The cycling of dissolved organic matter (DOM) in soils is controversial. While DOM is believed to be a C source for soil microorganisms, DOM sorption to the mineral phase is regarded as a key stabilization mechanism of soil organic matter (SOM). In this study, we added 14C-labelled DOM derived from Leucanthemopsis alpina to undisturbed soil columns of a chronosequence ranging from initial unweathered soils of a glacier forefield to alpine soils with thick organic layers. We traced the 14C label in mineralized and leached DOM and quantified the spatial distribution of DO14C retained in soils using a new autoradiographic technique. Leaching of DO14C through the 10 cm-long soil columns amounted up to 28% of the added DO14C in the initial soils, but to less than 5% in the developed soils. Biodegradation hardly contributed to the removal of litter-DO14C as only 2–9% were mineralized, with the highest rates in mature soils. In line with the mass balance of 14C fluxes, measured 14C activities in soils indicated that the major part of litter DO14C was retained in soils (>80% on average). Autoradiographic images showed an effective retention of almost all DO14C in the upper 3 cm of the soil columns. In the deeper soil, the 14C label was concentrated along soil pores and textural discontinuities with similarly high 14C activities than in the uppermost soil. These findings indicate DOM transport via preferential flow, although this was quantitatively less important than DOM retention in soils. The leaching of DO14C correlated negatively with oxalate-extractable Al, Fe, and Mn. In conjunction with the rapidity of DO14C immobilization, this strongly suggests that sorptive retention DOM was the dominating pathway of litter-derived DOM in topsoils, thereby contributing to SOM stabilization.