The Griffin King of the Hammers (KOH) race is one of the toughest and most technically challenging off-road races of its kind. The race consists not only of high-speed passes on desert trails and sand dunes, but also vertical rock walls and bone-rattlng rock washes. KOH runs across some of the harshest and most extreme desert terrain and rocky trails in America. Pushing both man and machine to the limit, it is one of the most extraordinary races on earth.
KOH is held on and around the Hammer Trails of Johnson Valley, California. The Hammers are part of the Southern Mojave Desert and sit approximately 124 miles due east of Los Angeles. The trails are also part of the 188,000-acre Johnson Valley OHV recreational area, the perfect place for extreme desert racing. Temperatures here range from 120-plus degrees F in the summer to below freezing in the winter. This year’s participants and spectators experienced that extreme cold at night.
The Hammers are a series of trails in the Hartwell Hills of the Johnson Valley OHVA. Most of the trails are narrow and extremely rocky. They usually start at the base of the hills and wind their way through a maze of passages up to the peaks. Most of the year the area is deserted due to the intense desert heat. However, the King of the Hammers race brings this part of the desert to life every February, with more racers, sponsors, and spectators coming every year. It’s an amazing sight, seeing Hammer Town on the desolate Means Dry Lakebed come alive with thousands of race fans, racers prepping buggies, and vendors and sponsors touting their wares.
Watching King of the Hammers is awe-inspiring, as handmade race buggies fly at high speed down sandy washes, scale sheer rock walls, and descend nearly vertical mountains for approximately 120 miles of race course. Some vehicles only last a few miles into the race before experiencing suspension breakage, blown engines, rollovers, and other mechanical failure. But other racers move on into desert tracing history, such as this year’s First Place winner Shannon Campbell and Second Place winner Tony Pellegrino.