Built in 1881, the Stanford Steam Tunnels were originally used to transport steam to various buildings around Stanford University’s main campus. These pipes are still used today to transport hot water around campus. But for over a century, the steam tunnels have transported more than just steam or water… one of Stanford’s most enduring underground traditions has been exploring and navigating the steam tunnels.
Where are the tunnels?
The tunnels are underneath a fairly large portion of Stanford’s campus, but the tunnels are primarily underneath Main Quad, the oldest part of Stanford’s campus.
Where are the entrances?
All over the place. In the past decade, the vast majority of them have been sealed off or padlocked. If you’re lucky, you may stumble upon an open entrance, but the chances of that happening without reconnaissance on your part are slim.
So, what’s the “legality” of exploring the tunnels?
It’s a gray area. Technically, the tunnels are all private property owned by Stanford University. The university generally discourages exploration of the tunnels because they want to keep you safe. This website assumes no liability for any potential legal issues you may experience from exploration. That being said, students going back generations have been exploring the tunnels with generally very few complications, so you may choose to assume that will be the case for you too. For more information, please see the “Entrances” or “The PDF” pages.
Why does this website exist?
Although exploring the steam tunnels is one of Stanford’s oldest and most cherished traditions, it’s slowly dying off. In the past decade, access to the tunnels has been heavily restricted in efforts to discourage curious navigators from exploring them. The pipes in the tunnels themselves now carry hot water instead of steam. Most people have heard about the tunnels, but very few people actually know where to begin with regards to “getting in”. We’ve spent hours and hours doing research and compiling our findings and wanted to give future tunnelers a step up (or should we say, a “step down”?).
As always, use your best discretion when trying to find entrances or when navigating the tunnels. After all, they are 137 years old. The operator of this website assumes no liability for any misadventures that may be a direct or indirect result of information taken from this site.