The city was first referenced in historical documents on July 6, 1008 by the Holy Roman Emperor Henry II when he founded another town named Keminata in the Diocese of Bamberg. In 2008 Kemnath celebrated their 1000th anniversary with a series of special events throughout the city at various times during the year that culminated with a major celebration in August of 2008.
The city is in the foothills of the Fichtelgebirge Mountains of northeast Bavaria and is approximately 55 km from the Czech border at Mähring. It is located in a valley formed by three streams, the Mühlbach, Flötzbach, and Schirnitzbach. The Steinwald Nature park abuts the edge of the town as well and stretches from Kemnath to the Czech border.