Laurel Prong Trail is a 7 mile moderately trafficked loop trail located near Madison, VA that features a river and is rated as moderate. The trail is primarily used for hiking, nature trips, birding, and horses and is accessible year-round. Horses are also able to use this trail.
Just completed this with my son (14 y.o) on a beautiful June weekend. I normally don't do much summer hiking - nothing worse that trying to sleep in a steaming tent. But this weekend was fabulous - 70s during the day and into the 50s at night.
We did the loop from Milam Gap - up the AT to Laurel Prong, then camped down near Fork Mt trail. Next day hiked to the Rapidan Camp and back up Mill Prong Trail to Milam.
To start the AT is very slightly uphill and the trail is quite clear and easy. The 1st section of Laurel Prong was the toughest for my son...downhill and quite rocky. Once you reach the intersection with Cat Knob it gets a little easier. There once too much water so none of the stream crossing were very difficult. You get more & more as you approach Fork Mt.
There is a nice campsite right near that intersection, but someone already had it, so we ventured ~1/4 mi down Fork Mtn. Had a cross the stream and found a nice spot.
The next morning we visiting the Rapidan camp - interesting and something that I didn't even realize existed. The rest of the hike is typical SNP - back uphill to Skyline Dr...rocky in some areas, nicer in others. Watch for the horse droppings on the 1st section out of camp _ horses are allowed!
Nice small waterfall about 1/2 way back to Milam. All and all a nice hike on great weekend.
We took the loop in a clockwise direction, heading directly to Camp Hoover first via Mill Prong Trail. There were vans parked near the camp, and as it turned out, two of them were parked on the Laurel Prong Trail which we needed to take. The issue was, with them in the way, it made the trail look like a parking lot, and we missed it. We ended up crossing a little stream and following a trail up to Laurel Dam. If you get there, and are trying to head back to the AT, you are on the wrong trail.
Other than that, the trails were very enjoyable. The climb back up to. The AT was hard on my 8 and 10 year olds, but they made it. Another reviewer mentioned the bear scat, and they were not wrong. Up on the AT portion of the loop we saw plenty of very fresh scat and heard movement off in the forest. We just kept our noise levels up, not hard for kids, and had no encounters. We will do this hike again, but this time I think we will go counterclockwise so we have an easier hike up from the camp.
Our group of two experienced hikers and three novices completed this curcuit trail this weekend. Once off the Mill Prong/Rapidan Camp trail, the herd thins and the trail narrows. The minor rock scrambles on the way to the AT add to the enjoyment. Plenty of bear scat on the trail to help keep you focused. All-in-all, a very enjoyable hike.
I haven't done Hazeltop but have hike the Rapidan Camp and loved it. As a Marine I enjoyed see what Marines in the Hoover Administration had built as the early version of Camp David. It was interesting to see quotes and items of the Hoover's. It's a long hike but well worth it. If you are out of shape you may want to think about contacting the park reference a ride to it.