The most popular starting location for Laurel is from FS 1206 near Yellow Gap. From this Laurel trailhead, you can run it as an out/back, or combine it with a loop on Pilot Rock. From 1206, Laurel is a climb that doesn't really let up, but it's gradual overall.
Some sections are steep though, and the trail passes through several named gaps. There are also many short, rocky sections throughout, but for the most part, this trail traverses the contours Laurel Mountain through some amazing groves of mature Mountain Laurel.
The mountain and trail are aptly named. The first five miles gain about 1000 ft. After about 5 or 6 miles there is an extra steep section; you'll know when you're there. The last mile, including this section, gains over 500 feet.
The intersection with the Laurel Mountain Connector
near Turkey Spring Gap will be on the left. From here, you can continue with Pilot, or turn around and enjoy a return on Laurel downhill.