What is the kube_config_cluster.yml file that is created after provisioning a cluster with the Rancher Kubernetes Engine (RKE) CLI?

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The Rancher Kubernetes Engine (RKE) documentation references a file kube_config_cluster.yml that is generated after running rke up, this article explains what this file is and how to use it.


  • A Rancher Kubernetes Engine (RKE) CLI provisioned Kubernetes cluster
  • kubectl installed


When you provision a Kubernetes cluster using RKE, a kubeconfig file is automatically generated for your cluster.

This file is created and saved as kube_config_<cluster>.yml, where <cluster> is the filename of your cluster configuration YAML file. This kubeconfig defines the connection and authentication details to interact with your cluster, using tools such as kubectl.

By default, kubectl checks ~/.kube/config for a kubeconfig file, but you can specify a different kubeconfig file using the --kubeconfig flag. For example:

kubectl --kubeconfig /custom/path/rke/kube_config_cluster.yml get pods

Or you can export the config path into the KUBECONFIG environment variable, removing the requirement to specify the --kubeconfig flag each time you run kubectl:

export KUBECONFIG="/custom/path/rke/kube_config_cluster.yml"

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