Soil salinization has adverse effects on the soil physical-chemical characteristics. However, little is known about the changes in soil salt ion concentrations and other soil physical-chemical characteristics within the Qarhan Salt Lake and at different soil depths in the surrounding areas. Here, we selected five sampling sites (S1, S2, S3, S4, and S5) alongside the Qarhan Salt Lake and in the Xidatan segment of the Kunlun Mountains to investigate the relationship among soil salt ion concentrations, soil physical-chemical characteristics, and environmental variables in April 2019. The results indicated that most sites had strongly saline and very strongly saline conditions. The main salt ions present in the soil were Na+, K+, and Cl-. Soil nutrients and soil microbial biomass (SMB) were significantly affected by the salinity (P<0.05). Moreover, soil salt ions (Na+, K+, Ca2+, Mg2+, Cl-, CO32-, SO42-, and HCO3-) were positively correlated with electrical conductivity (EC) and soil water content (SWC), but negatively related to altitude and soil depth. Unlike soil salt ions, soil nutrients and SMB were positively correlated with altitude, but negatively related to EC and SWC. Moreover, soil nutrients and SMB were negatively correlated with soil salt ions. In conclusion, soil nutrients and SMB were mainly influenced by salinity, and were related to altitude, soil depth, and SWC in the areas from the Qarhan Salt Lake to the Xidatan segment. These results imply that the soil quality (mainly evaluated by soil physical-chemical characteristics) is mainly influenced by soil salt ions in the areas surrounding the Qarhan Salt Lake. Our results provide an accurate prediction of how the soil salt ions, soil nutrients, and SMB respond to the changes along a salt gradient. The underlying mechanisms controlling the soil salt ion distribution, soil nutrients, and SMB in an extremely arid desert climate playa should be studied in greater detail in the future.