Hierarchical nanowires (HNWs) exhibit unique properties and have wide applications, while often suffering from imperfect structure. Herein, we report a facile strategy toward ultrathin CdS HNWs with monocrystal structure, where a continuous-wave (CW) Nd:YAG laser is employed to irradiate an oleic acid (OA) solution containing precursors and a light absorber. The high heating rate and large temperature gradient generated by the CW laser lead to the rapid formation of tiny zinc-blende CdS nanocrystals which then line up into nanowires with the help of OA molecules. Next, the nanowires experience a phase transformation from zinc-blende to wurtzite structure, and the transformation-induced stress creates terraces on their surface, which promotes the growth of side branches and eventually results in monocrystal HNWs with an ultrathin diameter of 24 nm. The one-step synthesis of HNWs is conducted in air and completes in just 40 s, thus being very simple and rapid. The prepared CdS HNWs display photocatalytic performance superior to their nanoparticle counterparts, thus showing promise for catalytic applications in the future.