In the late 1940s, gray wolves wandered across the ice from Ontario to Isle Royale – a sliver of land in Lake Superior – and started feeding on local moose. They have been locked in a wild-kingdom cage match ever since. Biologists come here to study this one-of-a-kind ecosystem, but few others ever bother, which is why you'll want to. If you can make it here, you'll find a rugged, isolated, and virtually untouched stretch of nature, and you might get a chance to see one of these amazing wolves wander by. The island is closed all winter but reachable by boat or seaplane from mid-April through October. There are 165 miles of trails crisscrossing its volcanic ridges, boggy valleys, and small, still lakes. The ground smells of moose musk and wet birch leaves. Come nightfall, you might hear the wolves howl – there are about eight left on the 45-mile-long island – but there's little chance they'll come looking for you. Decades of inbreeding have taken their toll, and the surrounding lake hasn't completely frozen over in decades, an event that could increase the population or gene pool. Researchers will decide in the fall whether to introduce more wolves. If hearing their lonely howl at night doesn't set your atavistic – or maybe conservationist – heart pounding, nothing will.
Getting there: From Ontario, drive 50 miles to Grand Portage, the north shore connection to Isle Royale. It's $67 each way from Grand Portage to the island, plus a $4 daily park user fee.