Laurel Prong, Rapidan Camp, Jones Mountain Trail via Appalachian Trail

MODERATE 49 reviews
#44 of 185 trails in

Laurel Prong, Rapidan Camp, Jones Mountain Trail via Appalachian Trail is a 7.2 mile moderately trafficked loop trail located near Madison, Virginia that features a waterfall and is rated as moderate. The trail is primarily used for hiking, walking, nature trips, and birding and is accessible year-round. Dogs are also able to use this trail but must be kept on leash.

Distance: 7.2 miles Elevation Gain: 1,354 feet Route Type: Loop

dogs on leash


nature trips

bird watching





wild flowers


14 days ago

This trail was a nice hike. As part of the hike you get streams, waterfalls, history, a nice walk through the woods, and finally a relatively easy walk down the AT back to the parking area. The only thing really missing are stunning views -- maybe in the fall. The trail was at time busy with other hikers and at other times lonely.

1 month ago

The Laurel Prong circuit trail is separated into three rather distinct parts. Mill Prong, Laurel Prong, and the AT. Each of which I think deserve separate reviews. The Mill Prong section I believe is by far the best. Mosy of the trail runs parallel to a beautiful river, with great atmosphere. The trail is not very difficult either. The only downside I would describe would be that it was pretty heavily trafficked, with my and my partner enounter probably two dozen people on our way through the ~2 mile section. I would give this trail a solid 4.5/5 After reaching Rapidan Camp, you turn south onto the Laurel Prong trail until you reach the AT, where you turn northback to your starting point. The Laurel Prong section was by far the worst. It was very buggy, very rocky, and above all very muddy. The atmosphere was good, but nothing special. there are no spectacular views or above average landmarks to admire. The upside is that we encountered not a single soul for this ~3 mile trip, even while we stopped to eat and take a break. I would give this section a 1.5/5. It wasnt miserable, but it wasnt enjoyable either the last section is a roughly ~2 mile hike on the AT. This section has some interesting rock formations, and a somewhat obfuscated view of nearby mountains, but doesn't afford anything spectacular. The trail gets a bit rocky at times but isnt difficuly. We did enjoy this section, but wouldnt really write home about it. I would rate this section as a 3/5 Overall I think the Mill Prong trail is a must see for hikers in the SNP, but recommend that once you reach the Rapidan camp, to just turn around, rather than heading south on the Laurel Prong trail. it just isnt worth it. if it wasnt for the Mill Prong section, this would have gotten a 1 star in my book.

2 months ago

Not a bad hike by any means but there are also a lot of better options in SNP. My biggest issue was the lack of vistas/overlooks. All views on the ridge are obstructed by trees. Nice water crossings by Camp Rapidan, my dog thoroughly enjoyed them. Trail was a little muddy in portions but not enough to impact anything.

7 months ago

Very enjoyable. Good workout!

8 months ago

4.5 Stars. Completed Sunday after rain on Friday. Water crossings not too bad. Parked at Milam Gap, down Mill Prong and up Laurel Prong to the AT and back. Just past peak fall color but thin leaf cover made for spectacular views along the top portion of Laurel Prong.

9 months ago

I did this hike yesterday. It was enjoyable.

9 months ago

Parked at Milam Gap trail head to begin the hike down the Mill Prong trail. Weather was misty and no active rain but recent rains left creek crossing much harder. Approximately 3 creek crossings with high water by the time I hit the last one.My dog did not like the last crossing - maybe she was trying to tell me something. Trails also acted as a conduit for the water which made it muddy and slippery. Once at Camp Rapidan, I met to nice Park volunteers from the Raleigh Durham area who live there for about a month and give tours of the Camp to the visitors. Returned to parking area by Laurel Prong Trial and the AT. That part of the trail was more active in terms of hikers. Good steady hike, although the ascent left me winded at times.

9 months ago

The cabin was nice. It rained for a few days before we went so crossing one of the rivers meant wet feet. Fun hike though.

Saturday, July 14, 2018


Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Did this today- well, i'm currently camping along it at the moment,- was recommended by a ranger as a less crowded trail, and that was the case today, but still saw 4-8 folks. Crossing the stream at Big Rock Falls before the Rapidan Camp was a little perilous with some distance between river rocks - I'm a long-legged 6'0 and I had to jump a bit to avoid getting a wet foot. I would NOT recommend this trail if heavy rainfall was recent. History buffs may be interested in Rapidan - it's a little mountain lodge that Herbert Hoover had made in the late 1920s (most buildings are no longer standing). Nice unmarked camp areas along the creek shortly after Fork Mountain trail branches off this loop - but had some difficulty finding a decent bear bag branch

Sunday, April 22, 2018

Was a good challenge for someone who is not a seasoned joker and slightly out of shape. Little foot traffic which was nice. Cool temperatures as it is mostly shaded. The river and small waterfalls were very pretty. Saw deer but no bear. We did get lost (did not see the trail marker) and ended up doing an additional mile down and back up a very steep climb. Also gets a little confusing when you get to the tourist/camp area. Lots of rocks and narrow paths, highly recommend wearing good hiking boots!! Also, look at the elevation...we started with the uphill climb for the first two miles or so, steady and a good “warm up”. Downhill was hard on my knees as it was fairly steep. There were quite a few spots where we had to climb up again and those required some stops/rests.

horseback riding
Monday, February 12, 2018

The trail the app took us on was extremely challenging by horseback - borderline dangerous. Thank goodness we had good horses! Wouldn’t recommend riding in the wintertime as the trail was frozen solid at the highest points of the path. Several really slippery, rocky, mountainous areas where we dismounted & lead our horses. No doubt a beautiful hike but wouldn’t recommend for horses.

Friday, October 06, 2017

Absolutely beautiful. Very easy trail, well marked. Only 1 overlook but the landscape along the way was stunning with the fall leaf colors. By far one of my favorites

Sunday, August 27, 2017

We just completed this trail earlier today. We started on the blue trail (laurel prong) and made our way to hazeltop/the AT. We set up camp on laurel prong which was lovely. The area is lightly trafficked and near a water source which was great. The trail itself is fairly easy. Going from Laurel Prong to the AT is harder due to the uphill climb, but it was not too strenuous. If you're looking to go camping or take a nice hike, this is a great place to do it!

Monday, March 27, 2017

did this loop in reverse last week. went the a.t to the laurel prong to the mill prong. dunno if my GPS was off but we got nearly 9.5 miles and 1900 ft of ascent. nice trail, the mill prong was more scenic, the downhill to rapidan camp was like skiing on mud. This was my wife and I's 1st long hike through mountains and it didn't disappoint

Saturday, March 18, 2017

Didn't do the loop but did the trail to Big Meadow. Still came to 7.2 but was out and back. The map at the trailhead didn't show a full loop ( it was cut off) and we didn't feel like risking a longer hike than planned. Still a nice walk and not too difficult.

Sunday, June 19, 2016

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.

Monday, August 24, 2015

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.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

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.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

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.

3 days ago

8 days ago

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