Sol-gel derived catalyst systems of cobalt, nickel, and iron were used in the growth of gallium nitride (GaN) nanowires by thermal chemical vapor deposition. A diffusion barrier matrix of titania (TiO2) has been used in which the catalysts were dispersed to have control of the catalyst particle sizes and hence on the size and morphology of the GaN nanowires. This single-step and cost-effective processing of the catalyst bed produced good-quality GaN naowires with comparable structural and optical properties with those previously reported. In a particular case, a stress-induced cubic admixture to the otherwise hexagonal structural symmetry was observed. The samples were characterized by high-resolution scanning electron microscopy, x-ray diffraction, Fourier transform infrared spectroscopy, Raman spectroscopy, and cathodo-luminescence studies.