The source is located in the Fichtelgebirge mountains in Bavaria. The narrow river runs northward through Hof and enters the state of Thuringia, where a series of large reservoirs is built in the river's course. Towns on the Thuringian portion of the Saale include Saalfeld, Rudolstadt and Jena.
There is another river called Saale in northwestern Bavaria. It is an affluent of the Main and 135 km in length. It is sometimes called Frankish Saale in order to distinguish this water course from the above river (which may be called Saxon Saale).