The Ore Mountains are a
Hercynian block tilted so as to present a steep
scarp face towards Bohemia and a gentle slope on the German side.
 They were formed during a lengthy process:
folding of the
metamorphism occurred deep underground, forming
gneiss. In addition,
intruded into the metamorphic rocks. By the end of the
Palaeozoic era, the mountains had been eroded into gently undulating hills (the
massif), exposing the hard rocks.
Tertiary period these mountain remnants came under heavy pressure as a result of
plate tectonic processes during which the
Alps were formed and the North American and Eurasian plates were separated. As the rock of the Ore Mountains was too brittle to be folded, it shattered into an independent
fault block which was uplifted and tilted to the northwest. This can be very clearly seen at a height of 807 m above
sea level (NN) on the mountain of Komáří vížka which lies on the Czech side, east of
Zinnwald-Georgenfeld, right on the edge of the fault block.
Consequently, it is a
fault-block mountain range which, today has been incised by a whole range of river valleys whose rivers drain southwards into the
Eger and northwards into the
Mulde or directly into the
Elbe. This process is known as
View from Mückentürmchen in the Eastern Ore Mountains to the west. Left: the escarpment descending to the
; right: the gentle northern dip slope.
The Ore Mountains are geologically considered to be one of the most heavily researched mountain ranges in the world.
The main geologic feature in the Ore Mountains is the Late
pluton, which is exposed for 25 miles along its northwest-southeast axis and up to 15 miles in width. This pluton is surrounded by progressive zones of
contact metamorphism in which Paleozoic
phyllites have been changed to spotted
andalusite hornfels, and
quartzites. Two key mineral centers intersect this pluton at Joachimsthal, one trending northwesterly from Schneeberg through Johanngeorgenstadt to Joachimsthal, and a second trending north-south from Freiberg through Marienberg, Annaberg, Niederschlag, Joachimsthal, and Schlaggenwald. Late
Tertiary faulting and
volcanism gave rise to
veins include iron, copper, tin, tungsten, lead, silver, cobalt, bismuth, uranium, plus iron and manganese oxides.
The most important rocks occurring in the Ore Mountains are
contact metamorphic zones in the west,
basalt as remnants in the
Velký Špičák (Großer Spitzberg or Schmiedeberger Spitzberg),
Jelení hora (Haßberg) and
Geisingberg as well as
Kahleberg) in the east. The
soils consist of rapidly leaching
grus. In the western and central areas of the mountains it is formed from weathered granite. Phyllite results in a
loamy, rapidly weathered gneiss in the east of the mountains producing a light soil. As a result of the subsoils based on granite and rhyolite, the land is mostly covered in
forest; on the gneiss soils it was possible to grow and cultivate
flax in earlier centuries and, later,
potatoes up to the highlands. Today the land is predominantly used for
pasture. But it is not uncommon to see near-natural mountain meadows.
To the north of the Ore Mountains, west of
Chemnitz and around
Zwickau lies the
Ore Mountain Basin which is only really known geologically. Here there are deposits of
stone coal where mining has already been abandoned. A similar but smaller basin with abandoned coal deposits, the
Döhlen Basin, is located southwest of
Dresden on the northern edge of the Ore Mountains. It forms the transition to the Elbe Valley zone.
The western part of the Ore Mountains is home to the two highest peaks of the range:
Klínovec, located in the Czech part, with an altitude of 1,244 metres (4,081 ft) and
Fichtelberg, the highest mountain of Saxony, Germany, at 1,214 metres (3,983 ft). The Ore Mountains are part of a larger mountain system and adjoin the
Fichtel Mountains to the west and the
Elbe Sandstone Mountains to the east. Past the River
Elbe, the mountain chain continues as the
Lusatian Mountains. While the mountains slope gently away in the northern (German) part, the southern (Czech) slopes are rather steep.
The Ore Mountains and adjacent regions
in the Ore Mountains, from Joachimsthaler Strasse
The Ore Mountains are oriented in a southwest-northeast direction and are about 150 km long and, on average, about 40 km wide. From a
geomorphological perspective the range is divided into the
Eastern Ore Mountains, separated by the valleys of the
Zwickauer Mulde and the
Flöha ("Flöha Line"), the division of the western section along the River Schwarzwasser is of a more recent date. The Eastern Ore Mountains mainly comprise large, gently climbing plateaux, in contrast with the steeper and higher-lying western and central areas, and are dissected by river valleys that frequently change direction. The crest of the mountains themselves forms, in all three regions, a succession of plateaux and individual peaks.
To the east it is adjoined by the
Elbe Sandstone Mountains and, to the west, by the
Elster Mountains and other Saxon parts of the
Vogtland. South(east) of the Central and Eastern Ore Mountains lies the
North Bohemian Basin and, immediately east of that, the
Bohemian Central Uplands which are separated from the Eastern Ore Mountains by narrow fingers of the aforementioned basin. South(east) of the Western Ore Mountains lie the
Sokolov Basin, the
Eger Graben and the
Doupov Mountains. To the north the boundary is less sharply defined because the Ore Mountains, a typical example of a
fault-block, descend very gradually.
