This definitely ranks as one of my favorite rides. Laurel features one of the best singletrack climbs in Pisgah - some techy rock sections and the usual roots on a mostly gradual (for Pisgah) ascent. Contrary to the above trail description, I do NOT recommend riding Laurel as an out-and-back! Especially on the weekends and during all days in summer, you will find that this trail is popular, and you will encounter, and likely frighten, many ascending riders as you barrel down the trail on the out-and-back route. Consider taking the Laurel Mountain Connector trail to the Pilot Rock trail, descending Pilot, and following FS road 1206 back to your vehicle at Yellow Gap. The Pilot Rock trail offers a fabulous albeit rocky and technical descent, and I highly recommend it.
Another variation of Laurel is to descend an unmarked trail at Sassafras Gap (roughly 6 miles from the start of Laurel at Yellow Gap) to Big Creek trail. Ride back on the Hendo Reservoir Road to FS road 1206.