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Add a class to wp_nav_menu() items with URLs included in the current URL

We're all enjoying the benefits and features of WordPress 3.0. Custom menus are awesome and custom post types shatter all capability and imagination limits. A small problem arises when these two features are used in conjunction: the classes applied to navigation menu items only reflect direct inheritance, and entities that have their URLs included in the current URL can't get highlighted.

The Problem🔗

Let me illustrate through a simple example:

Suppose you defined a Services page that lives at this URL: This page has an entry in the main menu of your website. To further emphasize your services, you also defined a services custom post type with the slug services. The URL of a 'service' post can be

When you browse the Branding post, however, no special class is applied to the menu entry of your Services page, and it's impossible to style it as the current section of your website, even though the proposed URL structure is semantic.

The Solution🔗

The solution is based on the nav_menu_css_class WordPress hook. This is a filter hook that allows us to alter an array containing CSS classes that will be applied to a menu item.

We also need a way to find the current URL, or the URL being browsed.

The Code🔗

add_filter( 'nav_menu_css_class', 'add_parent_url_menu_class', 10, 2 );

function add_parent_url_menu_class( $classes = array(), $item = false ) {
  // Get current URL
  $current_url = current_url();

  // Get homepage URL
  $homepage_url = trailingslashit( get_bloginfo( 'url' ) );

  // Exclude 404 and homepage
  if( is_404() or $item->url == $homepage_url ) return $classes;

  if ( strstr( $current_url, $item->url) ) {
    // Add the 'parent_url' class
    $classes[] = 'parent_url';

  return $classes;

function current_url() {
  // Protocol
  $url = ( 'on' == $_SERVER['HTTPS'] ) ? 'https://' : 'http://';

  $url .= $_SERVER['SERVER_NAME'];

  // Port
  $url .= ( '80' == $_SERVER['SERVER_PORT'] ) ? '' : ':' . $_SERVER['SERVER_PORT'];

  $url .= $_SERVER['REQUEST_URI'];

  return trailingslashit( $url );

In the hooked function, a check is first made to see if we're on a 404 page. When an invalid URL is accessed, we don't want to highlight anything.

The same holds if the menu item points to the domain root URL: all other URLs on the website include it.

The rest is pretty straightforward: add the class if the menu item URL is included in the current URL and return the $classes array.