Running a Hugo server on local and public networks

When writing posts or updating the layout of this website, I run Hugo’s local server to view my changes live. Sometimes I want to view my website from a different device on my network to check how it renders the page. Thankfully, Hugo’s server has some builtin flags to bind the server to my machine’s IP address to allow viewing from any machine on the network.

# Run the Hugo server on a local network

By default hugo server will create a server running on localhost port 1313. If your IP address is, providing the following flags to Hugo will will bind the server to your device’s IP address on your local network instead of localhost. Substitute your own IP address in place of my example address.

$ hugo server --bind --baseURL

That’s all it takes! After doing this, any device on your local network can access the Hugo development server by visiting

The --bind flag binds the server to the given IP address rather than localhost. The other important flag is --baseURL which Hugo uses for prefixing internal links on the webpage. If you don’t supply a base URL, any links that Hugo creates will be prefixed with http://localhost:1313 which will not work for devices other than the one running the server.

This covers most of my needs when I want to view my Hugo website on a different device, but I occasionally need to share access to my development server with someone outside my network.

# Access the development server from a public URL

There are some tools that can create a temporary public URL that connects directly to a server running on your machine. Two services that I am aware of are ngrok and Cloudflare Tunnel. I use Cloudflare Tunnel, but both can be used to accomplish the same task.

Cloudflare Tunnel creates an encrypted tunnel between your server and Cloudflare’s nearest data center without requiring you to open public ports on your network. The program is called cloudflared and is easy to install and use. Here are the docs for installing cloudflared for Linux, MacOS, or Windows.

The Cloudflare docs are focused on creating persistent tunnels registered on your own domain, and only briefly cover the TryCloudflare service. There is no need to authenticate cloudflared or create config files to use the subdomains of You don’t even need a Cloudflare account! Here is more documentation on TryCloudflare.

Once installed the following command will create a temporary tunnel. The --url flag specifies which local server to connect the tunnel to.

$ cloudflared tunnel --url http://localhost:1313
2021-08-21T01:30:49Z INF +------------------------------------------------------------+
2021-08-21T01:30:49Z INF |  Your free tunnel has started! Visit it:                   |
2021-08-21T01:30:49Z INF |  |
2021-08-21T01:30:49Z INF +------------------------------------------------------------+

On the Hugo side It is important to set the base URL to the Cloudflare tunnel domain. The --appendPort=false flag prevents Hugo from appending the port to the links. Without this flag, Hugo will create links like, which will not load properly because Cloudflare is not serving the tunnel over port 1313.

$ hugo server --appendPort=false --baseURL

No matter how many times I start a tunnel, the simplicity of cloudflared always impresses me. While slightly more involved than running a Hugo server on a local network, cloudflared makes it trivial to create a temporary public link to your development server. The link will no longer work once you close the Cloudflare tunnel.

# A fish function to automate local and public servers

I find myself needing local and public access to my Hugo servers on a regular basis. To automate this process somewhat, I created a fish function to wrap hugo. Feel free to use this function directly, or as inspiration for your own fish or bash scripts. It isn’t very robust, but it works well enough for me.

function hugo -a command
    switch $command
        # run on the local network
        case l local
            # to trim off "l" or "local" from the other args
            set argv $argv[2..]
            set ip_addr (hostname -i)
            command hugo server --bind $ip_addr --baseURL "http://$ip_addr" $argv

        # run on a public network with cloudflared
        case p public
            # to trim off "p" or "public" from the other args
            set argv $argv[2..]

            # create a temporary file
            set tmpfile (mktemp)
            cloudflared tunnel --url http://localhost:1313 2> $tmpfile &

            # wait for the server to start
            echo -n Waiting for cloudflare tunnel to start
            set cloudflare_url
            while test -z $cloudflare_url;
                echo -n .
                set cloudflare_url (grep --color=never -o -m1 "http.*" $tmpfile)
                sleep 1
            echo -e " started\n"

            # run hugo through the tunnel
            command hugo server --appendPort=false --baseURL $cloudflare_url $argv
            echo -e "\nShutting down tunnel"
            kill $last_pid
            sleep 1

        # fall through to all other uses of hugo
        case "*"
            command hugo $argv

With this function I can run hugo local to run a server on my local network, or hugo public to run a server accessible through a Cloudflare Tunnel. Additional arguments like -D can still be passed to enable draft post visibility.