The spread of mineral particles over southwestern, western, and central Europe resulting from a strong Saharan dust outbreak in October 2001 was observed at 10 stations of the European Aerosol Research Lidar Network (EARLINET). For the first time, an optically dense desert dust plume over Europe was characterized coherently with high vertical resolution on a continental scale. The main layer was located above the boundary layer (above 1-km height above sea level (asl)) up to 3–5-km height, and traces of dust particles reached heights of 7–8 km. The particle optical depth typically ranged from 0.1 to 0.5 above 1-km height asl at the wavelength of 532 nm, and maximum values close to 0.8 were found over northern Germany. The lidar observations are in qualitative agreement with values of optical depth derived from Total Ozone Mapping Spectrometer (TOMS) data. Ten-day backward trajectories clearly indicated the Sahara as the source region of the particles and revealed that the dust layer observed, e.g., over Belsk, Poland, crossed the EARLINET site Aberystwyth, UK, and southern Scandinavia 24–48 hours before. Lidar-derived particle depolarization ratios, backscatter- and extinction-related Ångström exponents, and extinction-to-backscatter ratios mainly ranged from 15 to 25%, −0.5 to 0.5, and 40–80 sr, respectively, within the lofted dust plumes. A few atmospheric model calculations are presented showing the dust concentration over Europe. The simulations were found to be consistent with the network observations.