Body of Caroline Meister found in Monterey County's Ventana Wilderness

Caroline Meister, 30, was reported missing Monday night after she failed to return from her hike. (Monterey County Sheriff's Office)

The search for a woman who went missing during a hike in Monterey County's Ventana Wilderness ended Friday with the discovery of her body near a waterfall.

Monterey County Sheriff Tina M. Nieto confirmed during a news conference on Friday that the body of 30-year-old Caroline Meister was found by search and rescue teams around 10:45 a.m. at the base of a waterfall near a trail in the Ventana Wilderness. She was pronounced dead.

Nieto said that Meister's relatives have been informed of her death.

Described by relatives as an avid hiker, Meister was reported missing on Monday evening when she failed to return from her hike. Authorities said that Meister left from the Tassajara Zen Mountain Center around 10 a.m. on Monday for her hike.

Search and rescue teams conducted extensive searches across a wide area. Residents at the Zen center played a crucial role in the efforts.

These residents informed the crews that Meister had mentioned hiking along the Horse Pasture Trail on Tassajara Road, which has a nearby waterfall.

Nieto said during the news conference that, based on the available evidence, foul play is not suspected, and the incident appears to be accidental. However, she emphasized that the final determination regarding Meister's cause of death will be made by the coroner.

Nieto said that Meister's injuries are consistent with those sustained in a fall from a cliff.

The sheriff said Meister had previously lived in the area for two years. 

She reportedly lived in a suburb of Chicago.