Lifestyle

Only on the Cape

Climb Scargo Hill for the best Mid-Cape view

This stone version of Scargo Tower in Dennis opened in 1901.
This stone version of Scargo Tower in Dennis opened in 1901.

DENNIS — Scargo Hill may not be the highest natural point on Cape Cod (that would be Pine Hill in Bourne), but at 160 feet above sea level, it’s still the most prominent promontory on the Mid-Cape and the site of a 30-foot observation tower.

On a recent visit, a lazy turkey vulture was perched on the tower rim, where it could survey the coast from Plymouth toward Provincetown without even stretching its wings.

That literal bird’s-eye view has always been Scargo Hill’s best feature. Entrepreneurs erected a wooden tourist observatory tower on the hilltop in 1874. When it blew down in a gale, it was replaced by another wooden structure — which burned down in 1900. The third try proved the charm. The more durable cobblestone and mortar tower that opened in 1901 still crowns the hill.

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A plaque above the entrance indicates that hilltop and tower alike were donated to Dennis in 1929 “as a memorial to Charles Tobey, 1831-1888, and Francis Bassett Tobey, 1833-1913, loyal sons of the village of Dennis where their Tobey ancestors settled in 1678.”

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These days no one would dream of constructing a simple tower to draw in tourists.

There are no bells, no whistles — not even a glass elevator. But it’s a charmingly retro experience to climb the 38 steps of the graffiti emblazoned circular stair, lit only by three window openings, and emerge to the observation platform at the top. Scargo Lake lies down below, along with the village of Dennis. And just beyond, the vast inner shore of Cape Cod Bay curls around to the finger of Long Point in Provincetown (best seen when the wind blows back the leaves of a nearby oak). It is a remembrance of things past — a time when there was wonder, simply in the looking, no Instagram post necessary.

Great For: Watching the last rays of sunset glimmer over the sands of Barnstable and Sandwich

Don’t Miss: Birds nesting in the surrounding trees

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Details: Off Route 6A between Dennis and East Dennis. Watch for signs on Scargo Hill Road. Sunrise to sunset. Free.