It might have an intimidating reputation, but the US park is worth a trip for its salt flats, sand dunes, mountains and more.

If you thought you were suffering during the recent heatwave, at least you weren’t in Death Valley National Park.

The park notched up a preliminary high temperature of 54.4 degrees Celsius (130°F), which the National Weather Service Las Vegas says will be the hottest temperature officially verified since July 1913 – if and when it is verified.

The temperature was recorded in an area in the park called Furnace Creek, and the name tells you everything you need to know. The National Park Service refers to it as the “hottest, driest, and lowest national park” in the US – it really is a place of extremes.

The Californian desert valley’s closest airport is in Las Vegas, roughly a two hour drive away, and luckily it’s not 54.4°C there all the time. Here’s why you should visit when the weather cools down…

The landscape

‘Death Valley’ may conjure the image of miles of barren sand, but the landscape is much more varied and versatile than that alone.

The park is home to the lowest point in the USA, a wide reaching salt flat ominously named Badwater Basin. There are also expansive sand dunes, multi-coloured rocky mountains and a dry lake bed called The Racetrack, known for its mysterious boulders that glide across the ground.

The stargazing

Death Valley is awarded the highest classification by the International Dark-Sky Association (IDA), the Gold Tier, making it one of the best places in the world for stargazing – it’s far enough away from cities to not be affected by much light pollution.

The IDA says the night sky over Death Valley is “near pristine and, in many places, offers views close to what could be seen before the rise of cities”.

The wildlife

Death Valley might feel pretty barren – after all, what could live there at such extreme temperatures? But actually, the park is home to a very special set of wildlife. One of the park’s most famous residents is the roadrunner – the same bird who outsmarts Wile E. Coyote in the Looney Tunes cartoon. According to Visit California, roadrunners can reach top speeds of 20mph and can be vicious hunters.

The park is also home to coyotes, bobcats, foxes, mountain lions and – according to National Parks Traveler – the terrifying-sounding desert tarantula.

Death Valley is also known for its gorgeous varieties of wildflowers. When the conditions are perfect – meaning it doesn’t happen every year – springtime will see the area covered with multi-coloured blooms. The National Park Service does not expect there to be a super bloom this year, but you will likely still be able to see some flowers dotted about.

The golf

For extreme golfers, playing in Death Valley is certainly something to tick off the bucket list. The Furnace Creek Golf Course calls itself one of the world’s lowest courses, at 214 feet below sea level, and is a green oasis in the middle of the desert. This elevation might impact your game – perhaps shots won’t go as far as you’re used to – but one of the biggest things to watch out for is definitely the heat.