The use of a low-temperature layer of GaN formed by hydride vapor-phase epitaxy (HVPE) as a template to grow high-quality HVPE films is demonstrated. Using layers formed by reacting GaCl and NH3 at 550 °C and annealed at a growth temperature of 1050 °C, thick films of GaN can be grown by HVPE with fewer than 108 dislocations per cm2. Dislocation densities measured by high-resolution x-ray diffraction, atomic-force microscopy step termination density and plan-view transmission electron miscroscopy reveal that ∼23 μm films have dislocation densities of ∼6×107 cm-2. Obtaining high-quality single-crystal character films was found to be dependent on several factors, most importantly, the rate of temperature increase to growth temperature and the layer thickness. © 2000 American Institute of Physics.