Old trees are important for biodiversity, and the process of their identification is a critical process in their conservation. However, determining the tree age by core extraction, ring counts, and eventually, cross-dating by means of dendrochronology is labor-intensive and expensive. Here we examine the alternative method of estimating determining tree age by visual characteristics for old Norway spruce and Scots pine trees. We used forest stands previously identified as “Old tree habitats” by visual criteria in Norwegian boreal forests. The efficiency of this method was tested using pairwise comparison of the age of core samples from trees within these sites, and within neighboring sites. Age regression models were constructed from morphological traits and site variables to investigate how accurately old trees can be detected. Cored trees in the Old-tree habitats were on average 41.9 years older than compared to a similar selection of trees from nearby mature forests. Several characteristics such as bark structure, stem taper and visible growth eccentricities can be used to identify old Norway spruce and Scots pine trees. Old trees were often found on less productive sites. Due to the wide range of environments included in the study, we suggest that these findings can be generalized to other parts of the boreal zone.