The topographical transition from the Western and Central Ore Mountains to the
loess hill country to the north between
Chemnitz is referred to as the
Ore Mountain Basin; that from the Eastern Ore Mountains as the
Ore Mountain Foreland. Between
Pirna, the area is called the Dresden Ore Mountain Foreland (Dresdner Erzgebirgsvorland) or Bannewitz-Possendorf-Burkhardswald Plateau (Bannewitz-Possendorf-Burkhardswalder Plateau). Geologically the Ore Mountains reach the city limits of
Dresden at the
Windberg hill near Freital and the
Karsdorf Fault. The
V-shaped valleys of the Ore Mountains break through this fault and the shoulder of the
The Ore Mountains belong to the
Bohemian Massif within Europe's Central Uplands, a massif that also includes the
Upper Palatine Forest, the
Bohemian Forest, the
Bavarian Forest, the
Lusatian Mountains, the
Iser Mountains, the
Giant Mountains and the
Inner-Bohemian Mountains. At the same time it forms a y-shaped mountain chain, along with the Upper Palatine Forest, Bohemian Forest,
Thuringian Slate Mountains and
Thuringian Forest, that has no unique name but is characterised by a rather homogeneous climate.
According to cultural tradition, Zwickau is seen historically as part of the Ore Mountains, Chemnitz is seen historically as just lying outside them, but
Freiberg is included. The supposed limit of the Ore Mountains continues southwest of
Dresden towards the
Elbe Sandstone Mountains. From this perspective, its main characteristics, i.e., gently sloping plateaus climbing up to the
ridgeline incised by
V-shaped valleys, continue to the southern edge of the
Dresden Basin. North of the Ore Mountains the landscape gradually transitions into the
Saxon Lowland and
Saxon Elbeland. Its cultural-geographical transition to
Saxon Switzerland in the area of the
Gottleuba valleys is not sharply defined.
The highest mountain in the Ore Mountains is the
Klínovec (German: Keilberg) at 1,244 metres in the Bohemian part of the range. The highest elevation on the Saxon side is the 1,215-metre-high
Fichtelberg, which was the highest mountain in
East Germany. The Ore Mountains contain about thirty summits with a height over 1,000 m above
sea level (NN), but not all are clearly defined mountains. Most of them occur around the Klínovec and the Fichtelberg. About a third of them are located on the Saxon side of the border.
List of mountains in the Ore Mountains
From west to east:
Natural regions in the Saxon Ore Mountains
The natural regions on the Saxon side of the Ore Mountains
In the division of Germany into natural regions that was carried out Germany-wide in the 1950s
 the Ore Mountains formed major unit group 42:
- 42 Ore Mountains (Erzgebirge)
- 420 Southern slopes of the Ore Mountains (Südabdachung des Erzgebirges)
- 421 Upper Western Ore Mountains (Oberes Westerzgebirge)
- 422 Upper Eastern Ore Mountains (Oberes Osterzgebirge)
- 423 Lower Western Ore Mountains (Unteres Westerzgebirge)
- 424 Lower Eastern Ore Mountains (Unteres Osterzgebirge)
Even after the reclassification of natural regions by the
Federal Agency for Nature Conservation in 1994 the Ore Mountains, region D16, remained a major unit group with almost unchanged boundaries. However, at the beginning of the 21st century, the working group Naturhaushalt und Gebietscharakter of the
Saxon Academy of Sciences (Sächsische Akademie der Wissenschaften) in
Leipzig merged the Ore Mountains with the major unit group of
Vogtland to the west and the major landscape units of
Lusatian Highlands and
Zittau Mountains to the east into one overarching unit, the
Saxon Highlands and Uplands. In addition, its internal divisions were changed. Former major unit 420 was grouped with the western part of major units 421 and 423 to form a new major unit, the Western Ore Mountains (Westerzgebirge), the eastern part of major units 421 and 423 became the Central Ore Mountains (Mittelerzgebirge) and major units 422 and 424 became the Eastern Ore Mountains (Osterzgebirge).
The current division therefore looks as follows:
The geographic unit of the Southern Slopes of the Ore Mountains remains unchanged under the title of Southern Ore Mountains (Süderzgebirge).
climate of the higher regions of the Ore Mountains is characterised as distinctly harsh.
Temperatures are considerably lower all year round than in the lowlands, and the
summer is noticeably shorter and cool days are frequent. The average annual temperatures only reach values of 3 to 5 °C. In
Oberwiesenthal, at a height of 922 m above
sea level (NN), on average only about 140 frost-free days per year are observed. Based on reports of earlier chroniclers, the climate of the upper Ore Mountains in past centuries must have been even harsher than it is today. Historic sources describe hard winters in which cattle froze to death in their stables, and occasionally houses and cellars were snowed in even after snowfalls in April. The population was regularly cut off from the outside world.
 The upper Ore Mountains was therefore nicknamed
Saxon Siberia already in the 18th century.
The fault block mountain range that climbs from northwest to southeast, and which enables prolonged rain to fall as
orographic rain when weather systems drive in from the west and northwest, gives rise to twice as much
precipitation as in the lowlands which exceeds 1,100 mm on the upper reaches of the mountains. Since a large part of the precipitation falls as
snow, in many years a thick and permanent layer of snow remains until April. The ridges of the Ore Mountains are one of the snowiest areas in the German
Foehn winds, and also the so-called
Bohemian Wind may occur during certain specific southerly weather conditions.
As a result of the climate and the heavy amounts of snow a natural
Dwarf Mountain Pine region is found near
Satzung, near the border to Bohemia at just under 900 m above
sea level (NN). By comparison, in the Alps these pines do not occur until 1,600 to 1,800 m above
sea level (NN).
Climatic diagram of Annaberg-Buchholz
Climatic diagram of Freiberg
Climatic diagram of the Fichtelberg
Climatic diagram of Zinnwald-Georgenfeld