Salt Lake City and the Utah Valley are surrounded by mountain ranges with peaks over 11,000 feet. Too bad the mountains are not clearly visible from a distance of more than a few miles. The air was so hazy and brown today that I was compelled to locate some air quality information to determine if this was truly air pollution or perhaps some blowing sand or fire haze.

A quick internet search revealed there was no natural cause for the dirty air today. This is some serious air pollution in Utah.

[Update July 11: In the comments, reader Bruce posted a link for a news article stating the large 25,000+ acre fire burning for more than a week near Las Vegas has resulted in poor air quality in the Utah Valley. So I am incorrect stating the air pollution is not fire haze. Although, the winter inversion layer mentioned in the other comment is one that was widely reported in January 2013 and that was not due to fire.]

I recalled the air quality being terrible when I stayed in Salt Lake City in July 2011. This trip I thought I might get better air by staying in the town of Tooele, Utah about 30 miles west of Salt Lake City and separated by a mountain range.

No such luck. The smog of SLC was visible from 100 miles away at the Nevada state line when we arrived yesterday and still lingered around today.

In May 2013, when I traveled through Southern Utah and visited several National Parks, one of the prominent slogans was ‘the clearest air in America’. I actually wrote a piece with the title Clearest Air in America telling how visibility averaged 145 miles.

Here is my photo looking east from Tooele, Utah this morning to the mountain range in the west less than 20 miles away.


Deseret Peak west of Tooele, Utah.

Our drive out of Tooele heading to Colorado took us south around the mountain range east of Tooele and into the Utah Valley, then across the Wasatch Mountains via Highway 92, the Alpine Scenic Highway.


View of Wasatch Range 25 miles away from Cedar Fort in the Utah Valley, a town a few miles northwest of Utah Lake and located in the Provo-Orem metropolitan area south of Salt Lake City.

As we approached the Alpine Scenic Road through American Canyon, I looked up the air quality index for July 10 and Salt Lake City was listed as 74 and Los Angeles was 48.

An air quality index of

  • 0-50 is considered “good”.
  • 51 –100 is moderate.
  • 101-150 is unhealthy for sensitive groups.
  • 151-200 is unhealthy.

Salt Lake City is located in an incredibly scenic location in a valley at the base of high mountains. Too bad the times I have visited over the past two years the air was too dirty to see the mountain features until you are actually above the valley and in the mountains.


Wasatch Mountain Range seen from Timpanogos Cave National Monument Visitor Center.


Wasatch Range seen from 8,000 feet on Highway 92.


Ric Garrido, writer and owner of Loyalty Traveler, shares news and views on hotels, hotel loyalty programs and vacation destinations for frequent guests.

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U.S. Route 50 through Nevada is dubbed ‘The Loneliest Road in America’ based on a July 1986 Life magazine article.

This is the section of highway that Life magazine and the American Automobile Assn. called “the loneliest road in America.”

“It’s totally empty. There are no points of interest. We don’t recommend it. We warn all motorists not to drive there unless they’re confident of their survival skills,” the July issue of Life quoted an unnamed AAA counselor as saying about U.S. 50 in Nevada.

Los Angeles Times – August 25, 1986

Life on the ‘Loneliest Road’ : 287-Mile Stretch of U.S. 50 Is America Minus Tourist Traps – Charles Hillinger, Staff Writer

Yesterday, Kelley and I drove U.S. Route 50 from Carson City to Ely, Nevada on a clear skies day with the temperature mostly between 90 and 100F.


There are basically five towns along the 320-mile route. More towns if you start in Fernley, Nevada which is on the way if you begin in Reno, but out of the way if starting in Carson City on the main Route 50 Highway.

  • Carson City (our mile marker 0)
  • Fernley (34 miles east of Reno on I-80 and not on the U.S. 50 route from Carson City.)
  • Dayton (13 miles east of Carson City.)
  • Fallon (51 miles east of Dayton; 63 miles east of Carson City.)
  • Austin (111 miles east of Fallon; 174 miles east of Carson City.)
  • Eureka (70 miles east of Austin; 234 miles east of Carson City.)
  • Ely (77 miles east of Eureka; 311 miles east of Carson City.)


U.S. Route 50 in Carson City. The road follows portions of two National Historic Trails: The Pony Express Trail and the California Trail.

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