In this study, 2 m air temperature data from 24 meteorological stations in the Qilian Mountains (QLM) are examined to evaluate ERA-Interim reanalysis temperature data derived from the European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts (ECMWF) for the period of 1979–2017. ERA-Interim generally captures the monthly, seasonal, and annual variation very well. High daily correlations ranging from 0.956 to 0.996 indicate that ERA-Interim captures the daily temperature observations very well. However, an average root-mean-square error (RMSE) of ±2.7°C of all stations reveals that ERA-Interim should not be directly applied at individual sites. The biases are mainly attributed to the altitude differences between ERA-Interim grid points and stations. The positive trend (0.457°C/decade) is significant over the Qilian Mountains based on the 1979–2017 observations. ERA-Interim captures the warming trend very well with an increase rate of 0.384°C/decade. The observations and ERA-Interim both show the largest positive trends in summer with the values of 0.552°C/decade and 0.481°C/decade, respectively. We conclude that in general ERA-Interim captures the trend very well for observed 2 m air temperatures and ERA-Interim is generally reliable for climate change research over the Qilian Mountains.