock Bouncer shootout held on Monday night.
If you are an off-road enthusiast who loves to boondock, drive your RV out to “Hammertown” in February, for the King of Hammers off-road race. It’s the only “town” in the country dedicated to the sport you love, extreme off-road racing.
Check out a mini-preview of the event while we were there: King of the Hammers 2020 Video. Here at Stealth Performance Products, we had the honor of being there for the entire event and had the opportunity to meet plenty of great people in the industry.
We would love to hear from you if you have attended in the comments below: