Yosemite PSAR

PSAR (Preventive Search and Rescue) in practice is visitor education about the hazards and risks associated with wilderness hiking, climbing, camping, and swimming in general... and Yosemite in particular.

Cal-ESAR PSAR Mission

  • As volunteers for PSAR, it is our mission to educate visitors about potential hazards with a focus on personal safety and responsibility.
  • Our mission does NOT include enforcement of park regulations.
  • Our goal of education and promoting safety in a proactive manner (before the activity begins) will help reduce visitor accidents requiring NPS Search and Rescue resources.
  • We want to avoid generating SAR responses at all costs.


Maintain and expand out relationship with NPS as a valued partner by setting the standard for professionalism, training and performance by which all other PSAR volunteers, organized units or individuals, are measured.

Unit Standards


For those of you that have never worn the uniform of an authority figure in public before you are about to have an eye opening experience.

When you are in uniform you are representing Cal-ESAR to NPS and NPS to the public.

Park visitors commonly identify us as ‘Rangers’ and we are likely to be the visitors only “NPS” contact during their stay. While there is no denying that many of you will find a certain gratification in that, it also implies a very large and real responsibility to live up to that image. The visitor’s perception is their reality.

  • Remember the manners that dad & mom taught you, universal politeness and respect for all visitors and peers at all times are minimum standards.
  • If you were a Boy Scout…Trustworthy, loyal, Courteous, Kind, Cheerful, etc. is the way to go.
  • When you take a break keep in mind the public thinks they are paying us. (ex:A cat nap in clear view of public is not the way to go)
  • Language- No offensive language and certainly no F bombs on the trail
  • Absolutely no alcohol consumption or use of illegal substances of any kind while in uniform and in the park.
Training Requirements
  • Active status with unit
  • Current Medical training: Basic First Aid w/ CPR – minimum req or better. (First Responder, WFR, etc.)
  • Completed PSAR cert class and two 8 hr. shadow missions.
  • NPS Volunteer Service Agreement 301a on file with NPS. (+ parent consent if under 18)

Visitor Messaging

Theme: Self-Responsibility! You are responsible for yourself, be prepared, be aware of your surroundings (weather, time of day, sunset, etc. fitness level of yourself and others in your party) make good decisions. Unless it is a case of life, limb or eyesight a helicopter is not coming for you!... and even then it doesn't fly at night or in bad weather.

Talking Points:

  1. Stay on the trail, stay on the trail, stay on the trail...
    1. Stay away from moving water (can’t swim in aerated water) high this year
    2. Never shortcut - especially on switchbacks
  2. Hydration (what are your early signs of dehydration?)
  3. Snacking - light, easy-to-digest salty (to replace salts lost from perspiration)
  4. Leave a travel plan with a trusted person
    1. Route/destination
    2. Time of return
  5. Carry your 10 essentials (emphasize flashlight/headlamp, rain shell)

Cal-ESAR PSAR Field Operations

Areas of Operational Focus

  • Mist/JMT train Corridor from Happy Isles to Nevada Falls
  • Yosemite Falls trail
  • 4 Mile trail
  • Mirror Lake
  • Panorama Trail, Glacier Point to Nevada Falls.
Our Tasks
  • We're the on trail ‘411’ for all things Yosemite related.
  • Interact with visitors to help them determine an appropriate activity based upon their preparedness, abilities and desired destination or goals
  • Inform visitors of dangers/hazards and limits based upon location, time of day, weather forecast, trail conditions.
    • Identification of trail dependent dangerous “hot spots”
    • Swimming or wading above falls or rapids
    • Scrambling on slabs or outcroppings
    • Cutting trail switchbacks
  • Attempt to verbally persuade visitors to reconsider their activity
  • Document visitor contacts- very important for NPS PSAR and Cal-ESAR
  • Standard contact:  directions, hiking advice, logistical questions, park policies and natural/cultural history
  • Notable contact: interventions, separated parties, off trial hikers, plan changes based upon advice given, visitor assist

Hours of operation: generally 9:00 AM – 6:00 PM

  • Our customers are usually not out in numbers before 9:00. Business picks up from mid AM to early afternoon when hikers start heading up, and early bird tired ones, head down the trail. Especially Half Dome hikers coming down JMT at end of day.
  • This does vary by trail.  If you’re covering Yose Falls or 4 Mile you’ll want an earlier start to compensate for the longer, tougher climb out of the Valley. Panorama is a 8 mile hike, considering traffic you’ll want to get a ride to Glacier Point so that you can make it to Nevada Falls by ~ 2:00 PM.

Check in / out with YOSAR office

  •  Sign in / out at start / end of day on white board in YOSAR office OR clipboard outside if office is locked. YOSAR office is across the street from the school playground. This is not necessary for unit operations on holiday weekends. Check in/out will be at the unit level.


  • Our radio communications are limited to our frequency.
  • Monitoring Valley Local frequency is fine, but only under truly life threating circumstances, and cell phone communications is not available, should you ever transmit over this frequency.
  • For holiday weekends when Cal-ESAR is operating as a unit the daily briefing will cover the internal unit communications plan.

Transportation within the Valley

  • Valley traffic is usually a bear. (get it J ) Here are the ways to mitigate it.
  • 4 Mile Trail – walk the ¼ mile to trail head
  • Yose Falls Trail - Walk to Swinging Bridge, cross bridge and meadow to Camp 4.
  • Mist / JMT / Mirror Lake trail heads-
    • Bring a bike and ride it.
    • Car pool if with a team
    • Take the bus
    • Drive- If you drive to Mist/JMT you can park on the access road behind the Happy Isle bus stop. Park at the handicap area a few hundred yards up the road. Place your unit ID on your dash and even better have SAR magnet signs on your driver’s door.
  • Emergency vehicle lane access: During busy times NPS blocks off the left lane of North and South Drive for ‘Authorized Vehicles Only’. When returning to Yellow Pines after a PSAR mission we are authorized to use the ‘Authorized Vehicles Only’ lane ONLY under these circumstances:
    • Your vehicle has “Search and Rescue” magnetic signs on front, back and drivers door.
    • Your wearing tan uniform shirt and it’s clearly visible to traffic ranger directing traffic.
    • This is a professional courtesy and a privilege; avoid even the remote appearance of abusing it.

Cal-ESAR PSAR – non-holiday visit Process

  • Become PSAR certified
  • Login and sign up on Cal-ESAR web site / PSAR section
  • Solo missions by adults on Mist/JMT, Yosemite Falls, 4 Mile, Mirror Lake or ok. Solo missions must sign in/out at Yosemite SAR office.
  • Youth members must be accompanied by adult members of the unit on any PSAR mission.
  • Reservation will be arranged for Yellow Pines, the more advance notice the greater your chance of getting space!!
  • You’ll get confirmation of space at Yellow Pines and a gate pass before you're cleared to go.
  • Members are welcome to bring immediate family and close friends to share their campsite as long as extra camping or parking space is not required. Family and friends can accompany them on the trail as long as they do not distraction your attention from the public. (a independent spouse or friend can be fine, a small child is a no go)  
  • Do some good and enjoy the valley!

If a Real Emergency  Situation Develops

  1. Assess the situation and communicate to the Cal-ESAR IC, unless
    1. The emergency involves a subject in the river (under no circumstances should you attempt a swift water rescue)
    2. CPR is in progress
    3. Cal-ESAR IC is not available,   
  2. If any of these situations contact Yosemite Dispatch directly (911) via cell phone or radio with the following information
    1. Location
    2. Incident type (missing child, person down, fire, rockslide, etc.)
    3. Reporting party info
      1. Name
      2. Phone
      3. If relevant, vehicle description and where parked
  3. Scope of incident
    1. Number of injured or involved subjects
    2. Severity of injuries, if any
    3. Size of fire / rockslide / etc.
  4. Your plan for reaction to the incident
  5. Maintain visual contact with incident or reporting party
  6. Provide aid if safe and reasonable to do so
  7. Mitigate expansion of the incident if practical
    1. Trail block / interviews
Below are some valuable links to resources for PSAR...

  1. Park Gate PassThis will be updated for each holiday weekend.
  2. PSAR mandatory Pack list- Travel light, but prepared to take care of your self and a subject for hours, not days.
  3. Vernal Fall / Half Dome Corridor trail map- A must have for Mist / JMT trail assignment. good idea to laminate this.
  4. Half Dome Map- Print on the back side of your Vernal Falls / Half Dome map
  5. Vernal Falls land marks- remember you're the 411 for visitors on the trails.
  6. Yosemite Hikes- A excellent find/contribution for your 411 kit from Wes Ayers!
  7. Yellow Pines rules- bears aren't violent, but they will take your tent or car apart if they like what the smell.
  8. "Ken's secret passage way to Yosemite Valley"- Directions to help you avoid the worst of traffic to the valley
  9. SAR magnetic signs for your car- without these you're siting in valley holiday traffic with everyone else... do that once and you'll pay triple what these cost.
  10. Yosemite PSAR Ops document from this site- Handy referance
  11. Emergency Directions and checklist- Hopefully you'll never need, but "Be Prepared"