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2018 King of the Hammers UTV Race Preview

King of the Hammers

By Jon Crowley

2018 Can-Am KOH UTV Race presented by HCR Course Preview

From what Dave Cole said during the live pre-show, 2018 would be the toughest year ever for UTVs with more rocks and less desert.  In typical Dave Cole fashion, he goes from moderately hard, to ridiculously hard and I cannot wait to be there to witness it.  During the live show, he announced a few other little tidbits. First off he said the course would include Cougar Buttes for the first time.  Cougar Buttes is west of Johnson Valley and does not have the same type of big canyons that Johnson Valley is known for. Rumour has it that there will be another spectator area there, and at least one obstacle with multiple lines.

Also out in that area on the way to/from Cougar Buttes is Crowbar which was part of the course in 2015 when we went down.  I could see Cole adding a trip up Crowbar to make things interesting since we will be in the neighborhood.

The other piece that Cole mentioned during the live show was that Spooners would be part of the course for UTVs.  Spooners and Outer Limits have often been part of the course for the big 4400 class on Friday, but to my knowledge no other classes have gone up or down these trails.

2017 Ford Superduty

The quickest way for me to get to the Hammers from northern California.

So I loaded up the Polaris RZR XP 1000 that I raced in 2017 (see 2017 KING OF THE HAMMERS UTV RACE RECAP) and met Reid from Walker Evans Racing, Aaron and Maddie from PRP Seats, along with Mitch and Mitch Guthrie Jr. down in Johnson Valley so we could preview Spooners and Outer Limits.

These trails have never been part of any class other than the 4400’s on Friday and they are saved for the last lap.  Most of the time, the 4400’s run up Spooners and then down Outer Limits, except in 2016 when they did the opposite.  If it was me, I would rather run up Spooners than up Outer Limits.  Outer Limits is shorter, but I think there would be more potential winch points going up.  We decided to go up Spooners and down Outer Limits.

King of the Hammers

The Crew at the top of Spooners

Aaron was running a 2017 Polaris RZR XP Turbo (actually Mitch Guthrie’s race car from 2017). The Guthrie’s both had new 2018 Polaris RZR XP Turbo Dynamix Editions.  Reid and I both had our Polaris RZR XP 1000 Rock & Trail Edition (aka #CrowleyEdition). We all made it without issue, other than Aaron with a smoked belt. At race pace, the potential for carnage is much greater.

The official 2018 King of the Hammers map will not be available until the Thursday before the race at

2018 King of the Hammers Course Map

2018 King of the Hammers Course Map

New Unnamed Trail

Completely new trail that has not even been names yet will be part of the 2018 King of the Hammers race.


We took our time and looked at alternate lines and potential bypasses.  There was one spot where 4 of 5 of us winched.  With any breakdowns, winching may become a necessity to get around trail plugs.

Mitch Guthrie

Mitch Guthrie winching on Spooners. 4 out of 5 of us winched here.


King of the Hammers

Reid Nordin on Spooners

Jon Crowley

Jon Crowley on Spooners

Outer Limits

Outer Limits is shorter than Spooners. Typically this is a downhill trail, but if UTVs go up, there will be more winching.


Back Door

UTVs came down Back Door for the first time in 2017 and they are doing it again in 2018.  Several UTVs rolled here and it is dug out more on the bottom that in 2017.

Chocolate Thunder

Pretty much a given that the 2018 King of the Hammers UTV race will include a run up Chocolate Thunder due to it being a great spectator area.  This trail has become easier since 2015 with the easiest route on the left.  But the trail can easily change overnight and there can also be broken rigs in the easiest line.  Prepare for alternatives, many of which include winching.

If you are one of the more than 100 racers registered for the 2018 Can-Am KOH UTV Race presented by HCR, you better be ready for an endurance race with lots of potential for winching. Get out with your co-dog before the race and actually practice winching techniques.

Read more: History of the King of the Hammers UTV Race

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