I know of Bluerock Campground because an aunt and uncle of mine camped there annually with my young cousins years ago. When I first moved to Calgary, on a couple of occasions I either visited them at the campground or joined them camping for a night.
Everyone else, I presume, knows Bluerock Campground as pseudo-overflow for Sandy McNabb Campground. Neither campground offers reservations so if you show up to camp at Sandy McNabb and can’t find an open site, your best bet before returning home despondent is to drive 20km further up the highway and hope to snag one at Bluerock.
The lone exception to this premise would be horse people. Like Sandy McNabb, Bluerock Campground has an equestrian loop for horse lovers looking for a retro-settler camping experience in the Rocky Mountains.
Our short, August camping adventure started on a Tuesday morning and we were able to acquire a campsite at Sandy McNabb. We decided to poke our noses, and camera, around Bluerock during an afternoon drive to explore the nearby natural attractions of Kananaskis.
Tucked away at the far western edge of Sheep River Provincial Park, ironically near the border with Bluerock Wildlife Provincial Park, Bluerock Campground is a fairly rustic affair. None of the 66 primary campsites or 17 equestrian campsites has services of any kind. A few older pit toilets and a couple of vintage, red handpumps for water are the only amenities available. And that water has a ‘do not drink’ advisory.
As alluded to above, Bluerock is a first come, first serve campground. A little further afield and with fewer services than Sandy McNabb, securing a campsite here will be somewhat easier later into the week. There were plenty of empty sites during our snooping on a Wednesday afternoon. This isn’t to say that you can wait until Friday night to arrive and still get one. I suspect during peak summer camping season even these sites fill up earlier but I have no specific firsthand knowledge.
What Bluerock lacks in facilities, it makes up for in privacy, peacefulness, and beauty. To the best of my knowledge, the sites are all back-in. I’d love to be emphatic about this, but there isn’t even a campground layout map available online. That kind of oversight feels almost unforgiveable.
Bluerock proper is kind of two loops but they are mated and each has a sort of single spike off into the woods. It’s weird. The smaller loop immediately by the campground entrance has a meadow in the midst of it. Sites are located on the outer edge of the loop and are mostly sheltered by forest.
The second, larger loop is entirely encapsulated by trees. Sites there are both inside and outside the loop. They are large, gravel padded sites that can accompany most any RV setup. Some of the sites are quite spectacular, albeit dangerous for little kids, backing onto a steep cliff overlooking the highway and Sheep River. Were I camping at Bluerock, these would be the target sites for me without question.
The equestrian sites are located slightly further down the highway and have their own entrance. They are otherwise identical to the main campsites. This loop is uniquely equestrian thanks to the large, multi-horse corrals.
All sites come with a firepit and picnic table.
There is no dump station here so you’ll need to use the one at Sandy McNabb or one elsewhere on your return home.
And if you need a shower or something more than an old pit toilet, you can always make the trek back to Sandy McNabb which has a full comfort station available.
Not surprisingly, there is no registration office or store at Bluerock. Registration and payment is done manually at a wooden kiosk at the entrance.
They do, however, have a campground host which I didn’t expect. Two old trailers sharing a single campsite is home to the host, but I didn’t see any actual people while looking around. I’m not sure what all the hosts do, but with no services or cell service, I suppose it is comforting having someone around for help in emergencies.
Acquisition of wood is another unknown to me since we weren’t actually camping here. I assume it runs on the same system as Sandy McNabb where campers affix a notice to their campsite post indicating a desire to buy wood. Deliveries and payment are then made at select times during the day. I also assume it is the same $11/bag wood we bought at Sandy McNabb. Regardless, I imagine many campers bring their own wood to these parts.
The playground here is all of nature, not a metal or wooden structure. This may deter some campers with children who enjoy such apparatus, but with so much beauty around to explore it shouldn’t really matter.
Similar to Sandy McNabb, Bluerock has a guided trail called Bluerock Creek Trail. A pamphlet explaining the various stops of interest along the trail can be downloaded from the Alberta Parks website. The trail follows alongside a tributary creek of the Sheep River into an old logging camp. Likewise, the interpretive trail explores and teaches about the early days of logging in these parts before becoming a provincial park.
The grand, regional Kananaskis trail system passes through Bluerock enabling avid hikers to adventure short or long distances into the wilderness.
Day spots with picnic facilities can be found close by at Junction Creek, Sheep River Falls, and Indian Oils. These day use areas have parking and tables to assist in your beautiful, riverside lunch. They also offer plenty of real estate for discovery and photo taking.
We spent a few hours hunting rocks along the river at both Junction Creek and Sheep River Falls. The falls aren’t grandiose, by any means, but they are gorgeous with the outcropping perches on which to view and the Rocky Mountains as backdrop. If you love geology you’ll have a blast playing out here.
Obviously my commentary on Bluerock Campground is limited by our not actually camping there. It is certainly a beautiful place with lots of lovely wilderness to explore all around. The campsites are spacious and private offering a delightful escape from busy lives.
But this isn’t luxurious. If you’re looking for a full-service family campground, Bluerock isn’t going to be high on your list. For those seeking a more natural camping experience, Bluerock might just be what you’re looking for.
I’ll give Bluerock Campground 3.25 Baby Dill Pickles out of 5. The scenery and exploration opportunities are stellar, but the campground itself is lacking for my desires. I hate pit toilets. A small playground wouldn’t hurt. And the sketchy water situation is unfortunate. It is an otherwise nice spot for a getaway.