In Greek mythology, battles among the Titans and Olympians were common, with many of the battles lasting years at a time. We were recently able to take the 2017 Ford Raptor to King of the Hammers in Johnson Valley, California in our own battle of the Gods, pitting one of the toughest off-road races in the world versus one of the toughest production off-road rigs out.
Granted, we would not be racing in the 2017 King of the Hammers (KOH), but we wanted to take on the desert that the teams would be taking on all week. The next best thing to do with a landscape like Johnson Valley and a vehicle like the 2017 Raptor is to get out of Hammertown and explore. This year’s race we would go to the top five places that should be seen while visiting KOH with a 2017 Ford Raptor.
5. Start Finish Line
While this is the closest location and part of Hammertown, it is a great place to start and end your day. You are able to see the start of the race at the crack of dawn and the end of the race hours later.
At the start and finish line, you get to see action like this – Shannon Campbell (left) and Wayland Campbell (right) finishing the race in first and second place.
While heading to the starting line, you do have to park and walk, so there is not much off-roading to do, it still makes the list. If you had hit the trails to hard during the week this is also a great place to wheel in your cooler and post up in front of the podium, announcers, and the massive Jumbotron, not to mention the endless supply of energy drinks just a few steps away.
In addition to the racing action, you get to see moments like this.
All the amenities are here; restrooms, food, and vendors all are centrally located. It is where we started and ended our day and a great place to see every year. With enough sitting around we wanted to see some action so we headed to the course to see the race rigs in person.
Don’t want to head out to the course, watch it all from the jumbotron!
4. Remote Pit 1
This area is off the beaten path of most KOH goers. This was on our list to go to right after waking up and getting to the pit within 30 minutes of the start. The teams only go through this pit on the first lap, so if you get there late, you will miss them.
To access this area, you have to leave Hammertown and head back towards highway 247. Once on the highway, you head towards Bessemer Mine Road and Soggy Dry Lake.
Lap leaders coming into Remote Pit 1.
The road out to Remote Pit 1 is what seems like a maintained dirt road. It is still about a 15 to 20-minute drive on Bessemer Mine Road before hitting the pit, so plan accordingly. One of the nice benefits of this location is you are able to see the vehicles twice.
Remote Pit 1 has plenty of areas to view from, with many different angles of the race.
They come into the pit from the starting line, leave and do a loop through the mountains and desert before coming back through the pit and towards Backdoor. The rigs come into the pit, have a speed restriction, and then get back on the gas.
In addition to some great viewing areas, the amount of spectator traffic that heads out to this location is very minimal. Overall, it is around a 35 to 40-minute drive to and from Hammertown. It may be some extra driving, but it’s a spot worth going to.
This location is one of the staples of KOH. It is an area that sees high traffic all week, from the Shootout to race day. If this is a place you want to visit, make sure you get there early, as it fills up fast.
We did not get to Backdoor until after stopping by Remote Pit 1, and the area was packed. Parking is at a premium and will allow you to avoid the soft sand to and from the obstacle.
Some people may argue the drivers had it easy this year only having to go down the waterfall at Backdoor.
This year’s race brought teams down Backdoor and down the waterfall. In years past, this was a bottleneck with racers fighting to get up the waterfall first. As one of the last obstacles before heading back up the hill and into Hammertown, it was a great location to see drivers pushing their rigs further.
The hills along both sides give spectators great seats and a bird’s eye view. This is definitely one location you want to check out, whether it is your first KOH or tenth.
Something you do not see all the time – this driver is pushing the limits of his tire and vehicle at Backdoor to make it to the main pit.
2. Chocolate Thunder
A glistening hill off in the distance from Hammertown, Chocolate Thunder seems like it has something going on all week, whether it’s on the day of the race or the fans trying to conquer the rocks late at night.
This year, we were able to catch the action during the race and the night before. If you have been to this location during the day, we strongly recommend you see it at night. There is a different vibe and feel when the sun goes down.
Racers had to go down the rocky hill just to go back up a different trail.
Race day brought something different to Chocolate Thunder as racers would have to go down the steep rocky hillside before going up the traditional trail. This location is a hotspot for spectators and can bring crowds as large as the ones at Backdoor. There are plenty of areas to watch from, including a jumbotron showing the other obstacles and race updates.
1. Parts Unknown
With a vehicle as capable as the Raptor, it only made sense to head out into the desert and find areas where we would get a great view of the race, but be away from everyone. These areas are not for rookies or an unreliable vehicle.
On our adventure to a couple areas, we went over small rock gardens, up steep notches, and through some soft sand. The terrain seemed to be ever-changing and something that we were able to adapt to with the different terrain modes of the Raptor.
Some different landscape and views from a remote part of the course.
We did not worry once that we would not be able to get back to Hammertown. The truck was put through its paces and did things that would have surprised the average off-roader. The trip to these areas was definitely worth it. We were able to catch the racers coming down some massive hills, and through a part of the course most people never see.
Don’t think we were far out? Try spotting the race vehicle in this picture!
Altogether, it was another great event, and from the early reports the largest King of the Hammers yet. With so much to see, where will you be watching from next year? Tell us in the comments below!