I am developer of the plugin mapsmarker.com which also offers several APIs which can be accessed directly (eg www.mapsmarker.com/wp-content/plugins/leaflet-maps-marker/leaflet-geojson.php?marker=1) For these APIs I initially wrote the absolut directory path to a file with the following function on plugin install:

file_put_contents(dirname(__FILE__).'/leaflet-wp-path.php', '<?php define(\'WP_PATH\',\''.ABSPATH.'\'); ?>');

In the API-files, the file leaflet-wp-path.php the got included by the following code:

global $wpdb;

I then noticed that on some hosting providers these kind of operation is not supported, causing the plugin install to fail. Therefore I switched to another method for determing the directory-path to wp-config.php:

//info: construct path to wp-config.php with fallback for subdirectory installations
$wp_path = $_SERVER["DOCUMENT_ROOT"]; 
if ( file_exists($wp_path . '/wp-config.php') ) {
} else { 
    $wp_plugin_path_modified = explode(DIRECTORY_SEPARATOR, dirname(__FILE__),-3);
    $wp_path = implode(DIRECTORY_SEPARATOR, $wp_plugin_path_modified);
if ( !file_exists($wp_path . '/wp-config.php') ) {
    echo __('Error: Could not construct path to wp-config.php - please check <a     href="http://mapsmarker.com/path-error">http://mapsmarker.com/path-error</a> for more details.','lmm') . '<br/>Path on your webhost: ' . $wp_path;
} else {

This worked fine even on hosts that don´t allow the function file_put_contents() because the directory path is determined from the current dirname of the API-File.

Now I got a bug report from a user, telling me that this method doesnt work on his host. He writes:

This is the example of the one of icon link. Looks entire plugin links are not correct. Only one thing is working now, it is admin panel configuration. Also it is making markers, but not showing in browsers.

On Windows Web Host http://XXXXX/wordpress/wp-content/plugins/D:/Hosting/5465771/html/wordpress/wp-content/plugins/leaflet-maps-marker/img/logo-mapsmarker.png

On Linux Web Host http://XXXXX/wordpress/wp-content/plugins/D:/inetpub/vhosts/XXXXX/httpdocs/wordpress/wp-content/plugins/leaflet-maps-marker/img/logo-mapsmarker.png

Does anyone know a better method for determing the directory path to wp-config.php to support this kind of hosting configuration?

5 Answers 5


I came up with this solution.

This function checks in each directory level starting from the directory of the current file for the file wp-config.php.

    function find_wp_config_path() {
        $dir = dirname(__FILE__);
        do {
            if( file_exists($dir."/wp-config.php") ) {
                return $dir;
        } while( $dir = realpath("$dir/..") );
        return null;

To actually include the file you can use this:

if ( ! function_exists('add_action') ) {
    include_once( find_wp_config_path()  . '/wp-load.php' );

This can also be found here: How to determine wordpress base path when wordpress core is not loaded

  • +1 : Thanks, work perfect for my case : a plugin who need access to Wordpress function. Commented Mar 24, 2014 at 7:59
  • I think $dir = trim(ABSPATH,"/"); would be faster.
    – Miguel
    Commented May 30, 2014 at 18:10

I guess it sounds silly, but could you work your way up from the plug-in directory?

if ( file_exists('../../../wp-config.php') ) :
    include_once '../../../wp-config.php';

I'm sure someone else will probably have a more elegant solution.

  • I use this approach all of the time. It makes things cleaner, I don't like the idea of relying on external functions to get paths for including files. Have an upvote. Commented Mar 4, 2012 at 22:13
  • I have a more elegant version posted, check it out.
    – xaedes
    Commented Dec 20, 2012 at 16:24
  • Not a great solution, I run a custom WP installation with a different path for plugins and the theme, and this would not work for me.
    – Maarten00
    Commented Nov 19, 2015 at 9:55

For the record, the question asks how to do the wrong thing, even in the time it was asked you should not have used direct access to any of the plugin files, but used probably a uniqly crafted URL parameter like my_plugin_param that its usage will indicate that the plugin is supposed to do whatever is needed. To detect it the plugin should hook on the init action and check if the URL contains my_plugin_param. Once done that way you do not need to bootstrap WordPress as it was already done.

While wp-config.php should be either in WordPress root, or one directory above it, plugins might be installed outside of the WordPress directories. While not especially popular setup, it can be done.


it's not my code, found somewhere on stack, but try this:

function FindWPConfig($dirrectory){
global $confroot;
foreach(glob($dirrectory."/*") as $f){
    if (basename($f) == 'wp-config.php' ){
        $confroot = str_replace("\\", "/", dirname($f));
        return true;
    if (is_dir($f)){
        $newdir = dirname(dirname($f));
if (isset($newdir) && $newdir != $dirrectory){
    if (FindWPConfig($newdir)){
        return false;
return false; }
    if (!isset($table_prefix)){
        global $confroot;
        include_once $confroot."/wp-load.php";
  • As this is the same solution as the one from bueltge I can only repeat myself: That is a very nasty approach. Output is done with a global variable what is not very nice. The code is really confusing and inefficient. The same can be done in a much better way with my solution I posted.
    – xaedes
    Commented Dec 20, 2012 at 16:55
  • The entire WordPress platform runs on global variables. Yes, it's not best practice, but it very much fits into how the system is built. Commented Dec 20, 2012 at 17:05

The following doesn't exactly answer what's being asked in the context of the question, but it does answer exactly what's in the title of the question.

For those who are looking for a way to get the path to wp-config.php from within WordPress, the following works fine.

This is how WP CLI does it:


function locate_wp_config() {
    static $path;

    if ( null === $path ) {
        $path = false;

        if ( getenv( 'WP_CONFIG_PATH' ) && file_exists( getenv( 'WP_CONFIG_PATH' ) ) ) {
            $path = getenv( 'WP_CONFIG_PATH' );
        } elseif ( file_exists( ABSPATH . 'wp-config.php' ) ) {
            $path = ABSPATH . 'wp-config.php';
        } elseif ( file_exists( dirname( ABSPATH ) . '/wp-config.php' ) && ! file_exists( dirname( ABSPATH ) . '/wp-settings.php' ) ) {
            $path = dirname( ABSPATH ) . '/wp-config.php';

        if ( $path ) {
            $path = realpath( $path );

    return $path;
  • But that doesn't actually search for the file, so wouldn't be much use for the case in the question. It assumes you've either set up an environment variable or you're running from inside WordPress or you're already in the right folder.
    – Rup
    Commented Jul 4, 2021 at 14:12
  • Well, then the title of the question is not correct. Because in wordpress.stackexchange.com, as someone who is searching for answers like me, one would expect that we are running from within WP. I edited my answer for those who just read the title and expect an answer to that.
    – Aleksandar
    Commented Jul 5, 2021 at 5:25

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