Hey Shannon there have been some good debates on the site in the past over rod length in laurel thick small mountain streams. Here is a good thread from a couple of years back:
I still mostly fish with a longer rod in those conditions and do just fine but granted I haven't tried it with a 7 ft rod. I do have a 7ft eagle claw that I was going to test on maybe next year. See I can't use it yet I am saving it for my sons birthday in August. Then I will commandeer it for a test run if he agrees.
I was fishing way up straight fork last year and ran into a fellow coming thru the rhodo with a very short fly rod. In fact the shortest I had ever seen. I swear it must have been like 5 ft. It looked beat up and customized maybe from a broken rod or something. I don't see how he used it and wished I had inquired more. We were about a mile above the million dollar bridge way in the boonies. I was getting out and he was getting in so all was good. He said he starts there and fishes way up the stream for miles to where it gets super steep. He was a local too but most locals I have seen that have fished for a long time use long rods even when going into places like this. The thought that you have to have a shorter rod for bushwhacking laurel covered streams seems to be a newer phenom generally I have found but not always. I personally have been caught in rhodo hells in creeks so thick that to move forward or backward I had to thread my rod through a small opening then push through or under it myself just to get 2 feet forward retrieving my rod and repeating over and again. In situations like that really 7'6 versus 8'6 rod length doesn't make any difference at all.
I think the best answer is try both and see what you think but don't make the mistake of just trying it once. Stick with each method for a couple of months that will give you a better comparison. If you want to go small as a test you can get those Eagle claw 7' featherlight fly rods for very cheap like $25 then you can see if you really like that better before spending more.