SALT LAKE CITY — There are only a handful of major cities in the United States where travelers get to enjoy a dramatic descent on a major highway down from the mountains into a broad urbanized valley below. Denver is probably the best example, where drivers headed east out of Colorado’s Front Range on Interstate 70 are presented not only with the vast expanse of the metropolitan area, but the endless horizon of the Great Plains beyond.
In Utah, I was expecting something similar heading down into Salt Lake City out of the Wasatch Range along Interstate 80. But Parleys Canyon only gives westbound drivers a partial glimpse of the Salt Lake Valley. This is a route that anyone who has skied or gone to the Sundance Film Festival in Park City has most likely experienced. The canyon narrows in its final stretch into Salt Lake City, so instead of seeing an uninterrupted view of the valley below, travelers are treated to a succession of exit signs for Interstate 215’s Belt Route amid the steep canyon walls with, in my case, bright blue skies above.
What was beyond briefly remained a mystery. When I popped out in South Salt Lake, the view wasn’t all that impressive. I could have been somewhere in Southern California.
When I rolled into Utah’s largest city, I wasn’t exactly inspired to declare “This is the right place,” as Brigham Young apparently said when his eyes first saw the Salt Lake Valley from the foothills of Emigration Canyon. But it was at least the right place to stop for lunch.